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Draft Greater Manchester Spatial Framework out for Consultation

Following on from the Strategic Options Consultation last November, the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) have now published the Draft Greater Manchester Spatial Framework (GMSF), which will be discussed at the Joint GMCA/AGMA Executive Board next Friday (28th October).  If agreed, the consultation on the Draft GMSF will start on 31st October and run until 23rd December 2016. This KnowHOW provides a summary of the key points and approach set out in the Draft GMSF. 

Chosen Growth Option and Spatial Distribution

The Draft Plan proposes the following development requirements over the Plan period (2015-2035):

  • 227,200 houses
  • 4,000,000m2 of industrial and warehousing floorspace; and
  • 2,450,000m2 office floorspace

In respect of housing this represents an increase from the previous GMCA preferred growth option (217,350 net additional dwellings) and would appear to respond to the majority of comments received on the plan that suggested an “option 2.5” would be more appropriate.

For the first time, the Draft GMSF has considered how the overall development requirements could be split between the 10 Local Authorities.  As anticipated, Manchester will provide a large proportion of the proposed housing with 24% of the overall requirement, followed by Salford (15%), Trafford (10%) and Wigan (10%).  Bury, Bolton and Tameside will each provide the smallest contribution at 6%. The Table below sets out the proposed annual housing requirements for the 10 authorities, against their current adopted housing target. Interestingly, the proposed requirement for Manchester City would represent a reduction against its current annual target.  At the same time the boroughs of Oldham, Rochdale and Stockport would see a significant increase against their current target, due in part to proposed Green Belt release.


Strategic Locations:

The Draft Plan identifies 10 Strategic Locations across Greater Manchester (see figure 1 below), which will be the focus of development over the Plan period and provide a “disproportionate contribution” to the economic growth of Greater Manchester.    

Figure 1: Key Diagram (page 13 of Draft GMSF)

Manchester City Centre will continue to provide the primary focus for business, retail, leisure, culture and tourism, providing 1,250,000m2 of new office floorspace and around 40,000 net additional dwellings.  

In addition, The Quays, Airport Gateway and the other Main Town Centres (Altrincham, Ashton-under-Lyne, Bolton, Bury, Oldham, Rochdale, Stockport and Wigan) will play an important role in delivering both employment and housing development over the Plan period.  Established employment locations such as the Northern Gateway, Western Gateway, Eastern Gateway and the M61, M6 and East Lancs Corridors will also see significant expansion.

Site Allocations:

Alongside the 10 Strategic Locations, the Draft GMSF also identifies approximately 50 specific sites that are to be released from the Green Belt and allocated for development (See Figure 2 below). 

Figure 2: Proposed Site Allocations (page 98 of Draft GMSF)

The proposed allocations present a significant change to the Greater Manchester Green Belt, representing a net reduction of almost 5,000 hectares.  This will provide approximately 28% of the overall housing requirement for the Plan period, as well as land for employment.   

Whist the Draft GMSF sets out overarching policies for the allocated sites, the precise details and phasing of development will be subject to the development of either a Masterplan or Supplementary Planning Document (SPD) by the relevant Local Authority.  Clearly developers and landowners will be keen to understand the timing for developing these documents and whether Local Authorities will be undertaking this work in parallel to the adoption of the GMSF and their own Local Plans.


The challenge of producing a single Development Plan Document for Greater Manchester was always going to be significant in terms of both the complexity and scale of the task. This Draft version of the GMSF has built on the previous consultation and responded in part on the comments made, particularly in respect to the overall development requirements which now represents an “option 2.5” when compared to the previous growth options considered. 

The Draft GMSF looks to be positive and ambitious in relation to employment growth, basing its allocations on an assumed 40% increase in the actual rates of employment development achieved since 2004 and looking to ensure a good range and choice of sites with flexibility to meet future requirements. 

The Plan proposes to locate the bulk of development within the urban area and on previously developed land (72%).  However the release of Green Belt land is required in order to meet the overall development requirements, which will be contentious.  The need for Green Belt release reflects how tightly the current Green Belt boundary is drawn, effectively “shrink wrapping” some Districts and preventing further expansion of those settlements.

The strategy for Green Belt release seeks to limit this to a small number of large sites, rather than piecemeal release around the edges in individual Districts. Whilst this strategy has merits and allows for the creation of new sustainable developments with the critical mass required to support and deliver necessary infrastructure and services, it isn’t without risk.  Large scale strategic release/allocations can involve very long lead in times and demand massive investment in supporting infrastructure - which the Plan acknowledges. Delivering this infrastructure in a timely way will be critical to securing the boost in housing supply which the Plan is looking to achieve.

An alternative and arguably more balanced approach would be to allow for a greater number of smaller sites (which don’t involve such major infrastructure investment up front) alongside some larger allocations.  This approach would facilitate a more dispersed development distribution and potentially allow more housing development to take place on a range of sites simultaneously; thus boosting housing delivery, a core objective of the Plan and National Planning Policy.

The proposed spatial distribution across the 10 Local Authorities is broadly as expected, with Manchester, Salford and Trafford getting the lion's share. It is interesting to note that the proposed annual housing requirement for Manchester would actually represent a reduction when assessed against the current Core Strategy requirement.  In comparison to the current position, Green Belt constrained areas will see a significant increase in their annual housing target, allowing them to benefit from much needed new housing, investment and development. It will be interesting to see how these proposed figures will translate into the emerging Local Plans, particularly in the Local Authorities where the level of growth is significantly higher than that achieved historically.

The current Plan suggests that following this consultation the next stage will be to prepare a Publication Plan in Summer 2017, with submission to the Secretary of State at the end of 2017 and hopefully adoption in 2018. 

If you have any queries or require further information, please get in touch.

Click link below to view

Draft GMSF


Rhian Harris
Direct Dial: 0161 831 5860


Emma Williams
Direct Dial: 0161 831 5861