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EXCLUSIVE: The New Greater Manchester Spatial Framework: Greener, Fairer, Better Connected

There are just weeks to wait before Metro Mayor Andy Burnham's rewrite of the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework is published after a storm of protest over plans to take 11,000 acres out of greenbelt protection.

With one month to go before July publication, Salford City Mayor Paul Dennett — the man Burnham put in charge of the re-write — speaking exclusively at Bisnow's Manchester State of the Market event, has revealed the themes of the new plan.

The three big takeaways are transport, green infrastructure and more social inclsuivity.

Salford City Mayor Paul Dennett

The "Greater Manchester Spatial Framework" is not a name to set pulses racing — but since last year's mayoral election it has done just that. Confronted with public anger at the loss of 11,000 acres of greenbelt land, the newly elected Burnham promised a "major overhaul" of the first draft, originally published in October 2016.

The rewrite was put in the hands of Salford City Mayor Paul Dennett, the lead member of the Greater Manchester Combined Authority for planning. Weeks ahead of a projected June launch of a revised document, the Corbyn-friendly mayor told Bisnow's Manchester State of the Market event what to expect for the 20-year strategy designed to provide up to 24M SF of new commercial floorspace.

1. For The Many Not The Few

"The new Greater Manchester Spatial Framework will be a single front door for development in the city," Dennett said. As the starting point for investment in the city, the new plan will insist on looking at wider impacts and not just on single schemes or on the handful of economic powerhouses in the city. So expect the plan to set the direction for property markets across the city region.

“We know we have a lot more to do to make sure the growth we see is inclusive and benefits all in Greater Manchester," Dennett said. "The drivers of growth are increasingly only a small part of the conurbation — the city centre, Trafford Park, Media City and Manchester Airport — how do we transition from a market-led approach to a more inclusive form of growth?"

"I understand markets take time to develop, but through the spatial framework we are commited to addressing these issues. Our role is not to work against the market, but with it, to create new markets that are inclusive and sustainable."


Salford City Mayor Paul Dennett

2. It's All About Infrastructure

Greater Manchester cannot grow unless it has the roads, rail and regeneration frameworks it needs — and that is going to require some serious lobbying and back-breaking work on details, Dennett said.

“We have long-standing challenges on infrastructure and investment. Capital investment per head on infrastructure is about £680 in Greater Manchester, in London it is much higher at £1,940, and we need to get much better at getting a fair deal on infrastructure investment,” Dennett said.

Behind the scenes, work on a number of applications for funding of schemes with marginal viability is going to pay off, he said. “The response to the first draft of the Spatial Framework showed us the absolute importance people attach to infrastructure, and those marginal viability funds will be vital,” he said.

In particular, watch for progress on creating an HS2 hub at Manchester Piccadilly. “This is absolutely critical to the regeneration of Greater Manchester and our place in the U.K. economy,” Dennett said.

In the meantime, long-term links are being forged with Highways England and Network Rail.

3. Getting Greener

Outcry at the loss of local amenity land to housing was the trigger than prompted Burnham’s promise to rethink the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework, and resolving those fears in Dennett’s main task.

“We have to deliver 227,000 new homes by 2035 and that is a phenomenal task,” Dennett said.

“The most contentious issue to come out of the Spatial Framework was the importance of green infrastructure. We had 27,000 responses to the consultation, many of them telling us how important that was,” Dennett said.

The answer is going to involve a new way of approaching development, he said. “This isn’t going to be about developing scheme by scheme, but genuinely about placemaking and greening the environment, and looking at ways to build green spaces into new schemes. We have a long way to go on this — we have lots and lots to do — because green spaces too often get forgotten.”