THE publication of Greater Manchester’s controversial blueprint for the region’s future housing needs has again been delayed.
The second draft of the GM Spatial Framework was due to be revealed in October followed by a 12-week public consultation.
But at the time the Correspondent went to press, the publication of the document had again been shelved over uncertainty over the specific amount of homes now needed.
More than 27,000 responses were received during the consultation on the first draft, with thousands of residents throughout Greater Manchester’s 10 local authorities concerned about development of greenbelt sites.
The Framework set out a target of 227,000 homes by 2035 accompanied by around 200,000 jobs.
However, figures released suggest there will be slower than projected population growth. But it’s believed greenbelt/greenfield sites will still be needed because brownfield sites could only deliver less than half of the 227,000 homes.
Last month, the Correspondent reported a plea from Cllr Howard Sykes, leader of the opposition on Oldham Council, for a wider debate on the updated proposals.
He accused Greater Manchester’s 10 Council leaders and Greater Manchester Mayor, Andy Burnham, of a “backroom deal” – a suggestion strongly denied by OMBC leader Cllr Sean Fielding.
In calling on the government to provide “urgent clarity” on housing figures, the Greater Manchester Combined Authority have indicated Council leaders will “commit to ensuring that the formal draft plan is put before each Council to ensure real democratic debate and scrutiny”.
In a joint statement the GMCA says: “Recently published Office for National Statistics (ONS) population figures and household projections have created new assumptions for housing growth but the Government’s decision to apply a new formula to them means the Spatial Framework can’t proceed until it is published.
“Right now the Government is moving the goalposts and making this process more difficult.
“We have made real progress towards agreeing a rewritten GMSF but this uncertainty around the housing figures is delaying our final decisions and compromising our ability to get on with strategic planning in Greater Manchester.
“We are clear the Government must not fiddle the methodology to inflate the housing numbers just to meet its own artificial target.
“We also note that this revised methodology is set to come forward just months after the Government’s last consultation to assess local housing need. This is a far cry from the honest, open, consistent approach that we were promised.
“Greater Manchester needs to know that the Spatial Framework is a plan fit for the future and this can only be the case if we get the clarity we need before the plan is finalised.
“That is why we have all agreed that we will wait, yet again, for the Government methodology, then move quickly to revise and agree our plan, before taking it out to public consultation.”
Greater Manchester’s 10 Local Authority Leaders have also confirmed that the draft GMSF must be approved by each and every local council next summer, before the third round of formal consultation.
The agreement comes after Leaders agreed in principle to a Spatial Development Strategy, which comes with a number of advantages but does not legally require each local council to approve the plan.
Now, regardless of the requirements, they are committed to ensuring that the formal draft Plan is put before each Council to ensure real democratic engagement, debate and scrutiny.
Greater Manchester’s lead for housing, homelessness and infrastructure, Paul Dennett, said: “For the GMSF to be a success we have to ensure that the Greater Manchester public are fully involved in this process.
“That means real transparency, accountability and democratic debate – not just at a Greater Manchester level but also at a local level, especially given the relationship between the Spatial Framework and Local Plans across Greater Manchester’s 10 councils.
“That’s why, regardless of any legal requirements, local ward councillors will have their say on this plan.
“Throughout this process we have always committed to taking the GMSF through local councils but with the changes that could be made to the plan it is right to restate this pledge.”