November 2015
Greater Manchester Spatial Framework - Strategic Options Consultation

Following an initial consultation exercise in Autumn 2014 the next stage of consultation on the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework (GMSF) has now commenced. The consultation runs until 11 January 2016 and incorporates a call for sites exercise. The Association of Greater Manchester Authorities (AGMA) has published a core document entitled ‘Greater Manchester Spatial Framework: Strategic Options Consultation’ and a raft of detailed background technical papers in relation to the economy, housing and the environment. AGMA is now seeking views on all aspects of the document including a range of potential growth options. This KnowHOW provides a summary of the growth options and the potential implications for determining future housing and employment requirements across Greater Manchester.

Growth Scenarios

Three growth options are proposed. Each option is based on potential future economic growth scenarios, which include a ‘scenario for lower than anticipated growth’ (Option 1), ‘projected growth’ (Option 2) and ‘higher than anticipated growth’ (Option 3).  Given the strengthening national and regional economy and major growth ambitions expressed by AGMA it seems unlikely that Option 1 is a realistic contender as it would deliver equal or less development than that seen in recent years.  Option 2 is based upon the calculation of Objectively Assessed Need (OAN) whilst Option 3 is based on the level of growth argued for in the ‘Housing the Powerhouse’ campaign which the documentation indicates would require an ‘extremely ambitious’ economic growth rate of 3.3% exceeding that which has been achieved in London (3%).

Implications for Housing

The quantum of units required in each scenario (for the period 2014 - 2035) varies significantly:

  • Option 1 - 152,800 dwellings (average per annum of 7,300 net);
  • Option 2 - 217,350 dwellings (average per annum of 10,350 net);
  • Option 3 - 336,000 dwellings (average per annum of 16,000 net).

As a benchmark, AGMA indicate that Option 1 would see a slight reduction in average dwelling provision compared to recent years, Option 2 would represent a 40% increase on the 10 year average whilst Option 3 would more than double delivery.

It is claimed that the GM area has sufficient land to deliver around 153,000 dwellings which would meet the Option 1 requirement. Additional land would be required to meet Options 2 and 3. Based on AGMA’s calculations this could call for the need to identify between 1,844 and 5,234 ha of additional land based on a density assumption of 35 dwellings per hectare.

The use of higher density housing to meet future needs is also considered. The documentation forecasts that around two thirds of growth for the period 2014 - 2035 will be in the form of single-person households, suggesting the majority of demand will be for smaller dwellings.  If a significant proportion of growth is to be apportioned to higher density housing this will have major implications for the spatial distribution of the additional growth (such schemes usually being found mainly in the urban core and on brownfield land) and a likely commensurate reduction in the requirement for land to be found outside of the urban area or removed from the Green Belt.

Of note is the fact that almost half of the identified forward land supply is located in Manchester and Salford, with a major concentration within and around Manchester City Centre and Salford Quays, however there is also a very large supply identified in Wigan which it is suggested reflects its strategic location between Manchester and Liverpool and capacity for residential and economic growth.

Implications for Industrial and Warehouse Uses

To achieve its objectives the GMSF places significant emphasis on the need for good quality employment land that can be delivered. The amount of floorspace required to deliver each option (for the period 2014 - 2035) is set out below:

  • Option 1 - 2,526,000 sq m (120,300 sq m per annum);
  • Option 2 - 3,452,000 sq m (164,400 sq m per annum);
  • Option 3 - 4,050,000 sq m (192,900 sq m per annum).

Option 1 would result in significantly lower levels than required of industrial and warehousing growth to meet OAN.  The supply of land for new development is described as being ‘much tighter’ than that for offices.  In order to simply meet past rates of development and given the locational and operational requirements for large footprint warehouse users, for example, it is identified that this option will require significant areas of land to be found outside the urban area including the Green Belt. Options 2 and 3 will require land to meet an additional 1.12 million (sq m) and 1.83 million (sq m) of floorpsace respectively.

Existing supply will have a bearing on those locations where additional land is required. Supply is said to be skewed towards the west/south-west of Greater Manchester, with the districts of Bolton, Salford, Trafford and Wigan accounting for 62% of the total supply of new industrial and warehousing floorspace with Bury, Oldham, Rochdale, Stockport and Tameside in the north and east of Greater Manchester providing 29%. The Framework will need to grapple with such imbalances whilst also ensuring that new sites are commercially attractive. A number of suggested locations for accommodating employment growth are identified mainly coinciding with the M60 key junctions including the ‘M62 west’ (within Salford and Trafford); Manchester Airport (within Manchester and Trafford); the M60/M62/M66 (within Rochdale and Bury); the M6 corridor (within Wigan) and the M60/M61 (within Bolton and Salford).

