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13 Jan

GMSF, Green Belt and Governance

So, just as the final days of consultation on the first draft of the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework draw to an end, the fireworks go off with the prospective Mayor, Andy Burnham launching a major broadside to help spark the debate further. The press are lining up the other candidates as being pro the Framework (Sean Anstee) and anti (Jane Brophy) with Burnham seeking changes but not scrapping it.

Notably, Burnham is quoted as saying “no net loss” to the Green Belt. A telling phrase.

There is no doubt that the document has stirred a huge amount of reaction from all quarters, developers, consultants, locals and politicians. And this is entirely understandable. It is, after all, the largest proposed change to planning policies across Greater Manchester for many, many years.

Some in the property industry will say it isn’t radical enough; others are horrified by the amount of Green Belt proposed to be released. In my view, those putting the document together should firstly be applauded for taking forward a document that has forced open the debate.

We face a housing crisis in this country that will stubbornly not go away. We do need many solutions running at the same time. There is no single silver bullet and Green Belt release is only one of several remedies that I would say we do need. Fundamentally, there are many areas that actually now don’t fulfil Green Belt purposes. So why retain them as such?

Conversely, those areas that are most valuable should of course be retained. Similarly, the concept of Green Belt swaps, where Burnham may be heading, has already been raised in many professional discussions, and to my mind has got credibility.

The utopian world of never building on Green Belt is exactly that. Similarly if anyone thinks lots of families can suddenly be all accommodated in the core of the urban area, then they really are deluding themselves. Time and time again in our profession we do see the classic NIMBY approach to this – “We don’t say no to development….just not here”! Yet, in the very same breath, there is acknowledgement that younger generations can’t afford a house in the area or afford to rent. Yet it is the protectionists who shout loudest and gain the most press headlines, not the kids still living with their parents, not those who desperately need affordable housing; not those who are homeless; nor those who need to move to the area for work.

The release of Green Belt will present opportunities for much more than just standard housing. In certain areas the economics will allow for more affordable housing or more community facilities that are already needed to the benefit of the resident population. The balancing of gaining the benefits without stymieing the development will be a difficult trick to pull, but if worked out well, will be for the greater good.

In other areas many of the largest sites proposed for release will need a huge amount of infrastructure simply to enable them to be developed. And herein lies one of the critical issues that the GMSF needs to work on over the coming months. Delivery.

If our politicians delay the progress of the GMSF, then the knock on effect will be onward delays in delivery of all of the much needed housing and employment opportunities that it presents and this will be to the detriment of the Greater Manchester economy and the Northern Powerhouse.

If this raises some important issues for you and you wish to find out more about how we can help you in the GMSF debate through our dedicated GMSF team, please get in touch.

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