How much can Greater Manchester Densify – By 25,000 homes?

As announced today.

ANDY Burnham has vowed to stick to his campaign pledge of a “radical” re-write of the controversial Greater Manchester Spatial Framework plan.


..Mr Burnham said: “It will result in a substantial reduction in the loss of green space across Greater Manchester. It will see a shift from more development on main roads, towards town centres.

“I want to set a new goal of revitalising our town centres with higher density development and I today issue a call to developers to help us in that work.”

Mr Burnham did not set any timescale for the re-drawing of the framework, saying that the most important thing was to get the plans right.

Under the current proposals, he claimed, Greater Manchester risked becoming a collection of “decaying” town centres surrounded by urban sprawl.

The former Leigh MP emphasised that it would not be possible to protect every piece of green belt land in the area, but vowed to listen to campaign groups who have fought hard against the spatial framework.

He added that outlying towns such as Bolton need ambitious development that will revitalise the area, and cited the regeneration of Bury town centre as an example to be followed.

A glance at the supporting documents for the GMSP shows that some town centres – Manchester and Salford already have considerable town centre allocations – fewer town centre sites are identified in many of the outlying town centres and very few call for sites submissions.  Sites have already been identified in many town centres and the issue is bring them forward.

Bury has a relatively compact town centre, and has benefited from heritage led regeneration.    Bolton is more sprawling and knocked about.  Heritage led regeneration of a small town centre however worthy has only a small effect on housing numbers.  Hanging baskets doesnt indicate high housing capacity.

Though some Green Belt loss and expansion of a satellite town like Crewe is inevitable in providing a portfolio of solutions for meeting the 25,000 shortfall I would be the first to agree that some densification – if kept realistic – can increase housing numbers.

Bolton, Rochdale and Bury have large outmoded industrial and land consuming areas of car parks, shed and dreadful boxy police stations and 70s public buildings and shopping malls. Other outer town centres have rather less capcity.  If the jobs were relocated to accessible Green field locations less Green Belt would be needed.   Why, because apartments in the centre would consume 1/2 or less of the land of detached houses in the Green Belt.  Land assembly would be expensive and difficult but not impossible.   A particular opportunity exists in Boltonwhere south of the town centre existing an industrial area as big as Barking Reach of the Olympic Park. A 4-8 story development here – no high rise – of streets and squares with mixed uses could accommodate 6-7000 homes.  So quite a lot of the shortfall could be met with some reduction (about half) of the Green Belt loss.

But lets not have the kid of woolly plan like the London Plan – Vague aspirations for meeting the shortfall in housing through higher densities but without the bite the bullet hard choices to acheive it through design led development – which planning is all about.



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