The consultation period for the draft Greater Manchester Spatial Framework has now ended and I am sure that the combined authority have received thousands of responses, including my own.
As I have previously stated, my strong feeling is that any plans for future housing and industrial development must prioritise brownfield use first.
I accept the need for the framework and our council leaders are quite right to plan for growth and to be ambitious about what we can achieve. They also have a responsibility to ensure we provide the homes and jobs which we and future generations will need.
However, the GMSF needs to strike the right balance between ambition, what is necessary, and the character of our communities and wishes of local residents. The draft proposals do not strike that balance, and for Heywood and Middleton I am concerned that they could lead to the green, open space between our two towns disappearing in the next 30 years. Also, one of the reasons many people move to this part of the region is because of our green spaces and it is an enormous risk, and an unpopular one, to lose that feature and still expect people to move here.
I am also concerned about the type of industries we are intending to almost exclusively welcome in the coming decades. Logistics and warehousing jobs will not employ staff on high enough salaries to fill the many executive homes earmarked for development in our borough. I would like to see a more ambitious plan to attract high-tech and science industries, as well as more affordable homes to help local young families get on the housing ladder and stay in the area.
Additionally, I am concerned that the GMSF appears to have been developed separately to the Transport for Greater Manchester Transport Strategy 2040. For Heywood and Middleton one of our priorities is connectivity to the tram and rail network and that must be part of any future development.
As Labour’s candidate for Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham has said, it is not possible to develop a long-term plan for our region without losing some green space, but development must be sustainable, it must protect the balance of green areas in Greater Manchester, and brownfield sites must be used first.