Office Development

The Options identify the following requirements (for the period 2014 - 2035):

  • Option 1 - 2,573,300 sq m (122,500 sq m per annum);
  • Option 2 - 2,399,000 sq m (114,200 sq m per annum);
  • Option 3 - 2,725,000 sq m (129,800 sq m per annum).

AGMA claim that the identified supply of sites for new office development is already sufficient to meet both Options 1 and 2 with only a ‘small’ increase of around 182,500 sq m being required to deliver Option 3. Approximately two thirds of supply is located within Manchester and Salford, primarily within the City Centre and Salford Quays. The other main concentrations are identified as being within and around the principal town centres and Manchester Airport, although there are some other areas with higher supply levels such as Trafford Park.  As with industrial and warehousing, the identified supply is more limited in the north and east of the conurbation. Suggested locations to accommodate a shortfall are Manchester City Centre, Salford Quays, Manchester Airport and the principal town centres.

Green Belt

The options document considers constraints and opportunities to delivery including a limited commentary on the Green Belt.  The Government’s stated importance of the Green Belt is reiterated and it is acknowledged that it would only be appropriate to release sites in exceptional circumstances.  It goes on to say that:

“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.”

Option 3 is identified as leading to the need for the release of a considerable amount of Green Belt land and which could require loss of ‘significant areas of agricultural land’.  The paper emphasises the use of poorer quality agricultural land to meet demand where possible.  Spatially this favours development locations in the northern and eastern boroughs.

Meeting Development Requirements

AGMA state that new sites for industry and warehousing located outside of the urban area should be ‘very large’ in order to give them sufficient profile to secure investment and consequently that this need will primarily be met in a ‘relatively small number of locations’.  Housing needs will either be met through sustainable extensions to the urban area or potentially through the creation of new settlements. A combination of these approaches is identified as potentially being required with a ‘very strong focus’ on urban regeneration complemented by release of land outside of the urban area ‘only in the most sustainable locations’.

Delivery of infrastructure is identified as a key issue, as is the need to ‘capture the associated increase in land value’ to support individual sites. Interestingly, reference is made to the potential use of powers ‘similar to those used to deliver New Towns, as well as the Community Infrastructure Levy, planning obligations and/or other financial levies’.


This most recent stage of consultation has confirmed the scale of the task which the Combined Authorities must grapple with in producing a single Development Plan Document for Greater Manchester. The challenge is a major one both in complexity and scale. The requirement to ensure that an appropriate evidence base is in place to properly justify the growth options, and which will satisfy the examining inspector in due course, has resulted in the publication of volumes of background evidence which will need to be digested by the development industry and other key stakeholders.

The consultation states that the GMSF will drive ‘game changing investment in growth’.  It does however strike more than a note of caution in respect of the ability to deliver the highest growth option citing past economic growth and the limitations of the Green Belt and infrastructure constraints.

It is inevitable that responses to the consultation will focus on assumptions on economic growth rates, the many factors influencing objectively assessed need and views on the growth options themselves including whether these provide a sufficient range of scenarios.

The option which is selected to form the basis of the GMSF has major implications for the future growth of the conurbation including where new homes and employment development will be delivered.  It is evident that meeting objectively assessed needs (as identified by the evidence base) will require land to be released beyond the urban area, likely to include the Green Belt. In the case of housing the assumptions as to what proportion of this will be delivered as higher density development has a significant effect on the balance of land which will be required outside of the existing urban area. Such assumptions are likely to come under close scrutiny by the housebuilding industry as a key factor in determining the level of additional land required at the individual district level. 

In order to attract the scale of employment investment identified and specifically in the context of warehousing uses, for example, the emerging consultation anticipates that large sites outside the urban area will be required, therefore presenting possible new opportunities for the development industry and equally major infrastructure challenges.

It is not entirely clear if and how the GMSF will identify locations for growth including specific development sites and it will be interesting to see how this develops over the course of 2016.

If you require any further information or advice, please do get in touch.

Conor Vallelly
T: 0161 831 5877 E:
Louisa Fielden
T: 0161 831 5882 E:
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