My response to the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework – Ivan Lewis
My response to the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework.
I set out my response to the consultation on the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework (GMSF).
I fully support the need for a strategic plan for Greater Manchester so we can attract the jobs of the future and build the homes which are necessary to ensure people have a good quality of life and ensure we can end homelessness.
However, having consulted my constituents and considered the current plan in detail I have reached the conclusion there must be radical changes before any further public consultation.
A rewritten plan must
• Adopt the principles of maximum development on brownfield sites first
• Minimise the proposed use of green belt so it becomes a last resort option
• Identify the proportion of new homes which will be affordable
• Develop a synergy between this plan and out vision for the future of public transport in Greater Manchester
• Include an overall environmental assessment of the plan
If legislation or national policy prevents this happening we should lobby the Government on an all-party basis to introduce necessary changes and enlist the support of Greater Manchester residents to apply pressure to the Government.
I expand on my views below.
Under the GMSF Bury has been allocated a total of 12,700 houses to deliver by 2035.
These figures have been based on population growth forecasts provided by the Office of National Statistics between now and 2035 and converted into housing numbers by the Government’s Department for Communities and Local Government.
As its stands a total of 5000 homes could be delivered on brown field land with the balance designated to areas currently contained within the existing green belt (7,500).
By making such a large amount of greenbelt available to developers this will mean that many brown field sites will be left undeveloped as house builders seek to utilise the much more profitable green sites to build much larger, much more expensive properties.
There is of course no mechanism for Local Councils to force developers to prioritise the development of brown field sites under the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF).
The consequence would be that the much needed affordable homes that are required in my constituency are not built. Therefore the aspiration to affordably rent or buy a property would remain out of reach for far too many.
It appears that the GMSF process is too focussed on providing numbers as opposed to meeting need.
The disproportionate building of executive homes which could be sold for values that bear no relation to average earnings will only serve to exacerbate the inequality that already exists in my constituency and Greater Manchester.
My view is that all available brown field land should be developed with the use of greenbelt a last resort.
More action required by Government
It is startling to note that in Bury alone planning permission has been granted to deliver almost 2000 new homes but this land has been left dormant by its owners presumably to allow for the value of land to increase over time. This is a process known as “land banking”. The Government should introduce policy to unlock these sites and this is an issue that the Greater Manchester Combined Authority should take up directly with the Housing Minister.
Evidence should be provided with regard to any potential impact of flooding on new housing developments and whether these risks would be increased or mitigated as a result of house building in certain areas.
My own constituency suffered from devastating flooding in December 2015 and funding from central Government is required to build flood defences.
It should be a key principle of the GMSF that no house building should take place which puts other properties at risk.
Co-ordination with Transport Strategy/Road Networks
If, as the GMSF suggests, that almost 226,000 new homes will be required by 2035 then there needs to be serious consideration as to how transport infrastructure in Greater Manchester will cope.
The existing road network (including motorways) is already under significant pressure due to the volume of vehicles.
We still do not have an integrated public transport system and although Metrolink has expanded its reach it does not cover the whole of the conurbation. At peak times coming to and from Manchester the tram system is already full to capacity.
It is often forgotten that many people still use their cars to take them to tram stations so even their use puts a huge strain on the local road network.
Clear thought needs to be given as to what physical infrastructure is required and also crucially who is going to pay for it? At the moment there are not answers readily available to these vital questions.
The same question applies to social infrastructure including access to healthcare and schooling.
In an era of austerity public services are already stretched to the limit. There is a crisis in both the NHS and social care together with a desperate demand for school places. How will these challenges be met whilst budgets shrink?
Overall Growth Strategy for Conurbation
From an economic growth point of view the Spatial Framework represents an incredible opportunity to create high quality jobs and boost productivity. From an employment generating perspective there needs to be a clear joining up of thought between making land availability for employment use and the conurbation’s strategy for education training and skills.
I hope these views and those submitted by my constituents will be taken seriously.