Greater Manchester growth 'may require green belt releases'

Green belt land may be required to deliver Greater Manchester's future growth, according to a consultation document published by the city-region's combined authority which states that sites already identified for homes in the conurbation would be insufficient to meet its housing needs in full.

Greater Manchester: has reached latest stage in the preparation of spatial plan (picture by tecmark.co.uk, Flickr)
Greater Manchester: has reached latest stage in the preparation of spatial plan (picture by tecmark.co.uk, Flickr)

The Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) this week launched a consultation on strategic options for growth, which is the latest stage in the preparation of the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework.

The framework is intended to set out the scale and distribution of housing and employment growth across the conurbation over the next 20 years, identifying strategic land allocations for housing and employment and also key infrastructure requirements.

The consultation document says that one of the "most important" decisions that the spatial framework will make relates to the overall scale of growth that should be sought in Greater Manchester up to 2035.

It sets out three options for future growth.

A first option, based around the conurbation’s existing land supply, would deliver 152,800 net additional homes over the period 2014-2035, equating to an average of 7,300 net additional dwellings per year.

But the report says that this option is a lower level of growth than the city-region's objectively assessed need, and could result in negative consequences, including a "gradual decline in Greater Manchester’s fortunes and economic diversity".

A second option for future growth, which seeks to deliver Greater Manchester’s objectively assessed need, would see 217,350 net additional homes delivered over the period 2014-2035, equating to an average of 10,350 new homes per annum.

The consultation document says that, while there may be some potential to accommodate the extra growth by increasing the supply of sites within the existing urban area, "it is likely that a significant proportion of the additional supply would have to involve the development of land outside the existing urban area, and some of this may be in the green belt".

A third option for future growth, put forward by the development industry, proposes 336,000 additional homes over the plan period, equating to an average of 16,000 per year.

The report says that this level of growth could "potentially transform Greater Manchester’s future, supporting greater prosperity for residents and businesses, significant investment in new infrastructure, and more opportunities for young people both in terms of jobs and housing".

But it warns that such levels of growth "would also be likely to come at a price. In order to accommodate the amount of development identified above, very large areas of land outside the existing urban area would need to be used, including considerable parts of the green belt".

The document also says that the combined authority has commissioned a green belt assessment. "We have not considered the Greater Manchester green belt strategically since it was designated over 30 years ago," the consultation document says. 

The document says that "it would only be appropriate to release sites within the green belt for employment floorspace or housing in exceptional circumstances. However, if there is no alternative, then the development of parts of the green belt may be preferable to losing other areas of open land that make a much more positive contribution to the identity, character and quality of place of Greater Manchester".

Eamonn Boylan, Greater Manchester chief executive lead for housing and planning, said: "The Greater Manchester Spatial Framework will help the city-region to determine how we use land in future.

"This means outlining how many new homes we need and how much land is required for new businesses and employment but it also means looking at how we can do this in a way that creates attractive places that people want to live and work in."

GMSF Strategic Options Consultation is available here.

The Planning for Housing Northern Edition will consider ways to boost housing supply in high-demand areas across the north of England. For more information, please visit PlanningResource.co.uk/planningforhousingnorth


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