Place strategy

The subplot | Greater Manchester’s grand plan, science push, electric vehicle chaos


  • Seats for everyone: Panto season comes early as public scrutiny of Greater Manchester plan begins
  • Elevator pitch: your weekly recap of who’s going up and who’s going the other way


Seats for all: the panto not to be missed

Public scrutiny of development plans by nine (out of 10) Greater Manchester councils has begun. It’s already a comedy and it could become a tragedy.

If you haven’t watched the YouTube streams of the first sessions of the public review of Places for Everyone (PFE), the strategic planning document for nine of Greater Manchester’s 10 boroughs, then you really should. It’s basically panto. There’s a dashing leader called Kit Kat who takes jaw-dropping risks, there’s a chorus of angry barons (developers) and peasants (greenbelt protectors), and in the center the unlikely figures of the three inspectors. highlighted. Subplot gives it an enthusiastic five stars.

The story so far

The PFE represents what could be salvaged from the attempt to agree a Greater Manchester Spatial Framework (GMSF), an effort that began in 2014 and collapsed in 2020 when Stockport pulled out. It foresees 20.5m² of office space, 35.8m² of industrial and warehouse space and many new homes (including 56,528 in the city of Manchester by 2037). The problem is that to escape the ruins of GMSF, the nine councils must show that the new plan is “substantially” the same as the old one. If the Nine cannot establish this, everything collapses (SubplotJuly 20, 2021).

Introducing Kit Kat

The first act of the public scrutiny saw council attorney Christopher Katkowski KC (Kit Kat to his friends) go head-to-head with William Fieldhouse, one of the three inspectors. Kit Kat was perfectly suited, slick, very relaxed, definitely channeling Prince Charming, while Mr. Fieldhouse looked more like a flustered Buttons, his tie a little so anyway. Fieldhouse repeatedly asked how inspectors could tell if PFE was “essentially” the same as GMSF, and Kit Kat repeatedly replied that they didn’t need to worry about that, because it was none of the detectives’ business legally speaking, but he was very happy to have a little chat if they pleased.

The battle with buttons

It was a bold and fearless approach, relying on the authority of a KC and a touch of theatrical height, and Kit Kat probably expected Buttons to give up. But the buttons did not. The buttons have become quite assertive. First he smelled a rat. We asked this question in April, July and October and you did not say that we did not have legal status at that time, he pointed out. “Something prompted you to tell us last week, and you weren’t prompted to tell us earlier,” he added. Kit Kat said the magic words were “legal advice” that inspectors mentioned last week. He then reiterated his view that the inspectors had no right to examine this problem. “That sounds terribly rude of me, but I don’t mean to be rude, we’re very happy to discuss all these things,” he added politely, assuming the win was now his.

It’s behind you!

But Kit Kat, look behind you! The buttons slipped out and tipped a bucket of confetti over him. Okay, Fieldhouse said, if the law is a problem, let’s try a different law, especially one that gives inspectors the right to decide on the merits of the plan. If PFE isn’t substantially the same as GMSF, it can’t be “healthy,” right? Kit Kat’s answer was that you can’t suddenly expand the merits to include things that are already dealt with by different laws. But now Kit Kat was using the phrase “with great respect” and her previously open body language had turned to crossed arms.

The serious point here

The Nine’s position is that the plans are “essentially” the same because the nine councils decided they were, and if anyone wanted to challenge them they could have launched a judicial review, but didn’t. not done. So case closed. Much depends on this claim. But as Buttons pointed out, that was just Kit Kat’s view, not one tested in court or supported by case law. And they both know that the inspectors’ report or the Secretary of State’s decision on the report could be subject to judicial review in the future. This one is not finished yet.

magic numbers

The next day’s act two featured a new character, Inspector Steven Lee. His topic was the allocation of land by PFE for industrial and warehouse development and he, too, revealed how much the Nine bet on the turn of a single card. The issue here is how the Nine got their numbers for the volume of new industrial warehouses needed. The plan identifies 35.5 million square feet of need 2021-2037, based on the amount of development that took place between 2004 and 2020 with the addition of a 31% “flexibility margin”. Green Belt activists and developers told Mr. Lee the number seemed arbitrary. Matt Kingham, speaking for Eden Planning, called the effort to justify the numbers “pretty superficial”. Greenbelt activists cast a shot the other way, pointing out that the existing supply pipeline was underestimated and listing a few projects the report did not include.

Explain yourself

So Mr. Lee asked questions about where the numbers came from and got long, complicated and technical answers. His response was to pause and, very slowly in absolute silence, write some handwritten notes. It was clever and raised the tension wonderfully. Then he asked, maybe the figure for 2004-2020 new builds was dropped due to a lack of suitable land, and so following the 2004-2020 trend will artificially reduce the need for new builds in the future ?

The magic answer

Kit Kat had been watching this technical discussion, but now sensed the danger and took over from the assistants, who had been answering so far. “Adjustments have been made, including flexibility allowance or buffer, if that’s what we want to call it. All roads lead to it,” he said. Lee asked if the flexibility allowance is a catch-all answer to all questions about the numbers.”Yes, that’s our answer to a whole host of points,” Kit Kat said, Mr Lee wrote more quietly, ominously. If inspectors don’t believe the 31% increase in all figures is supported by evidence, or doesn’t count as “positively prepared, justified and consistent with national policy”, then the plan is in deep trouble.

The first feeling of the first week was that this was comedy gold, a box set to be treasured, but if the Nine insists on betting that much on the turn of a few uncertain cards, it could be drama with one act. finale that looks more like a tragedy.


Up or down? This week’s movers

Salford is showing some head start in science real estate, but the North is entering a nightmare over its electric vehicle charging infrastructure. Descent.

Salford’s chances

The competition between Salford and Manchester versions of a science campus has become a little more real.

The English Cities Fund’s £2.5 billion Crescent Innovation North project in Salford has taken a step forward. The consultation on the program has now started with a view to creating 1.6 m² of space for innovation, research, education and commerce, and 950 housing units of various kinds. This is the first 27-acre installment of a master plan that includes 2.4m² of research space and 2,650 homes. A planning application for the remainder of Crescent Innovation North will be submitted early next year.

From the Manchester side of the Irwell, is the £1.5billion ID Manchester project moving so fast? The good news is that in February, Bruntwood SciTech and the University of Manchester signed up as joint venture partners, with Stanhope as lead developer. Since then, it’s hard to say. Subplot asked to chat but was politely declined.

Transportation Solutions

The production of gasoline and diesel cars ends in 2030, so one would think that it would be urgent to complete the infrastructure of electric vehicles in advance. Well, think again.

Transport for the North estimates that the North West, Yorkshire and North East will need 161,000 charging stations over the next seven years. Today there are only 8,000 charging stations. So to hit the target means launching 470 a week until 2025 and then ramping up production sharply over the last five years. TfN has a strategy, but of course no money.

In a region where public transport is visibly collapsing and where the prospects for major new projects look dire, this is truly serious. The net result could be that the North misses out on major public transport infrastructure – RIP Northern Powerhouse Rail – and also misses out on essential private transport infrastructure. In which case, curtains.

Contact David Thame: [email protected]

The subplot is brought to you in association with Oppidan Life.