Planning for 'Garden City Suburbs' in Greater Manchester
Contributed by Steve Connor
Left to their own devices, many property developers would undoubtedly build some great houses, but they wouldn’t necessarily create the kind of new neighbourhoods we know the people of Greater Manchester want, and expect.
And that’s why we’re setting the bar high, particularly for land we’re releasing out of the Green Belt.
Inspired in part by the 'Garden Cities’ movement and its founding visionary, Ebenezer Howard, we want our new ‘Garden City Suburbs’ to bring the very best of ‘Town and Country’ together, linked by high quality public transport and with new employment, leisure and educational assets, too.
To help deliver on this aspiration, in the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework we’ve deliberately chosen to release fewer, but larger, sites that have the scale needed to create entirely new neighbourhoods that are of a high quality in their own right but that also bring some great benefits to neighbouring communities, too.
As a starting point, the selection of sites will be guided by some important considerations:
• Will it protect and enhance the local environment, particularly any protected sites?
• Can it help us to be more resilient in the face of climate change?
• Will the site maximise the use of public transport, or of cycling and walking?
• Are there opportunities to create new infrastructure or local services?
• Will it attract new skilled labour, or boost the local economy?
• And of course, will the site help to meet local demand for new, high quality homes?
Once we’ve allocated land in the places we know fit the criteria above, the next challenge is to make sure we get the delivery of new developments right, meeting the standards we’ve set for ourselves and for those who will be building new homes and communities.
So what does the Garden City Suburb actually look like? What could a new resident expect from the places we’re seeking to make happen as they book the moving truck and measure up for curtains?
One way to imagine these future communities is to consider them to be new, urban villages that connect seamlessly and quickly to our town and city centres but that also have their own sense of place, character and local pride.
They will be places where walking or cycling is the preferred way of getting around once you’re there, and that have their own local health or educational facilities, which they can share with established neighbourhoods around them.
There’ll be a new dentist, a marketplace, a coffee shop, maybe a new public square. And the spaces and places will be set in a context of great, high quality green infrastructure.
By now you should be getting the picture, hopefully you might even be thinking ‘where do I sign up?’
So how do we, as the Greater Manchester Combined Authority, work with our local authorities to make this happen? It’s about more than just selecting the right sites, we need to make sure that if planning permission is granted, it brings with it a few conditions.
First of all, we want to set a condition for our larger Green Belt sites that development can only happen if a masterplan has been agreed with the local planning authority that makes sure it promises to be of the standard we’ve outlined above.
Any development needs to be carefully phased and will have to deliver the supporting infrastructure, facilities and environmental measures that its scale demands.
For the sites that include housing, they will have to deliver affordable, social or shared ownership housing.
New developments will have to provide a mix of housing types, at differing densities. They’ll also have to help Greater Manchester hit a reduction in CO2 emissions and be resilient to climate change and help reduce the risk of flooding.
This vision - and standard - for high quality developments is something that the people of Greater Manchester have every right to expect in return for working with their local authorities to help accommodate the growth we’re expecting in the next 20 years.
People in local communities where new developments are planned have every right to worry about the strain on services, or what kind of impact new development might have on their own neighbourhoods, which is why we have to work doubly hard to deliver a new and better kind of sustainable development.
Our Garden City Suburbs are, we believe, the answer.
What makes a Garden City Suburb?
• A good mix of high quality housing for young and old, families and singles.
• Homes that can be afforded, as well as higher value housing.
• High levels of energy efficiency, particularly to tackle fuel poverty.
• Good levels of density, connected by walking and cycling routes.
• A fast public transport connection to the heart of the city region and to other town centres.
• Low emission car clubs that cut out the need for individual car ownership.
• High quality green infrastructure, street trees and pocket parks.
• Connection to the countryside, as well as the city.
• New leisure and recreational spaces, local centres, marketplaces.
• Connections to employment sites, and to educational opportunities.
• Low or zero carbon energy generation, and district heating or cooling.
• ‘Edible’ neighbourhoods with allotments and community orchards.
• Local ‘sharing economy’ schemes, e.g. tool libraries.
• Designed for health, wellbeing and a more active population.
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Contributed by Helen Bidwell
Contributed by Steve Connor
Contributed by Helen Bidwell
Steve is co-founder and CEO of Creative Concern. He specialises in ethical and sustainability issues, integrated campaigns, city strategies, brand development and creating strange installations out of trees, lights and beautiful type. Particular areas of expertise include climate change, place making, transport, food issues and the natural environment.