The controversial and long-awaited Greater Manchester Spatial Framework (“GMSF”) was revealed on Monday 7 January 2019 with leaders agreeing, at the joint GMCA and AGMA Executive Board meeting on Friday 11 January, to open an eight week consultation period on the new GMSF.  The consultation will start on 21 January and end on 18 March 2019. 

This follows on from the previous draft GMSF (October 2016) which attracted over 27,000 responses.  Nonetheless the recent draft document demonstrates continued commitment by all 10 Local Planning Authorities in Greater Manchester to prepare a joint document which sets out the approach to managing strategic housing and employment growth across Greater Manchester’s 10 local authorities until 2037. 

This briefing note provides a summary of the key points set out in the 2019 draft GMSF and a comparison against the 2016 draft GMSF.    

Growth options comparisons

In comparison to the 2016 draft GMSF figures published in 2016 there has been a significant reduction of 26,000 dwellings in the overall housing requirement, however, the overall employment requirement has increased, as shown in the table below:


Similar to the 2016 draft GMSF, the 2019 draft sets out how the overall housing requirement will be distributed between the 10 Local Authorities.  As expected, Manchester and Salford will take the largest proportions and overall numbers of housing (43% of the overall total), including some from neighbouring authorities.  All authorities, with the exception of Oldham, have reduced housing requirements compared to the 2016 draft GMSF. The table below sets out the 2019 draft proposed housing requirements for the 10 authorities, against the 2016 draft figures. 


The phasing of delivery of the housing has changed from the 2016 draft.  The annual housing target is now split between two periods, 2018-2023 and 2024-2037, with generally lower targets in the first period.  One key reason for this phasing is to enable authorities to obtain Government funding to ensure that infrastructure investments are in place to support the proposed development. This is particularly true for Bolton, Bury, Oldham and Trafford, which have all rear loaded their housing requirements with much higher annualised requirements for the 2024-2037 period. 

The 2019 draft also sets a minimum target of 50,000 affordable homes (of which 30,000 are to be for social and affordable rent) which was not featured in the 2016 draft GMSF.  It is proposed that allocations in Trafford and Stockport will deliver 30% affordable housing and that affordable housing targets for allocations in the other authorities will be set out in the relevant Local Plans. 

In terms of employment distribution, the primary focus for office development is Manchester city centre, with two other areas of focus being The Quays and the Manchester Airport Enterprise Zone. 

The 2019 draft GMSF sets a requirement of 222,105 sq m of industrial and warehousing floor space each year to 2037.  This figure is based on an annual average uplift of around 25% from past take-up rates of B1c/B2 and B8 land to reflect the need for Greater Manchester to compete internationally for investment and provide sufficient choice and flexibility to respond to differing business needs.  The release of Green Belt for employment use is focused primarily in the northern parts of Greater Manchester, around key motorway corridors.  This will result in around two thirds of the supply being in the districts of Wigan, Bolton, Bury, Rochdale, Oldham and Tameside. 

Several other key aspects of the 2019 draft GMSF, aside from the changes in growth options, are set out below.   

Efficient use of land

A key focus of the 2019 draft GMSF is to maximise development opportunities by making efficient use of land.  In order to do this significant focus is being placed on both redeveloping previously developed land and building at higher densities, particularly around Manchester City Centre and Salford Quays.  The document suggests densities of 200 homes per hectare in the city centre and 120 homes per hectare in designated town centres are appropriate. 

Green Belt release

Although there is a strong focus on making efficient use of land, Green Belt release is still required to meet overall development requirements.  Whilst this is likely to be contentious again, the proposed net loss of Green Belt is half of that proposed in the 2016 draft GMSF (2,419 hectares or 4.1%) compared to 8.2 % in the 2016 draft GMSF.  To put that into perspective, the 2019 draft GMSF proposes 28,000 new homes on current Green Belt land over the plan period, down from the 55,000 proposed in the 2016 draft GMSF.  

In addition to this, the 2019 draft GMSF proposes to create new Green Belt land in every Greater Manchester authority except Manchester.  This is to partly offset the loss to the proposed allocations.  It is not clear what level of scrutiny the proposed Green Belt additions have been subjected to at this stage and/or whether they can be robustly justified at the examination stage (e.g. in terms of meeting the five Green Belt purposes).


With the quantum of development proposed, it is clear that investment into new infrastructure will be essential.  In this context the GM Transport Strategy Draft Delivery Plan (2020-2025) has been published alongside the 2019 draft GMSF and the GMCA is seeking to develop it over the next 12 months.

The document sets out the transport projects that the GMCA considers to be achievable in the next five years to keep pace with proposed development.  The draft document projects that more than 65 tram, train and bus projects will be delivered in the next five years, including the Trafford Park Metrolink line, the upgrade to Salford Central Station, investment of £160m into new walking and cycling routes across the city region, the expansion of the city regions’ electric vehicle charging network, and new transport interchanges in Tameside and Stockport.  The plan also explores longer term initiatives such as introducing tram-trains (which would run on existing rail infrastructure) to connect the Metrolink network to as far out as Warrington. 


