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GMSF "dream timetable": done and dusted in under 30 months

The "dream timetable" for the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework (GMSF) would see it adopted in the Winter of 2020/21, according to Chris Findley, the Planning Lead for Greater Manchester.

But Chris thinks that's still going to be a stretch to hit that date, and the GMSF could slip further.

The first draft of the plan, which came out in 2016, was heavily criticised. Opponents of Green Belt development mounted a strong campaign against it and in the 2017 Greater Manchester Mayoral election Andy Burnham promised a "radical rewrite". While Burnham's original plan to only allow social housing on Green Belt land never took off , significant changes are expected.

The consultation on the next draft is planned to run from November 2018 through to late January 2019.

Will housing numbers fall?

The latest delay in the GMSF is down to new household projections which the government will publish on Thursday 20 September. It's thought likely that fewer homes will be needed across Greater Manchester than currently planned. So the thinking is: wait for those numbers, and hopefully some of the more contentious Green Belt sites can be dropped.

But there may be a catch. The Government has a target of 300,000 new homes being built each year across the country and the new figures, when added up, are likely to come to little more than 200,000. To meet their target, ministers will need to boost that number, so it's possible that the GMSF housing numbers might not end up being as low as council leaders are hoping.

Next steps

On the dream timetable, the final version of the GMSF will be published for comment in July 2019, before being submitted around the end of 2019 or early 2020. The public examination would take place in the Spring and Summer of 2020, followed by adoption the following Winter.

Approval

The GMSF needs to be approved by the leaders of all ten boroughs, plus the Mayor of Greater Manchester. Only one of the ten boroughs (Manchester City) has the same leader as in 2014, when the first Manchester Devolution deal was signed, and all ten (plus the Mayor) are now Labour-run authorities.

A recent decision by the Combined Authority has streamlined the process. Previously, a majority of councillors in each of the ten boroughs had to support the plan. Now it can go through on the vote of each council leader, even if their councillors oppose it. Given that two of the councils are in no overall control, this could prove crucial.

GMSF - More to do

The GMSF isn't the only game in town. Councils are developing their Local Plans at the same time. This is especially important for Salford, Bury and Tameside, whose existing local plans are outdated. Local authorities are also getting to grips with the new National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), Social Housing Green Paper and much more besides.

And if that wasn't enough, Whitehall is making councils accountable for how many homes are completed on their patch. The next set of figures are out in November - 48% of authorities are currently failing the test across the country.

Greater Manchester's planners would do well to plan their holidays with care.

Iain Roberts

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