Strategic Planning and the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework

Strategic Planning and the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework

By Lee Shaw

The Greater Manchester Combined Authority and the Association of Greater Manchester Authorities (AGMA) have proposed a combined Spatial Framework for the Greater Manchester authorities of Bolton, Bury, Manchester, Oldham, Rochdale, Salford, Stockport, Tameside, Trafford, and Wigan. This blog examines the initial proposals whilst identifying opportunities and implications.

The Greater Manchester Spatial Framework DPD will be a statutory document, adopted individually by Local Planning Authorities that will create a coherent strategy for 10 Greater Manchester councils. The document is intended to be submitted in 2017 and adopted by 2018.

The main objective of the Greater Manchester Plan is to increase housing delivery volumes. The new framework aims to treble current building rates from the 2012-13 output of 3,700 homes per annum to 11,056 per annum, resulting in 224,823 homes for the period 2012-33. The scope of the plan will include employment land and employment floorspace requirements whilst outlining strategic locations and opportunities for development. Additionally, it will include infrastructure. These areas are viewed as critical in ensuring that sustainable and balanced growth can be delivered.

The move to create a statutory plan is not surprising given the success of City-Regions and the increasing support for greater autonomy in regions, now backed by all three major political parties. Having attended a fringe event of the Labour Party Conference with Roberta Blackman-Woods MP (Shadow Minister for Planning) it is clear that strategic planning is back on the political agenda. Labour views the duty-to-cooperate as a failed and unpredictable method of planning. To achieve the desired rates of house building all three political parties agree that house-builders need certainty. A strategic plan, such as the proposed Spatial Framework, will ensure that all local authorities that adopt the plan will have an agreed position.

On a cautious note, we are in the early stages of debate on devolution and wider spatial planning. The current proposed management of the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework reflects the political sensitivity in changing the structure of local governance. Unlike the London Plan that is produced by the Greater London Authority, the new plan will not be managed centrally. Each borough will be required to adopt the plan individually, revising and adopting compliant local level plans gradually. The lack of centralised management could prove difficult in not only the adoption, but the making of the plan. The lack of centralisation in producing the plan may result in the same issues that have been demonstrated in the duty to (un)cooperate, albeit on a larger scale. As has been demonstrated with the duty to cooperate, each authority can agree to ideas in principle however there may be disagreement regarding the particulars of proposals. Further implications of the proposed management structure could be revealed when the plan is updated.

The adoption of the plan is intended to reduce the time required by Local Planning Authorities to negotiate housing targets, speeding up the planning process by returning local authorities to an agreed set target, allowing local plans to be updated faster. The proposed strategic plan will also have implications for Infrastructure Delivery Plans. Wider reverberations could include the revision of locally set Community Infrastructure Levy rates to fund infrastructure.

On a final note, the press release for the framework states that the ‘leaders of the ten authorities agree that increasingly they think and act as a single economic entity, with a single labour market and interdependent towns and cities, transport, culture, education and public services’. There is room for the current scope of the framework to expand. The proposed Greater Manchester Spatial Framework is an early indication of a new generation of spatial plans, and potentially the future of sub-regional governance.

HOW Planning LLP, in conjunction with Regeneris, will be hosting a breakfast seminar ‘The Greater Manchester Spatial Framework’ on Tuesday 4 November 2014. Limited places are available by emailing Carol Robinson (

Initial consultation is currently been undertaken for the framework, closing 7th November 2014. For more details see


Published: 09/10/2014

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