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Not Enough Green, Growth Or Clarity: Burnham's Planning Framework Gets A Pasting

Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham

The Greater Manchester Spatial Framework, launched earlier this month by Greater Manchester Metro Mayor Andy Burnham, is still being digested. Running to more than 1,000 pages, there is plenty to digest.

Early reactions were cautiously welcoming. But in one of the first thorough analyses, the strategy intended to guide development in the city region to 2037 comes in for some carefully worded but nonetheless serious criticism. If the Savills response sets the pattern, then the prospects for a smooth ride toward final adoption of the plan look troubled.

1. Not Green Enough

Savills pats Burnham on the back for coming up with an interesting plan, but gives it low marks for sustainability.

"It fails only in that it lacks vision in how Manchester might lead the way in being a green, sustainable and prosperous city, embracing the technological opportunities that can help meet the needs of the next 15-20 years," Savills Planning Director Jeremy Hinds said.

Hinds would have preferred some answers to questions including: how might we see our towns house more people in mixed-use buildings, combining for instance hotels, apartments, shops, offices, schools and hospitals? How might transport hubs be better utilised to provide a focus for social and commercial activities? How can we improve some of the lower-value and under-invested residential areas and make them locations for new and exciting development that could transform the perception of places?

2. Not Clear How It Delivers

Savills applauds plans to revive town centres, and the high-density development Burnham envisages there. But it worries that the route between good ideas and completed work on site is not clear.

"Whilst the objective to deliver development in accessible town centres and at a high density is a positive approach, the GMSF does not set out how the required housing mix will be delivered in those centres," Savills Planning Director Rob Haslam said.

"Will the delivery of high-density development in all town-centre locations meet the requirements of the markets that they are intended to serve? We consider that further intervention will be required from the public sector to aid the delivery of schemes on brownfield sites in town centre locations to deliver development in town centre areas that the GMSF requires, in particular in areas that the market is not currently active in."

Haslam also calls for clarity on town centre allocations, and the exact areas concerned.

3. Not Enough Growth

The plan cuts the release of green belt development land by 5,800 acres and, based on new population projections, sets the annual housing target at 10,580 units a year. But this is not the time to take the mayoral foot off the growth pedal, Savills said.

"Manchester has a long way to go yet to fulfil its promise that it will be a net contributor to the Treasury," Savills Planning Director Matt Sobic said. "We consider that in scaling back its previous aspirations for growth, the GMSF inadvertently scales back its economic growth ambitions and that the higher housing target delivery should have been used to benchmark the City Region’s aims for long-term growth and vitality. This would have been consistent with Central Government’s recommendation that higher housing delivery targets should continue to be utilised to support economic growth aspirations."