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Making good use of brownfield sites across Greater Manchester

You may have read in the press recently about the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework – our plan to make sure we have enough land for the homes and jobs that Greater Manchester will need over the next 20 years.

Our plan needs to deliver 227,300 new homes by 2035, the huge majority of which will be in the existing urban area (72%). That’s still not enough to deal with Greater Manchester’s impressive growth, so our plan is to allocate a series of Green Belt areas to well-planned development.

But we are not abandoning brownfield sites – far from it. Developing brownfield land is our priority. Despite a lot of hard work by councils, the Homes and Communities Agency, and our partners, plus our successes in increasing investment in residential development in and around the city centre in particular, we are still only developing about half of the new homes we need in Greater Manchester (latest number: 5,420 net new homes in GM in 2014-15, compared to annual target we’re consulting on in GMSF of 11,360.)

The Spatial Framework is our plan to deal with Greater Manchester’s tremendous growth and an opportunity for fresh thinking about how we deliver the homes our communities want, and how that matches with what they can afford.

We need new ways of moving from renting toward home ownership, of bridging the deposit gap that is such a challenge for many of our residents – but we also need to help them to raise their income, access betterjobs and improve their skills.

Greater Manchester is a diverse, varied conurbation and housing markets vary hugely, even within our borders. We don’t envy or want to replicate the negative impacts of high pressure housing markets that places like London are wrestling with. 

In that sense we’re lucky that building new homes that working people can afford to buy or rent is a realistic ambition in Greater Manchester. We can and must contribute to achieving national housebuilding targets in our region: communities will benefit directly from doing so, and from the thousands of jobs that work will create.

But lower prices and values bring their own challenges – they can make it much harder to generate the upfront investment needed to turn a brownfield site into a viable development opportunity; to remediate the land or connect into infrastructure. 

That’s why we’re pushing Government hard on the need for them to help us invest in bringing those sites to the point where they’re viable, so we can work with landowners, housing associations and developers to see them built on, or directly commission new homes that we know our residents want to see built for themselves and their children.

We can make more happen if Government gives us the flexibility to commission more new homes, work with developers, investors and housing associations and, with a long term view, invest to tackle the many brownfield sites that can produce sustainable homes in our communities but are currently stalled and neglected.

Our £300 million GM Housing Fund is already making a contribution to speeding up the delivery of new homes by private sector partners, and that will continue over the ten year life of the Fund. But that’s only one small part of the equation – we need more tools if we’re going to build the homes our children and grandchildren need. We can only do this if we have a plan to manage the supply of land over the long term: a place with a plan is a place with a future.

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Main image: New Broadcasting House Under Demolition in Manchester: Flickr user Alex Pepperhill.