On 27 April The Strategic Land Group’s Managing Director, Paul Smith, presented at the M60 Towns Development Conference organised by Place North West. Appearing on a panel that included Councillor Sean Anstee (Conservative candidate for Greater Manchester Mayor and Leader of Trafford Council) and Councillor Richard Farnell (Leader of Rochdale Council), Paul was tasked with providing the conference with an industry view on planning, housing and the emerging Greater Manchester Spatial Framework which will guide development up until 2035.
Before the question and answer session, Paul delivered a presentation to illustrate the importance of the Spatial Framework, focusing on its potential impacts on Tameside, the borough where the event was held. This post summarises that presentation.
Paul was representing the Housing the Powerhouse campaign, a collaboration of various house builders, land owners, investors and developers. They have come together to ensure that the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework sets an ambitious enough vision for the future of the region. Despite the name of the campaign, it is not just focused on housing. It is also a champion of economic growth, and the role housing has to play in supporting and enabling that growth.
Why focus on Tameside?
The current draft of the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework is proposing huge levels of development across the region:
- 4,000,000 sqm of new warehousing and industrial space;
- 2,500,000 sqm of new offices, and;
- 227,200 new homes.
By concentrating on the impacts on Tameside, the intention is to make it easier to understand what those numbers will actually mean. Tameside is also fairly typical of Greater Manchester in the the challenges it faces:
- A constrained supply of employment land: the supply of employment land in Tameside is lower than it has been at any point since 1999. That’s partly because of some sites being developed. Others have been released for different uses where the council accepted they weren’t suitable for employment development.
- A constrained supply of housing land: Tameside has only built the number of homes that the Spatial Framework says it needs twice in the last 15 years. That pattern is reflected across the region and is one of the reasons there is a London-style housing crisis brewing in Greater Manchester. Research by Hometrack shows that house prices in Manchester grew by 8.8% last year – more than in any other UK city (including London).
- An aging population: without intervention, by 2035, 46% of the population growth in Tameside will have been in those aged over 65. That compares to a 3% reduction in the working age population, and the consequential impacts that will have on the economy.
- Infrastructure constraints: there are limitations in both social and transport infrastructure, especially the road network at the end of the M67.
To look at how Tameside will be impacted, Housing the Powerhouse commissioned some original research from Barton Willmore comparing three different economic scenarios:
- What will Tameside look like if the Spatial Framework proceeds as is currently planned?
- What will it look like if there is no Spatial Framework at all?
- What will it look like if the level of ambition is more realistic?
In its current draft, the Spatial Framework proposes substantial levels of development across Tameside up until 2035. That includes:
- 483,000 sqm of warehousing and industrial space;
- 35,000 sqm of new offices, and;
- 13,600 new homes.
To support that growth, significant improvements to the borough’s infrastructure are also planned. The types of projects that the Spatial Framework indicates could come forward include a new train station, improvements to motorway junctions, new road connections, new schools and new health centres.
Comparing the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework to a future with no plan
One of the most controversial elements of the new plan is its intention to release some areas of Green Belt for development ( the justification for that will be covered in another post). If it weren’t for the Spatial Framework, that development wouldn’t take place, nor would the infrastructure associated with it be delivered. Removing that development from their model enabled Barton Willmore to forecast the consequences if no Spatial Framework was put in place.
The comparison between those two scenarios, summarised in the table below, underlines how important the Framework will be for Tameside. It will be genuinely transformative.
An ambitious Greater Manchester Spatial Framework
Despite the scale of those changes, the view of the Housing the Powerhouse campaign is that the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework isn’t ambitious enough. For example, it is based on a jobs growth rate of 0.7%, only slightly higher than the average rate since 1999 (a period that included the deepest recession since the 1930s). Yet the government is devolving power to the region in large part to help economic growth. It will give the newly elected Mayor the tools to ensure that Greater Manchester does much better than it has before.
As an alternative scenario, Barton Willmore modelled the impacts on Tameside for a more ambitious Spatial Framework. That increased ambition assumed a jobs growth rate of just 1% per year, a level that would help bring the rate of jobs growth in the North West up to the UK average. The table below summarises the findings of that analysis.
As well as that additional growth and additional economic activity, more of the new infrastructure that the Spatial Framework says “could” be delivered is likely to actually be put in place.
While these may look like dry numbers, we shouldn’t forget that there are people behind them. With the more ambitious Spatial Framework, there would be another 4,000 people in Tameside with jobs. An extra 5,600 families would have homes.
Although this research has focused on just one borough, similar benefits would be delivered across each of the 10 councils that make up Greater Manchester. And all from aiming for what is only a moderately ambitious target.
Manchester has never lacked for ambition in the past. So why should it settle for being a Northern Powerhouse when it could aim to be a European Powerhouse?
What this all means
Whichever scenario is eventually included in the Spatial Framework, it is obvious that large areas of land will be needed for development. Securing planning permission on those sites will be time consuming, expensive and technically complex. These are exactly the types of projects that The Strategic Land Group specialise in.
The Strategic Land Group is a specialist land promoter which works with land owners to deliver planning permission on their sites at our cost and risk. Our return is a share of the land value once the site is sold.
If you own, or know of, a site that you think might have development potential, contact us today for a free, no obligation, consultation.