Andrew Gwynne has reacted with anger after a reply to a Freedom of Information request submitted by the MP revealed the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework included “inaccurate” information on the amount of ‘brownfield’ land identified for housing development.
In late 2016, Gwynne submitted Freedom of Information requests to the Greater Manchester Combined Authority which comprises of Manchester, Tameside, Stockport, Salford, Bury, Bolton, Wigan, Oldham, Rochdale, and Trafford councils, in order to ascertain how much total land allocated towards the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework is brownfield or greenbelt.
The Spatial Framework had identified 72% of the land allocated for new development as being previously developed ‘brownfield’ land with the remaining 28% coming from the release of land from the protected greenbelt.
However, the information released via FOI to Gwynne have revealed that the brownfield figure “is inaccurate” because it also includes land currently classified as greenfield land within it, meaning much more than the published 28% of proposed new development will be built on open spaces.
Andrew Gwynne said:
“I have from the start of this Spatial Framework planning process accepted that
Greater Manchester needs to identify future housing and business provision not only to secure its future growth, but for the housing security of the next generation.
“But, it’s not acceptable for the planners to stretch the definitions, and include parcels of our precious green spaces in their allocations for supposedly brownfield sites to make the plans look less damaging to the environment.
“I have consistently called for a brownfield-first strategy to be implemented, and will work with local councillors across the constituency, as well as Greater Manchester Combined Authority to ensure that specific sites, such as the area in and around the Tame Valley are protected.”
Full response from GM Planning & Housing Team to my enquiry
I am writing following your Freedom of Information requests to the 10 districts in relation to the land supply figures within the Draft GMSF. Each of the districts will respond to your request individually however I understand that some confusion may have arisen as the result of Figure 8.1 on page 55 of the draft GMSF which may have prompted your FOI requests, so I thought it would be helpful to write to you to explain this further.
As you are aware, the GMSF will allocate sites which are proposed to be released from the Green Belt. These account for a small proportion of the overall sites required to meet the Objectively Assessed Need for housing, with the majority of these being accommodated on land already identified for housing, most of which is within the existing urban area. The purpose of the diagram is to demonstrate the balance of development being proposed between the existing land supply and within the proposed allocations in the GMSF.
Unfortunately the diagram on page 55 is inaccurate in two respects and I apologise for any confusion that this has inadvertently caused.
This diagram has the following legend:
• 72% Existing urban area on brownfield land
• 28% New allocations in the Green Belt
The first bullet should read ‘Existing land supply’. This is land which has been identified by districts through their Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessments (SHLAAs) and which will not be allocated in the GMSF. This includes both previously developed land (brownfield) as well as some greenfield land where it is considered that this could be suitable for housing. The SHLAAs have been prepared in line with National Planning Policy and Guidance. We have also undertaken some further work over and above the SHLAAs to ensure that as far as possible all potential opportunities for development within the urban area have been identified. We will continue to investigate our urban potential and review our land supply as we develop the GMSF. Details of each district’s existing land supply is available through their SHLAAs and on the consultation map at the following address:
The ‘New allocations in the Green Belt’ is effectively land which is being proposed for allocation within the GMSF and which would need to meet the ‘exceptional circumstances’ test set out in the National Planning Policy Framework. A very small proportion of the land in the allocations comprises ‘Other Protected Open Land’ and ‘Safeguarded Land’, and so would not need to meet the exceptional circumstances test.
Secondly, there is an error in the calculation. As we have set out in the Strategic Housing Market Assessment (Figure 10.4 p 206) our existing land supply is calculated as sufficient to accommodate 181,437 units. The number of units identified on the proposed Green Belt allocations total 63,852.
Currently therefore we have identified more potential land for housing than our Objectively Assessed Need requires (245,289 units supply against 227,203 OAN). This is to provide flexibility by identifying a ‘buffer’ (of approximately 1.6 years) supply acknowledging that some sites may not come forward or yields may fall once more detailed work is undertaken. However the figure in the diagram is a calculation of the Green Belt sites as a proportion of the OAN not the total land supply. When this is re-calculated the legend on the diagram should read.
• 74% Existing land supply
• 26% New allocations
We are currently considering the consultation responses to the draft GMSF in detail. We are continuing to review both the potential for development in the urban area and the mechanisms available to ensure this can be brought forward. We are also awaiting the further consultation promised in the Housing White on the methodology to assess Objectively Assessed Need. We will be continuing to review the extent to which Green Belt land is needed for housing as we progress the plan.
I hope that this is helpful. If you would like any further information, do not hesitate to contact me.
GM Planning & Housing Team