GM housing lead calls for urgent review of national policy

Cllr Richard Farnell, leader of Rochdale Council and Greater Manchester Combined Authority’s planning and housing portfolio holder, has said more must be done to enable housebuilding in the region.

A report from think tank Resolution Foundation this week revealed that Greater Manchester has experienced the sharpest decline in home ownership of any city in England, which Farnell dubbed “a damning indictment of national housing policy”.

The proportion of homeowners in Greater Manchester dropped from 72% in April 2003 to 58% this year.

Farnell took over from Cllr Sue Derbyshire as GMCA’s housing spokesman after the Stockport councillor lost her seat in May’s local election.

He said: “Home ownership should not be put beyond the reach of a whole generation because it has traditionally been viewed as giving people a real stake in society.

“Notwithstanding the importance of high-quality rental property, we need more action and investment from the government to reverse this worrying decline. Greater Manchester authorities are doing what they can within their current restraints but housing policy needs an urgent review to address the problems that are leaving so many people frozen out of the housing market.

“We will continue to work hard to address these issues, and to press the government to do more, particularly to ensure the right levels of funding are in place.”

GMCA is in the process of creating a spatial framework for the borough, which will define housebuilding levels for the next 20 years. The three options are 7,300, 10,350 or 16,000 new homes a year. Campaign group Housing the Powerhouse, a coalition of housebuilders, businesses and residents, is highlighting the benefits of going for the higher target of 16,000 to meet the high need for homes in the conurbation.

According to Housing the Powerhouse, 1,500 residents across Greater Manchester, including many young first time buyers, are backing its campaign. The draft version of the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework is due to be published in the autumn.

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To point the finger towards national policy and funding is a shameless attempt to deflect blame. Planning decisions are as localised as can be. What further funding is needed when the private house building industry is in a healthy state? Just adopt a plan with sufficiently high housing numbers and release enough land to deliver.

GM Councils are failing young people wishing to get onto the property ladder. How many resi applications have been refused in the last 5 yrs? How much more delay in plan-making will we incur? Where is the leadership ie someone brave enough to state the need for large scale green belt/greenfield release? It is nothing short of a disgrace and is utterly depressing that the local political leaders don’t take responsibility.


NC the house building industry is in a “healthy” state off the back of property prices that only a proportion of the population can afford. More can be done on affordable housing, in a variety of its forms, and that needs action from central government. I don’t think Richard Farnell is shirking local responsibility by raising this.

By zebith

Absolute nonsense NC. Everyone knows housing supply is in the gift of the private sector in this country. Everyone knows there are many thousands of consented units in the pipeline that house builders are failing to build out for fear of undermining their profit margins. Everyone knows there is plenty of developable brownfield land in want of a suitably capitalised house builder able to take anything more than short term view.

No one has any time for house builders and consultants’ bleating for yet more planning reform or yet more greenfield allocation or yet more subsidies. It’s time they got their act together and delivered. If that means accepting a slightly lower profit margin or smaller end-of-year bonus then so be it – unrealistic maybe but we have a housing crisis on our hands and house “builders” are the road block here – something has got to give. They should shut up and get on with it or let the public sector do it.

By Corporate welfare watch

We’re talking about a lack of home ownership so affordable housing isn’t really the solution is it? We’re trying to deal with the mismatch between the aspiration of people wanting to own a home and the industry being able to provide it. The obstacle in the middle is the local planning system and quite frankly the current funding regime and national policy is an irrelevance. Local members and planning officers have all the tools they need to up the housing supply across the region, they just don’t seem to have the appetite to do so.


Affordable housing doesn’t just include rentals, so yes, it can be part of the solution to a lack of home ownership.

How many unimplemented permissions are there across GM? I suspect the answer is somewhere above zero.

Developers securing planning is a negligible part of the equation.

By zebith

National governments of recent years have promised and failed to “build” X number of homes repeatedly. The reality is that houses are not built by governments, they are built by developers, and in the current regime, they should accept that responsibility.

Of course, the current regime is not the only option. Time was, the government (via local government) did build houses. There is no reason why national government cannot support this – local government would be happy to deliver, if only the funds were made available.

By zebith

I’m pretty staggered by your suggestion that the public sector could step in and do the job of the private house building industry. That simply isn’t going to happen.

Instead should we not focus on what issues the private house building industry are facing? They are of course nasty capitalists but that is the world we live in isn’t it? They deliver the vast majority of housing and without them we would be in an even worse state.

In my experience there is not an abundance of viable brownfield land (where people want to live) – it is greenfield sites that all the developers seek and yet the Council’s persistently constrain the supply of these sites. This has a knock on effect on the house building numbers. In basic supply and demand considerations what justification is there for the planning system to keep on limiting the release of land when it is clear that the system is having such a detrimental effect on young peoples lives?

I don’t understand Cllr Farnell’s demands – what changes to national policy or funding would improve the system? The private sector does not seek more planning reform – just a more grown up use of the planning system by officers and members. Take Andy Burnham for example. On the national platform he campaigned for extensive house building but in his constituency he objected to plans for housing on a greenfield site classic nimbyism for the purposes of vote winning. It fails society in the long term.


In Salford we have brown field sites aplenty!!! Use them?

By Schwyz

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