Why is the GM Spatial Framework delayed?

By Steady State Manchester

The Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) has announced that the launch of a redrafted Greater Manchester Spatial Framework (GMSF) has again been delayed.  Here's why.


1) GMCA now thinks 175,000 houses could be built on available land.  Most of this is  "brownfields" sites but some is on Green Belt [see note 1 below].

2) The Office for National Statistics, ONS, now says Greater Manchester will need 140,000 new homes by 2035.

3) Even in the original GMSF, it was tstated that 72% of new homes would be on brownfields. That gave a figure of 163,584.  That's still bigger than the ONS projection of  140,000.  This means that on these projections (not forecasts), GMCA could meet housebuilding needs without taking any Greenbelt.  GMCA has since improved its identification of brownfield sites.

4) That means that If ONS are right, there will be no need to build housing on the Green Belt.

5) But government is going to publish a new methodology for calculating house building targets: we don't know what inflated numbers will be in that [see note 2].

6) So GMCA are both surprised and puzzled, having already quietly reduced their house building assumption from 227,200, the figure published in the GMSF, to 200,000.  That's why they've bounced it back to central government, asking for clarification.  That's why there is a delay, although there also reports of disagreements between the Mayor (who wants to avoid green belt build as much as possible) and some local council leaders, who want to build more.

7) Brownfield sites include a variety of spaces.  Some have been unoccupied for so long that nature has re-possessed them; they have become nature reserves, amenity spaces, greenfields in the urban area. Plans to build on these (Pomona Island, Rye Bank Fields, Nutsford Vale, for example) have already produced resistance.  Our view is that when global ecological, climate, economic and social systems collapse, we will need green space close at hand to feed ourselves (see point 9, below).  Rather than increasing the amount of built environment we need to look for a completely different model: one where we retrofit a green, convivial, and economically viable (in our terms, not those of corporate interests) economy into the existing space of the city region.  However, former industrial sites will need careful evaluation, just as they would for housing, schools, and so on, given the history of industrial uses and contamination risks.

8) The GMSF utilised a work of fiction called the Accelerated Growth Strategy, produced, without any transparency as to methodology, by a company called Oxford Economics. This had staggeringly high, and unprecedented figures for economic growth (which we and others refuted at the time), from which needs for housing and industrial (warehouse sheds mainly) builds were derived (we don't know how).

9) Meanwhile, the IMF is saying there is very likely to be another global recession, the IPCC says that climate catastrophe is on its way (and nothing much is being done to avert it), and Brexit has also reduced "growth" projections (which is why the ONS figures have reduced).  So these grand plans really do need a more humble rethink.


  1. The 175,000 figure for available land comes from the "submitted sites" here: https://mappinggm.org.uk/call-for-sites/... and it DOES include a number of greenbelt sites. The quality of the data on this map (and spreadsheet https://mappinggm.org.uk/.../170920-Call-for-sites-All... ) is not high . You have to trawl through a lot of free text comments to see references to Green Belt / Green Fields, so it needs a lot of work, and local knowledge, to make sense of it.
  2. Since the government is promoting the myth that the housing crisis is due to a lack of supply (it helps them avoid tackling root causes like benefits-austerity and sky high house prices), and they like a stick to beat local government, we can certainly expect continued pressure to build more.


Mark H Burton

Steady State Manchester.


Concerned about increasing wealth inequality, climate change and financial instability, Steady State Manchester believes an alternative approach to economic development in the city and region is essential so that all can live well and within planetary limits. We encourage organisations to actively pursue the Viable Economy for a safe and good future for us all.

We advocate for a steady state society and economy (through research, hosting events, lobbying and other activities), we  act for it in a variety of ways and we connect people and organisations who want to work for a fairer, safer and more socially just city.


11 October 2018