Draft Greater Manchester framework proposes huge green belt release

Plans to remove 4,900 hectares of land from Greater Manchester's green belt to provide tens of thousands of new homes are contained in a draft statutory spatial framework for the city-region, published overnight.

Salford Quays: earmarked for 6,000 new homes in draft framework (picture: Paulo Corceiro, Flickr)
Salford Quays: earmarked for 6,000 new homes in draft framework (picture: Paulo Corceiro, Flickr)

The Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA)’s executive board will consider the draft version of the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework (GMSF) at a meeting next week.

The draft document proposes a housing requirement of around 227,200 net additional dwellings across Greater Manchester’s ten local authorities over the period 2015-35, with a quarter of these to be built within Manchester City Council’s boundaries (see chart, below).

The proposed average annual housing requirement of 11,360 units is broadly in line with a mid-range option for future growth put forward by the GMCA in a consultation on strategic options for growth at the end of last year.

But it is lower than the figure of 16,600 homes per year recommended earlier this year in a report for the Housing the Powerhouse coalition of housebuilders and landowners.

According to the draft document, while there is a strong emphasis on directing new development to brownfield land in urban locations, 28 per cent of the new homes proposed for the city-region would be built on Greater Manchester’s green belt.

The draft document says that the scale of development that needs to be accommodated within Greater Manchester over the next two decades "means that some changes to the green belt boundaries within Greater Manchester are necessary, but these have been minimised as far as possible".

The GMCA has spoken to neighbouring authorities to discuss whether they would be willing to accommodate any of its housing requirement where appropriate, the draft document said. But it added: "To date the answer to this question has been negative."

The document continued: "It is concluded that we have to consider green belt release to meet this need and that exceptional circumstances exist to amend the existing green belt boundaries."

According to the draft strategy, the green belt currently equates to 47 per cent of the total land area of Greater Manchester. The strategy proposals would result in a net reduction in the total area of designated green belt of 4,900 hectares, "ensuring that nearly 43 per cent of Greater Manchester will be green belt".

In a statement, the GMCA said that Greater Manchester’s green belt was designated 30 years ago to check unplanned development, and "while it is still relevant for that purpose, the time has come to revise the boundary to ensure space for growth over the next 20 years".

It added: "The GMSF will minimise the amount of green belt land required for development by focusing on relatively few, large sites. This will provide opportunities to support developments with the required transport infrastructure, necessary school places and other vital services needed to create successful neighbourhoods".

The draft framework also outlines a requirement for 2,450,000 square metres of gross new office floorspace, of which 55 per cent would be within the city centre.

If the draft framework is approved at next week’s meeting, the views of Greater Manchester residents will be sought during an eight-week consultation.

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