AS consultation on plans to allocate land for housing over the next 20 years has been rolled out, one of the most frequently asked questions has been why Bury Council can’t just do its own thing, and ignore the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework.

BURY’S finance and housing chief, Councillor Eamonn O’Brien, is keen to explain to the people of the borough why it is important that the council has a fixed plan for housing development over the next two decades.

Since the latest spatial framework draft was unveiled last month, there has been huge interest in drop-in sessions organised by Bury Council, as residents are keen to find out how their neighbourhood is likely to be affected.

That is largely because 12 per cent of Green Belt land will be lost, almost half as much as had been proposed in the original draft plan, before mayor, Andy Burnham went back to the drawing board.

Bury has to accommodate 9,500 new homes under the spatial framework. However, Bury wasn’t a part of the spatial framework, under government targets, the council would be obliged to provide 11,500 homes over the next 20 years.

Cllr O’Brien said: “Several hundred people visited our first two drop-in sessions, and we anticipate that many more will attend the remaining four.

“One of the big questions that keeps coming up is – why can’t we scrap the GMSF? And also – why can’t we have our own Local Plan instead?

“There are two main reasons why: firstly, in our own local plan, we would still have to use the same Government guidance on housing targets as we’re using in the GMSF. And having only a Local Plan would mean we would struggle to get other boroughs in Greater Manchester to take some of ‘our’ housing – under the GMSF we’ve reduced our target by 2,000 homes in this way.”

The second reason why Bury has to have a plan is to protect as much Green Belt land as possible. Designating land for building means that other areas of Green Belt can be legally preserved.

Cllr O’Brien said: “We also need to make sure that housing is built in the most suitable locations. We’ve already tried – twice – to produce a Local Plan that would have protected all our Green Belt, but these were rejected by the Planning Inspectorate because we could not identify enough land for development elsewhere.

“This leads to a “free-for-all” on land still in the Green Belt, with unplanned and unmanaged housing developments in areas that are unsustainable or unable to provide necessary infrastructure.

“We cannot stop anyone from submitting a planning application. Our concern is that, if we reject an application for housing on Green Belt land, this will be overturned by the Planning Inspectorate because we do not have an up-to-date plan that identifies enough land for housing elsewhere.

“There are numerous examples of this occurring elsewhere.”

Half of all the proposed new homes in Bury are scheduled for brownfield land.

Cllr O’Brien said: “We are determined to protect as much of our Green Belt as we can – remember, even if the GMSF is finally approved in its current draft form, 52 per cent of Bury would still be Green Belt – the third highest rate in Greater Manchester.”

The maps pictured right illustrate the difference in likely development in Bury without a plan, left, and under the spatial framework, right.

The first map shows how much Green Belt land in Bury that developers wanted to build on, a total of 1,807 hectares.

The second map shows how much has been allocated in the GMSF, a total of 791 hectares, which is 44 per cent of what developers have asked for.

Consultation on the GMSF runs until March 18.

Details of the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework are available online at, which is also where comments should be sent.

Hard copies can also be inspected in Bury at the Planning Division reception (Ground Floor, 3 Knowsley Place, Bury); at Bury Town Hall reception; at local libraries and at the Tottington Centre during their normal opening hours.

There are three remaining drop-in sessions being held across Bury for residents to view the GMSF documents and talk to planning officers about them.

They are: Monday, February 11 – Radcliffe Market Hall (2–8pm); Tuesday, February 12– Castlebrook High School (4-8pm); Wednesday, March 6 – Elizabethan Suite (12–8pm).