Commitment to homes plan remains says GM Mayor despite pandemic uncertainty over eventual outcome

MAYOR Andy Burnham insists Greater Manchester’s controversial Spatial Framework homes plan will go ahead even though its progress has further been delayed by the coronavirus pandemic.

A new round of public consultation was scheduled to launch next month (July) for proposals to build nearly 201,000 houses across the region’s 10 boroughs by 2037.More than 170 properties are earmarked for sites at Waterside Mill and the former Robert Fletcher’s papermill in Greenfield along with a potential boutique hotel and visitors’ centre.

A new access road and car park are included in the concept plan which is on the doorstep of Dovestone Reservoir, recently overwhelmed by 13,000 vehicles in three days.

The GMSF plan and building on greenbelt was discussed in Westminster prior to Parliamentary lockdown and instigated by Bury MP James Daly.

A supporting debating pack confirmed Oldham as the only one of the 10 GM local authorities whose proposed house building target had increased from 2016 to a revised draft three years later, up four per cent from 13,700 to 14,290.

Neighbouring Rochdale reduced its total by 22 per cent to 12,160 and Tameside dropped by nearly a third from 13,600 to 8850.

Only three authorities have a higher percentage of green belt land than Oldham.

The 2019 revised draft confirmed a 4.1 per cent reduction in GM green belt loss from the original 2016 plan. But the overall loss is still two percent down to 45 per cent of all land.

Mr Daly told the debate: “Within the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework, new schools, roads and doctors’ surgeries are required. At the moment they are merely words on a piece of paper.

“There is no guarantee that they will be built, but I believe there is an absolute guarantee that the green belt will be built over by three, four and five-bedroom houses.

“We must find a way to get cast-iron guarantees, before planning permission is granted, that infrastructure will be put in place to support the thousands of houses proposed.”

Asked about the progress of GMSF, Mr Burnham said: “Like with everything at the moment, we are having to review it in the light of the new reality we are all facing.

“The economy is going to be facing a really challenging period. That will have implications for the spatial framework and particularly the five-year delivery plan that will sit within it.

“We expect it to have an impact on high street and maybe that will open up more opportunity for residential build in brownfield areas.

“It is important we take account of the reality we are going into. But we have a clear commitment from our leaders to progress with a spatial framework.

“It is a real challenge but we don’t shirk it in any way. But I think most residents would want us to take account of the new economic reality we are going into rather than rushing on with the plan particularly at a time when people aren’t able to engage in a consultation.“We would be accused of bulldozing on it at the wrong time. We are taking stock of things – that is the right thing to do.

“But the commitment to bringing forward spatial framework remains.”

To read about the debate visit: https://tinyurl.com/yay47t85

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