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Your questions answered: What is the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework?

Since we began our awareness campaign for the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework, we’ve been following your feedback closely, on social media and beyond, and making a note of any queries and key issues that may need a bit more clarification. We want to make sure you’re as informed as possible before providing feedback during this consultation period.

What is the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework?

In August 2014, the 10 Local Planning Authorities in Greater Manchester (Bolton, Bury, Manchester, Oldham, Rochdale, Salford, Stockport, Tameside, Trafford and Wigan) agreed to prepare a joint development plan document to set out the approach to housing and employment land across Greater Manchester for the next 20 years. This is known as the Greater Manchester Spatial Development Framework (GMSF).

In November 2014, the first devolution agreement was reached which provided for an elected Mayor for Greater Manchester with responsibility to produce a Spatial Strategy with the unanimous support of his/her Cabinet.

Following the election of the Mayor in May 2017, part of the GMSF may become the Spatial Strategy and part will remain a joint development plan document to be adopted by the resolution of the full councils of all 10 authorities

Once fully approved (it’s currently in draft form undergoing public consultation) the GMSF will be the strategic plan for the region that will guide how we develop over the next 20 years.

The GMSF will help to ensure that Greater Manchester’s precious blue and green infrastructure is protected and enhanced where possible, and that the right land in the right places is used to deliver new homes and jobs, along with the new infrastructure required to achieve this.

It aims to ensure that Greater Manchester becomes as well known for the quality of its environment as for its economic success. 

If adopted, the GMSF will be the overarching development plan within which Greater Manchester’s ten local planning authorities can identify more detailed sites for jobs and homes in their own area.

As such, the GMSF will not cover everything that a local plan would cover and individual districts will continue to produce their own local plans.

You can download a full draft of the GMSF here.

Why do we need the GMSF?

One of the biggest planning issues facing the country is the shortage of new homes – the country is simply not building enough homes to meet demand and this includes Greater Manchester. 

To accommodate these new homes, we need to establish new jobs and green space across the city region – this is where the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework comes in.
The GMSF will help to make sure that investment and growth in houses and jobs happens but also benefits our residents and makes Greater Manchester a better place to live and work.

We need to be able to plan for schools, green spaces, roads and health facilities alongside new homes, offices and factories.

Local authorities are required by the Government to produce statutory development plans and keep them up to date and to co-operate with each other to address strategic cross boundary issues.

The Government has also introduced new targets which mean that councils that don’t have up-to date plans by 2017 will be placed in special measures and lose local planning powers and funding from the Government.

How did you identify the growth structure for the GMSF?

As with all local plans, the starting point was the national population projections.
We began by considering national population and economic forecasts to ensure that we could provide enough land for the number of new homes and workplaces needed to accommodate our growing population.

We consulted and gathered further evidence and tested this to assess the precise levels of growth required and how best to achieve this for Greater Manchester.

We then asked the public and business community to help us identify sites that could be developed.

The feedback from the initial consultation that took place over the winter of 2015/16 was that:

  • Our economic growth forecasts are too pessimistic
  • Our residents are not skilled enough to access new jobs so we will have to import more skilled workers through migration or commuting
  • Our population growth forecasts were too low

To address this we have had to undertake further work on:

Economic forecasts

We updated the Accelerated Growth Scenario (AGS) (a growth projection aimed at delivering the Northern powerhouse and closing our prosperity gap with London and the south east) and in light of the challenges, tested it against a range of factors including the Northern Powerhouse Independent Economic Review; forecasts produced by the leading forecasting houses as well as Oxford Economics (Cambridge Econometrics and Experian); and our predictions around resident employment rate and the potential impacts of Brexit.

Resident employment rates

We re-examined our assumptions around resident employment rate and undertook further work to check and challenge the uplift of 49,300 extra people in work expected in the AGS, confirming that it reflects the opportunities we expect from a growing population and economy, as well as the potential impact of our policies and programmes in GM.

Population and housing forecasts

We undertook further work taking into account the latest population projections (released 27th May 2016) and the sub national household projections (released 13 July 2016). We modelled various scenarios using different rates (general population creating new households and in doing so requiring new homes).

We also modelled the impact of the recommendations last spring made to the Government by an expert panel set up to advise them on planning and housing delivery.

Having completed this additional work it was decided that the ambition set out in the Accelerated Growth Scenario 2015, whilst challenging, is robust and necessary to demonstrate our continuing role in driving growth in the north of England. 

The AGS 2015 also delivers on GM’s requirement to plan for at least the levels of population growth set out in the 2014 Sub National Population Projections (SNPP).

The SNPP is produced by the Office for National Statistics and provides an indication of the future size and age structure of the population based on mid-year population estimates and a set of assumptions of future fertility, mortality and migration.

This work was discussed by the Joint GMCA/AGMA Executive on the 26th August 2016 and it was agreed that the level of growth we should be planning for and testing through the GMSF process is:

  • An increase in Greater Manchester’s economy of 2.5% year on year, giving an uplift of £5bn above baseline conditions by 2035,equating to an additional 199,700 jobs
  • An anticipated population growth of 294,800, which translates into 227,200 net new homes

We converted this rise in jobs and economic growth into employment floor space. You can view the background documents to this here.


We have also examined migration. Greater Manchester as a whole has a very high level of self-containment, both in terms of the proportion of people moving from an address in Greater Manchester who remain within the sub-region and the proportion of people moving to an address in Greater Manchester who already lived within the sub-region, exceeding 80% on both measures (as a proportion of all their moves within England and Wales). 

Data from the censuses and ONS indicates that Manchester and Salford have a distinctive role within Greater Manchester. As the main employment generators, the two cities effectively accounted for all of the net in-migration to Greater Manchester over the period 2002-2012 (over 4,650 people per annum, with the other eight districts collectively seeing net out-migration at over 650 people per annum).

Call For Sites

After conducting an objectively assessed housing need survey, we launched a ‘Call for Sites’ exercise whereby local residents, businesses, landowners and developers were invited to identify sites that they think could be suitable for housing or employment development.

This identified over 800 sites for a range of uses which, if delivered in a way that would achieve their maximum potential, could yield around 325,000 units of new housing and between 12,800,000 and 19,300,000 square metres of new industrial and warehousing floor space.

In looking to meet the needs and address the supply shortfall, this information has been used to help determine whether there are areas of land available for development that we are not currently aware of.

The call for sites remains open as the process of formulating the plan continues. You can have your say here.

What about accommodating growth outside of Greater Manchester?

We have an ongoing relationship with our neighbouring local authorities around housing delivery.

However, to date, no district has indicated that they are in a position to accommodate any of Greater Manchester’s housing need.

Our consultation with neighbouring authorities: statement outlines the discussions we have had so far.

Supporting research

We’ve already made reference to some of the research documents developed and used to inform the GMSF. This process was very important because it holds us accountable. Ultimately we will have to justify our approach at a public hearing and before of a Government Appointed planning inspector.

We’ve uploaded all of the documents to our consultation portal. Head here to discover more.  

Have your say/find out more

If you have any questions or queries about the information in this article, or about the GMSF, please don’t hesitate to get in touch and follow us on Twitter @GMSpatialFrame.

The public consultation on the draft plan is open until 23rd December 2016 so be sure to visit the portal and submit your feedback.