9th January 2019

Reflecting on the revised GMSF

The revised draft of the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework (GMSF) that was published on Monday rightly promotes the principle of brownfield development first and there is a real emphasis on new developments being concentrated in our existing urban centres. This densification of our urban centres presents us with the opportunity to create a richer blend of interdependent and complementary uses. If more people are living and working centrally, there is a real need for higher quality urban infrastructure with the focus on more space for people.  We must explore, determine and embrace how we want people to experience places, ensuring each area’s unique characteristics are built on, so authentic neighbourhoods and communities are fostered.

How these evolving neighbourhoods are made up and orientated should see green and blue infrastructure meaningfully incorporated into the spaces between buildings, bringing the qualities of green belt into our city, making them more attractive to occupy and experience on foot. The distances we would need to travel to service our lifestyles should be greatly reduced, thereby reducing our reliance on the car and making active travel the preferred option and the automatic first choice for moving between places. All these elements combined will help us to improve the economic and social vitality of our streets and crucially deliver a healthier city with all the benefits of cleaner air and associated improvements in public health.

What will be vital to determining the success of the revised GMSF will be how the positive impacts of these new developments and their associated benefits are evidenced. For our work in places such as Glasgow, Altrincham, Southend-on-Sea and Catford, quantifying and communicating the economic, social and environmental impact that improvements to the public realm and the introduction of green infrastructure bring is absolutely crucial. Perhaps more importantly though we have learned that the best urban design and visioning emerges when, in addition to analysing all the data you would expect, our teams review this data with a high degree of emotional intelligence as that is where the real value is found.

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