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Sixth Delay To Greater Manchester Spatial Framework, Seventh and Eighth Awaited

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Andy Burnham Mayor of Greater Manchester
Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham

If you thought five delays was ridiculous, then scour your vocabulary for an adjective appropriate to a sixth delay to the completion of the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework.

The regional planning policy document, intended to smooth the path to 26M SF of new office space, 45M SF of new industrial and logistics floorspace, and hundreds of thousands of new homes, has been delayed again.

The most recent draft of the plan, published in January, has become enmeshed in a legal complexity. It is unclear whether it is Andy Burnham's mayoral spatial development strategy, similar in kind to that adopted in London by city Mayor Sadiq Khan, or is merely a joint development strategy agreed by the 10 Greater Manchester boroughs. The rules on preparing plans, the degree of technical evidence needed, and consultation requirements, are different depending on which the Spatial Framework is regarded as being.

The obvious question is: Shouldn't somebody have thought of this earlier? The obvious answer is: Yes, they should.

A decision from the UK government could provide clarity, but no decision is forthcoming. Allowing for additional consultation, the new plan is unlikely to be adopted before 2020, the Manchester Evening News reported. This would make it four years late.

The new timing could place decision-making after the Greater Manchester local and mayoral elections in May 2020, meaning newly elected politicians may decide to rethink the plan entirely. Meanwhile a potential UK general election could lead to a new government whose policy directions would have to be incorporated into the plan, leading to a major rewrite.

The result is that the potential for a seventh or even eighth delay cannot be discounted.