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Manchester sets out plans for 50,000 affordable homes

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More than 50,000 affordable homes would be built in Manchester over the next two decades under a revised development strategy for the district published last week

The 2019 draft of the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework (GMSF) set out measures to promote construction of ‘a mix of housing’ by 2037 ‘to meet the diverse needs of our communities and support economic growth’.

Publication of the draft by the Greater Manchester Combined Authority follows a pledge by mayor Andy Burnham to rip-up the previous, unpublished, document. 

The latest proposals – which are out to consultation until March – build on lessons learned from a public engagement exercise on the old draft, particularly regarding protection of the countryside. Once fully approved, the framework will work in a similar way to the London Plan and act as a strategic level between local and national planning policy.

‘The overwhelming majority of responses related to green belt release,’ says the latest draft.

‘We have reduced the net loss of green belt by 50 per cent through: reducing the number of proposed sites; reducing the loss of green belt within sites; and proposing new green belt additions.’

The draft continues: ‘The majority of development between 2018 and 2037 will be on land within the urban area, most of which is brownfield land.

‘Within the plan period, 87 per cent of housing, 95 per cent of offices and 50 per cent of industrial and warehousing development is within the urban area.’

Mayor Burnham said: ’Greater Manchester’s new vision for housing, with an emphasis on building at least 50,000 homes that people can truly afford, is entirely consistent with the “brownfield-first” approach set out in the GMSF.’

Architects backed the new draft.

Steve Potter, planning director of Manchester-based BDP, said the framework ’creates the conditions for stronger placemaking and successful communities’.

’The redrafted GMSF places a far stronger emphasis on delivering growth and development in Manchester city centre, and importantly prioritises investment in other key town centres – particularly Bolton, Bury, Rochdale and Oldham – which will play an important role in the continued expansion of Greater Manchester,’ he said.

’The framework succeeds in aligning development planning with long-term commitments to an extended network of transport infrastructure, which will help the whole conurbation grow to its full potential. New policies covering low carbon, development density, air quality and biodiversity will also help raise the bar in relation to sustainability and hopefully lead to a more innovative architectural response.’

Andrew Forth, head of policy and public affairs at the RIBA, added: ’Greater Manchester’s spatial framework is an opportunity for architects to engage with local councils and developers to ensure that good design is part of the ambitious plans for the region’s future.’

David Rudlin, director of Manchester-based design consultancy Urbed, is working with the combined authority on a Greater Manchester Spatial Narrative to be published shortly in conjunction with the framework. He said a key outcome of the latest draft was to refocus development on previously neglected parts of the wider city district.

’We will see more growth in the towns north of Manchester,’ said Rudlin. ’Wigan, Rochdale, Oldham and Bolton are all keen for growth. Manchester is a city of towns and the main idea is to promote growth in town centres.’

He said architects were likely to benefit from a housebuilding drive including ‘the whole range of social housing’ as well as a willingness to approve ‘more ambitious projects, bigger schemes’ in the towns north of Manchester.  


Extracts from the draft GMSF

Brownfield preference

National planning policy does not support a ‘brownfield first’ approach, as local authorities are required to be able to provide a five-year supply of housing sites which are available and deliverable, for example. If we cannot demonstrate that our brownfield land is available and deliverable (and this is something which most of our districts currently struggle with), then we are required to identify other land which is – this may be Protected Open Land or Green Belt.

We are adopting a ‘brownfield preference’ approach – we will do all that we can to make sure that our brownfield sites comes forward in the early part of the plan period. However, to do this we need to continue to press government for support to remediate contaminated land to provide funding for infrastructure and to support alternative models of housing delivery. This is why discussions on the Housing Package are vital and why we need our bids to the Housing Infrastructure Fund to be successful.

Building at higher densities

Policies to maximise the use of brownfield land and build at higher densities in the most accessible locations have helped to reduce the total amount of land required for new development.

Ths [framework] also supports regeneration of our town centres, particularly as locations for new housing. The recently announced Future High Street Fund could play an important role in underpinning the contribution of town centres as high-quality neighbourhoods of choice. 

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