Image From 'BreatheLife City' Campaign

The New (Draft) Greater Manchester Spatial Framework: What sustainability professionals need to know

In January, Andy Burnham and the Manchester City Council (MCC) released a draft version of the eagerly anticipated new Greater Manchester Spatial Framework (GMSF). The new framework is currently undergoing consultation and has some bold and positive targets for environmental sustainability. As a sustainability consultancy based near Manchester and working on large developments within the city, Mainer Associates have decided to provide you with a one-stop tour and information guide on the council’s environmental sustainability targets.


Greenfield Vs Brownfield

MCC are clearly favouring brownfield development. Although not be evenly distributed throughout the Greater Manchester districts, there will be a net reduction in green belt allocation by 4.1%. The council will give preference to applications that develop previously occupied sites.

Carbon Emissions and Climate Change

MCC have set the ambitious target for Greater Manchester to become a carbon neutral city-region by 2038. All new development will need to be net zero carbon by 2028. This is a big statement for the city and demonstrates the council’s intentions to put the city at the forefront of climate change action. Strategies to achieve this include:

  • Significant up-scaling of photovoltaic energy.
  • Reducing heat demands in homes.
  • Shifting away from carbon intensive gas.
  • Reduce heat and cooling demand for commercial buildings.
  • Increasing biofuel use.
  • Retrofitting existing building stock.
  • All dwellings should seek a 19% reduction against Part L regulations.
  • 20% reduction in carbon emissions on all new developments using on site renewables and low carbon technologies.

Air Pollution

Greater Manchester (GM) has signed up to achieve the achieve the World Health Orgs. (WHO) ‘BreatheLife City’ Status by 2030. Check out Manchester’s involvement in this initiative here.

Transport accounts for 31% of GM’s CO2 emissions, the other 2 thirds are predominantly from domestic and commercial buildings. Areas of the city have also been designated as an Air Quality Management Area (AQMA) meaning nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and particulate matter emissions are exceedingly high, certain areas exceed WHO recommended levels!

National government therefore requires GM to establish a Clean Air Plan which the 10 districts will complete together. Current options the council are considering are detailed here.

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Whatever combination of options the city council decide on, they must reduce NO2 as quickly as a class A clean air zone would, detailed above. The city could therefore see a controversial yet very effective penalty system, that financially penalises drivers with non-compliant vehicles driving through the designated zone.



Interestingly, MCC appear to be adopting circular economy principles into their waste management strategy. The circular economy is an innovative economic model and trend in sustainability practice. It aims to eradicate the take-make-dispose model of current systems and apply circularity to economic systems and business models.

The council want to wholly re-conceptualise waste as a resource and will develop a new resource strategy to set out strategies to achieve a circular and zero-waste economy for the city.

The city is also championing and acting on national concern for single-use plastics. Plastic Free Greater Manchester is an initiative to eliminate single use plastics across the greater region, engaging businesses, organisations, charities and individuals to remove this unsustainable consumption.

Green Infrastructure and Biodiversity

Green and blue infrastructure is a vital resource for any city. It provides a whole host of benefits ranging from cleaner air to enhancing inhabitant wellbeing. Protection and enhancement to the cities green space and waterways across the inner city and wider districts are central to councils approach. Some of the objectives are detailed here:

  • Protect/enhance river valleys and waterways.
  • Utilise the urban pioneer programme to assess investment and management of natural assets.
  • Achieve an overall enhancement in biodiversity.
  • The council will develop its own defined standard to ensure sufficient quality and quantity of green infrastructure.
  • Continue the work being undertaken by the City of Trees campaign to plant a tree for every GM resident.

Did you know, less than half of Greater Manchester residents currently have access to natural green space within 300m of their home!

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