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Last week, SEC Newgate UK and NJL Consulting co-hosted a breakfast event focused on the future growth and development prospects for Trafford. We were lucky enough to be able to discuss the challenges, opportunities and aspirations for the borough with Councillor Tom Ross, leader of the Council.

In Conversation with Councillor Tom Ross: Text

Trafford Borough is an area undergoing significant change, with the ambitious Civic Quarter Area Action Plan having been adopted by the Council earlier this year; plans approved for a £250m wellbeing resort, and progress underway on the first two parcels at Trafford Waters. In promoting and facilitating growth, Trafford has an increasing focus on design and place making. The Council are currently consulting on a draft Design Code which will sit alongside the Local Plan to provide detailed design guidance.

Rachel Glover White (Director at NJL) presented Cllr Ross with six questions, seeking insight into Trafford’s priorities on bringing forwards new development. This article delivers a succinct summary of each response below.

‘At a recent event, your Head of Planning, Rebecca Coley said that Trafford Council is winning countless appeals and that this suggests there are issues with the schemes that are coming forward. From your point of view, what is the Council looking for and what more could developers be doing to ensure their proposals are fit for purpose?’

In the first instance, Cllr Ross drew attention to the proposed density of a scheme, and pointed out that where applications have been refused, it is often due to increased densities relative to the site’s context. Therefore, Cllr Tom Ross stressed the importance of greater pre-application advice in the design evolution of a scheme.

‘There has been a lot of discussion around the emerging Trafford Design Code which requests a lot of developers and designers. Everyone accepts that design needs to be high quality and fit for purpose, but how will this Design Code (if adopted) allow for organic design development which is suitable for the site and the local context?’

Cllr Ross viewed the forthcoming Trafford Design Code as means of facilitating organic development whilst considering the wider aspirations of the Borough; and acknowledged at this stage, there is further consultation to be undertaken on the draft document between relevant stakeholders to ensure this.

‘Sir Keir Starmer told the recent Labour Party Conference that 1.5m houses could be built within five years under a Labour government. He also referred to the need to “bulldoze away” restrictive planning rules and criticised the “localised” nature of the planning system. What are your thoughts on this, and how do you see this playing out in Trafford and Greater Manchester?’

Cllr Ross first expressed his delight in Sir Keir Starmer’s confidence in driving the delivery of housing. For this reason, Cllr Ross hopes this is reflected in the adoption and implementation of the Places for Everyone Plan. Overall, Cllr Ross envisions this unfolding in Trafford and the wider Greater Manchester areas as a bold vision for housing with a simple roadmap for public engagement. Cllr Ross anticipated that this matter will be further elaborated upon prior to election.

‘How can we balance out the need to meaningfully engage communities on local development proposals, whilst ensuring that a sufficient number of new homes and infrastructure is delivered? What does ‘good engagement’ look like for you?’

Cllr Ross simply stated that good examples of engagement are those that go into the community with the intention to understand the local population’s needs and potential issues. This approach sees the developer present models and receive live feedback from interested parties which they can address. As an illustration of best practice, Cllr Ross pointed to the regeneration of Stretford Mall, a joint venture between Bruntwood and the Council.

'The planning and development profession is working in a constant state of flux. As quickly as new legislation is brought in, changes/delays are made elsewhere. How can local authorities and elected members aid the uncertainty and provide developers confidence to invest in certain areas noting the widespread uncertainty in many other areas?'

At a regional level, Cllr Ross referred to the Places for Everyone Plan (PfE) with the aim of offering developers a degree or long-term certainty, be it for commercial or residential projects. Cllr Ross recognised that this question is often raised, and was recently discussed at the Trafford Developer Forum. While the need for certainty persists, especially with the approaching general election, the fundamentals of prioritising continued resident engagement remains unchanged.

‘In the property industry, increasingly, ensuring development is sustainable is at the forefront of our decision-making. How do we ensure that net zero development is also affordable? Can you tell us a bit more about what is happening in Greater Manchester to achieve this?’

Cllr Ross first discussed the Borough’s commitment to be delivering truly affordable and net-zero housing, all of which are reflective of Greater Manchester’s aspirations. Cllr Ross then highlighted local efforts of securing future green growth and investment through local Energy Plans associated with the Green City movement. Cllr Ross concluded that this sustainable drive is, and will be, fully reflected in the forthcoming Design Code.

Audience Questions

Following the conclusion of the above questions, SEC Newgate UK and NJL Consulting invited questions from the audience. A notable question concerned the challenges the planning system faces in terms of resourcing and whether Trafford has made a decision on ring fencing, and how this would be utilised.

In response to this question, Cllr Ross clarified that the Council would like to see the ring fencing of fees to support the planning department’s resources, as there is economic value to be added from having a well-resourced planning team.

Key Takeaway

It is evident from this ‘In Conversation’ with Cllr Tom Ross that meaningful public engagement will be at the forefront of place making within Trafford to support the Borough’s ambitious plans for the sustainable delivery of development, and in particular housing. It will be key to stay abreast of updates associated with the forthcoming Trafford Design Code, elections and local Energy Plans, and reconvene when milestones occur with another ‘In Conversation’.

NJL has a strong track record of working in Trafford having been involved in the Trafford Waters regeneration site for nearly 10 years as well as other major residential schemes in the borough. If you have sites in Trafford and would like to discuss how we can help, please get in touch with

In Conversation with Councillor Tom Ross: Text
In Conversation with Councillor Tom Ross: Image
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