GREATER Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham has accused Government of “moving the goalposts” to leave council chiefs in the dark over how best to assess local housing need.
In a joint statement issued by the Mayor and the 10 council leaders from across the city region, ministers are urged to provide clarity on housing figures so that council chiefs can complete the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework (GMSF).
Recently published Office for National Statistics (ONS) population figures and household projections have created new assumptions for housing growth but the Government’s decision to apply a new formula to them means the spatial framework can’t proceed until it is published, the metro mayor’s office says.
Burnham and council leaders have demanded the Government acts quickly and publishes its revised methodology to determine the number of homes that the city-region would be required to build.
“Right now the Government is moving the goalposts and making this process more difficult,” the joint statement says. “We have made real progress towards agreeing a rewritten Greater Manchester Spatial Framework, but this uncertainty around the housing figures is delaying our final decisions and compromising our ability to get on with strategic planning in Greater Manchester.
“The Government methodology that could give us the clarity we need is due to be published after the Conservative Party Conference – but even then, the revised methodology will only be a consultation rather than the finalised formula for assessing local housing need.
“We are clear that the Government must not fiddle the methodology to inflate the housing numbers just to meet its own artificial target.
“We also note that this revised methodology is set to come forward just months after the Government’s last consultation to assess local housing need. This is a far cry from the honest, open, consistent approach that we were promised.
“Greater Manchester needs to know that the Spatial Framework is a plan fit for the future and this can only be the case if we get the clarity we need before the plan is finalised. That is why we have all agreed that we will wait, yet again, for the Government methodology, then move quickly to revise and agree our plan, before taking it out to public consultation.”
Greater Manchester’s 10 local authority leaders have also confirmed that the draft GMSF must be approved by each and every local council next summer, before the third round of formal consultation.
The agreement, which the Mayor supports, comes after leaders agreed in principle to a Spatial Development Strategy. This is said to come with a number of advantages but does not legally require each local council to approve the plan. The Mayor and leaders have made clear that regardless of the requirements, they are committed to ensuring that the formal draft plan is put before each council to ensure “real democratic engagement, debate and scrutiny”.
“For the GMSF to be a success we have to ensure that the Greater Manchester public are fully involved in this process,” said Paul Dennett, Greater Manchester’s lead for housing, homelessness and infrastructure. “That means real transparency, accountability and democratic debate — not just at a Greater Manchester level but also at a local level, especially given the relationship between the Spatial Framework and Local Plans across Greater Manchester’s 10 councils.
“That’s why, regardless of any legal requirements, local ward councillors will have their say on this plan. Throughout this process we have always committed to taking the GMSF through local councils but with the changes that could be made to the plan it is right to restate this pledge.”
The GMSF is intended to realise Greater Manchester’s “economic vision” by ensuring the city region has the right land available in the right places to deliver the homes and jobs needed over the next 20 years. It also seeks to identify the new infrastructure required to achieve this.
The plan will is expected to help Greater Manchester to ensure the city region makes the most of brownfield sites and town centres and significantly reduces the need for Green Belt development.