What’s over the hill? The Greater Manchester Spatial Framework
Our colleagues in CPRE Lancashire have just responded to the new draft plan for the whole of Greater Manchester. This is the first of a new generation of planning documents, produced by a Combined Authority. The vision for English devolution is made up of Combined Authorities with elected ‘metro-mayors’ and a suite of powers, including strategic planning. This is significant to us in West Yorkshire, because although we’re a still some off having a Devolution Deal and a metro-mayor, it will probably happen within a few years. So the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework (GMSF) is a taste of things to come.
The GMSF proposes the biggest ever loss of Green Belt land for development, mainly around Rochdale, Oldham and Stockport. Granted, it envisages that these will be concentrated in ‘sustainable garden villages’, but there are two big problems with that: firstly our planning system is very weak when it comes to achieving the standards of design and the integration of public transport and green spaces that could make new settlements into good places; and secondly it perpetuates exactly the same motorway-junction-based pattern of new development that we have just criticised Kirklees for pursuing. That pattern is out-of-date, damaging to the countryside and especially damaging to the centres of smaller towns that become hollowed out due to edge-of-town developments.
There’s also a higher level problem, a huge elephant in the room. Manchester, Liverpool, South Yorkshire and West Yorkshire are all chasing job growth targets that require large scale growth of the workforce. But when you unpick these numbers, it’s obvious that a new supply of workers depends on people moving from other places. In other words, the four big conurbations of Northern England are competing with each other for job growth, and they’re each trying to build a home for the same worker. Small wonder, then, that housebuilding targets are going off the scale, to the great detriment of our countryside.