The GMSF v the Northern Powerhouse

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The Greater Manchester Spatial Framework v the Northern Powerhouse

The Greater Manchester Spatial Framework v the Northern Powerhouse

Colin Robinson 14 Jan 2016
The Northern Powerhouse was conceived to redress the obvious imbalance between the north and south and to attract investment into northern cities and towns.  Greater Manchester is set to be at the forefront of the Northern Powerhouse, driving growth and economic prosperity across the region.

The Greater Manchester Combined Authority [GMCA] recently published the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework [GMSF] s’ for consultation, with the aim of Greater Manchester becoming a financially self-sustaining city, sitting at the heart of the Northern Powerhouse.  NLP fully endorses this aim and wants to ensure that Manchester maximises its full economic potential.  The aims of the GMSF and the aims of the Northern Powerhouse should go hand in hand and be aligned perfectly.
However, NLP has concerns with the ‘Vision and draft Strategic Options’ set out in the now closed consultation and questions whether Greater Manchester has the ambition, aspiration and desire to lead the Northern Powerhouse.  The emerging GMSF contains some of the same core messages as recent Government announcements, albeit these are tempered.  In particular, it advocates overly conservative economic growth ambitions and housing requirements.
NLP has submitted representations on behalf of clients and we have highlighted concerns over the lack of a pro-growth development strategy, highlighting the socio-economic implications that this could have on both Greater Manchester and the Northern Powerhouse. The importance the Government have placed on Manchester as the leader of the Northern Powerhouse, and as one of the main catalysts for growth, is simply not conveyed in the overall strategy of the emerging GMSF.

The GMSF ‘Vision and draft Strategic Options’ has made provisions for an increase of 10,350 dwellings per annum over the course of the plan period, is based on the ONS projections with an allowance for higher levels of international migration to 2023. But this bears no resemblance to the government’s economic growth aspirations for the Northern Powerhouse.
Furthermore, the housing requirement set out in the ‘Vision and draft Strategic Options’ is not considered to adhere to the provisions of national Planning Practice Guidance (the ‘PPG’). There is certainly no up to date Strategic Housing Market Assessment [SHMA] that the PPG requires. In particular, the requirement figure does not taken into account the need for affordable housing, the severity of market pressures, and the past under-delivery of housing - meaning that a significant upward adjustment is necessary.  NLP has used its HEaDROOM modelling framework to calculate a more appropriate level of growth of over 14,000dwellings per annum (‘dpa’), and potentially higher, should the Powerhouse ambitions be fully realised.  This compares to the preferred ‘Vision and draft Strategic Options’ growth provision figure of just 10,350dpa.  Over the plan period of 2014 to 2035, this could see Greater Manchester losing out on:
  • Approximately £767 million by way of net additional spend in the local area, which would support c.8,450 jobs;
  • almost £8bn of construction investment;
  • 8,800 fewer direct construction jobs and 13,300 fewer indirect jobs further down the supply chain; and,
  • £610 million less from the New Homes Bonus.
The emerging GMSF also comes under scrutiny for ignoring the need for family homes, in addition to its failure to address affordable housing demand.  There is a seeming over-reliance on needs being met through high density apartments, with 46% of overall predicted supply comprising of 1 and 2 bedroomed apartments.  This ignores the prevalent need for family homes and the provision of a full range of housing types and sizes required across the Greater Manchester area.  The GMSF needs to make tough decisions, including a review of the role and function of the Green Belt, and the identification of appropriate local and strategic sites to meet housing and employment needs across the conurbation.
The emerging GMSF should be more aspirational to support increased economic growth and to capitalise on the infrastructure investment provided in schemes such as HS2.  HS2 has the potential to be the catalyst for growth over the medium to long term in Manchester.  However, to seize and retain this growth, the GMSF needs to provide a clear framework to provide the commercial space and boost housing requirements to meet the needs of all sectors in the market, but particularly delivering housing for the prospective workforce (who will otherwise be likely to move to affluent parts of nearby Cheshire and Lancashire).
As it currently stands, the emerging GMSF runs the risk that it fails to correlate with the ambitious vision and objectives of the Northern Powerhouse; and sets a framework which risks undermining Greater Manchester’s role at the heart of the Powerhouse.  The proposed annual increase in homes per year is just 0.8%, well below that currently planned by Leeds (1.3%), Bradford (1.2%) and Sheffield (1%).  NLP and the housebuilding industry in general agree that the scale and mix of housing proposed in the emerging GMSF is simply insufficient.
Greater Manchester is seeking to position itself as the engine of the Northern Powerhouse, and yet the figures put forward in the emerging GMSF bear little relationship to these aspirations.  The sub-region’s current very strong economic performance - and future growth opportunities - are insufficiently recognised and planned for. The publication of the GMSF for consultation later this year provides an ideal opportunity to plan for and consult on long term development options in Manchester, recognising that sufficient land should be allocated and safeguarded to ensure strategic and well-planned developments beyond the end date of the GMSF (2035). The GMSF must provide a more robust and ambitious strategy towards housing and economic growth in order for Greater Manchester to successfully lead the delivery of the Northern Powerhouse.