The 2019 draft GMSF identifies 51 specific sites that are proposed to be allocated for development (see Figure 1 below). 

Figure 1: Proposed Site Allocations - 2019 draft GMSF - page 223

Figure 1: Proposed Site Allocations - 2019 draft GMSF - page 223

Allocations requiring Green Belt release are proposed in all 10 authority areas and three cross boundary allocations are proposed.   

In terms of the cross boundary allocations, despite a reduction in size, Northern Gateway (Ref. GM Allocation 1) is proposed to remain as a large, nationally significant employment allocation to the south east of Bury and south west of Rochdale.  This major facility will be similar in size to Trafford Park, and will account for about 20% of Greater Manchester’s employment land supply. 

Three allocations are proposed in Bolton predominately to deliver employment uses.  Green Belt release in Bolton is significantly reduced from the 2016 draft GMSF. 

Bury’s proposed allocations remain relatively unchanged with only minor changes since the 2016 draft GMSF. 

Given Manchester’s urbanised nature there is little Green Belt release proposed.  However there are three proposed allocations (Ref. GM Allocations 10, 11 and 12) predominately earmarked for employment uses and all in the south of the borough.  This is in a bid to maximise economic growth for cargo and operational facilities for the airport and industrial spaces. 

Ten sites are proposed for allocation and release from the Green Belt in Oldham, including all of the previous 2016 draft allocations and several new, smaller ones.  These include 1,450 new homes at Broadbent Moss (Ref. GM Allocation 15). 

Rochdale’s largest allocation at Bamford/Norden (Ref. GM Allocation 23) seeks to deliver 450 new homes.  There are also six other proposed allocations for a combined 1,630 homes. 

The amount of proposed Green Belt release in Salford is very similar to the 2016 draft GMSF.  However there is an additional smaller allocation at Irlam (Ref. GM Allocation 32) and the previously proposed cross boundary allocation east of Astley has been removed.  Major expansion is proposed at Port Salford (Ref. GM Allocation 33) which is expected to create around 320,000 sq m of new employment floor space to take advantage of water and rail connections. 

In Stockport, several 2016 draft allocations have been removed and two others significantly reduced in size.  High Lane (Ref. GM Allocation 38) has been reduced from 4,000 homes to 500 and Woodford Opportunity Area has become a new site at Woodford Aerodrome (Ref. GM Allocation 41) with a significantly reduced capacity from 2,400 homes previously to 750. 

Three proposed allocations requiring Green Belt release are proposed in Tameside including Godley Green Garden Village (Ref. GM Allocation 43) for up to 2,350 new homes.  Overall, Tameside has 70% (3,893) fewer houses proposed on current Green Belt sites than the 2016 draft GMSF.  This is partly due to large parts of Ashton Moss/Littlemoss no longer proposed for release, as well as several proposed allocations on smaller sites in the north and east of the borough being removed. 

The two largest allocations in the 2019 draft GMSF are in Trafford at Carrington (Ref. GM Allocation 45) for 6,100 new homes and at Timperley Wedge (Ref. GM Allocation 46) for 2,400 new homes.  The previously proposed allocation on the land to the western edge of Sale has been incorporated into the Carrington allocation and Flixton Station has been removed. 

Finally, Wigan previously had 11 proposed allocations in the 2016 draft GMSF but this number has been reduced significantly to five in the 2019 draft.  In total, the five allocations make provision for approximately 360,500 sq m of B1, B2 and B8 employment space and 2,500 homes. 

What’s next?

Following the consultation ending on 18 March, another round of consultation is scheduled for summer 2019 with the GMCA anticipating submission of the final plan for examination in early 2020 and adoption in late 2020 or early 2021. 


The greatly reduced proposed Green Belt release, compared to the 2016 draft GMSF, goes a long way towards, but crucially does not deliver Andy Burnham’s 2017 manifesto pledge for no net loss of Green Belt in a ‘radically re-written’ GMSF.  Whilst the previous contention and politics surrounding Green Belt is therefore unlikely to disappear, the publication of the 2019 draft GMSF should be welcomed as it represents a positive step forward which should provide new opportunities for development in the most suitable areas and infrastructure projects over the next 20 years.  Questions also remain over the great focus on high density apartment-style living and whether this will continue to boom long enough to meet the ambitious targets and sustain Greater Manchester’s growth, as well as how this policy framework will actually assist in delivering much needed housing and infrastructure for the city region.  

 If you have any queries or require further information, please get in touch. 

Paul Nellist Principal Planner 0161 956 4077

Paul Nellist
Principal Planner
0161 956 4077

Rachel May Planner 0161 956 4080

Rachel May
0161 956 4080