Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester

Government ‘arbitrary’ over GMSF, says Burnham

The “dysfunctionality” of Westminister is impacting Greater Manchester’s delivery of its spatial framework, according to Mayor Andy Burnham – however the Home Builders Federation has said the Mayor is “reluctant to prioritise” the 20-year development document.

Debate around the future of devolution, and the delivery of Greater Manchester’s planning powers in the form of the delayed Greater Manchester Spatial Framework, came up repeatedly at fringe events at the Conservative Party Conference this week.

Placing the blame squarely on the Government’s shoulders, Burnham told Place North West: “The dysfunctionality of Westminster has impacted us; we’ve been waiting for regulations and still are.

“When we made a change to Green Belt, because we didn’t hit [the Government’s] arbitrary target on housing figures, they removed the housing deal so we can’t develop the brownfield land we wanted to unlock. It’s a frustration that we’ve been the victim of that.”

Burnham defended his approach to the GMSF, and said: “Devolved powers doesn’t mean exercising them in a Westminster way. It’s not about top down, pulling the lever on people. In the last two years I’ve learned a lot about how bottom up change works better, as you involve more people and gain consensus, which is important particularly when it comes to planning.”

Last month saw confirmation of a further delay to the GMSF, ruling out any final form coming forward before the May 2020 mayoral elections. The evolution of the document over the past five years has seen the numbers of homes drop from 230,000 to 201,000, and a reduction in the proposed use of Green Belt land. Some Green Belt release is still required, and the latest delay hinges on the Combined Authority’s decision to pursue the GMSF as a Spatial Development Strategy, a type of legislation which does not allow for Green Belt release. The GMCA had been attempting to convince Whitehall to allow them to still be able to release Green Belt, but this has met with resistance. Under a different form of document, the GMCA will be required to submit further evidence, which it does not have.

Housing The Powerhouse

James Stevens, third from right, and Henri Murison, far right, debated the GMSF at the Housing the Powerhouse fringe event

Speaking at a Housing the Powerhouse fringe event at the Conservative Party Conference, James Stevens, director of cities for the Home Builders Federation, said the mayor was “reluctant to prioritise the GMSF” and that he backed the Government’s decision to take back the £68m housing fund after the GMSF targets were scaled down.

“I actually think the Government made the right decision in pulling the housing deal. Authorities shouldn’t be rewarded with public funding in order to just deliver the minimum number of 201,000 homes.”

According to Stevens there is an “unwillingness from leaders across the North to bite the difficult bullet of housing”, largely due to having to face the tricky issue of Green Belt release in order to deliver homes.

Also on the panel, Henri Murison, director of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, suggested “the GMSF experiment hasn’t yet worked, because money hasn’t been put against it to make it work.”

“The original money in that housing deal was nowhere near enough to enable Greater Manchester to deliver the type of urban regeneration we need.

“If you’re not given the resources to build on brownfield land, and so can only build on greenfield, of course you’re going to push back on housing numbers.”

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So GMCA agree a housing deal with the government. Andy Burnam decides not to meet the terms of the deal agreed by GMCA and then blames the government. Cake and eat it springs to mind.

By Just saying

It is not the goverment’s fault: It’s yours Mr. Burnham.

By Acelius

The big house builders only know how to build on greenbelt and its holding us back. The forward thinking councils and developers are going to deliver thousands of homes on ex retail town centre stock where the amenities and train / tram lines are. The big corporates struggle to see how they fit in to the future of housing and I can see why.

By Paul Smith

Burnham is more concerned about spice heads than what really matters to Manchester he loves a pointless crusade.

By D Walsh

of course he’s blaming Westminster. Mayoral election coming up again soon and he knows that to deliver what is needed he will need to go back on his promises when he was first elected

By James Hall

James Stevens is totally out of touch with both citizens and reality!!! We need social and affordable housing – there is NO housing crisis for those people who can afford to buy their homes. To prioritise this (without releasing yet more green belt) we need funding to support builds on brownfield. CPRE tell us there is sufficient brownfield for 1m homes – make it a priority to bring these sites back into use.

By Marj Powner

I have a lot of time for Mr Burnham but unfortunately the GMSF calculation for houses based on a National Index multiplied by an affordability index (which no one can explain). Also there is a need for 3300 homes in Trafford yet 10000 plus in Sale and Timperley are being proposed – WHY????
Also, their is a declaration that 30% of the proposed homes will be (ahem) affordable – to whom/ The average house price in Trafford is £295 – how are young kids even on a £30000 salary (doubled =£180000 mortgage) able to afford to live in the area. Affordable means those who can afford. More worryingly there are many new developments in Trafford being part funded by the council – what gives them the right to spend money that we have afforded them for Poll tax etc and use for their own needs. If this money is available it should be used to improve services or reduce poll tax!!!!!


Any delay is VERY welcome, a total scale-back which ONLY allows affordable homes on brownfield sites would be a godsend. Building large houses on our protected greenbelt isn’t needed or wanted by anyone who cares for life in the NW

By Janet Taylor

It’s not difficult to build more affordable homes in brownfield land. We build homes in a factory that can be delivered where needed. Modern methods of construction make this possible. The difficulties come with land availability, potential remediation costs and land supply being blocked either by the planning process, or indeed the apparent preference of the major housebuilders to build on greenfield sites to maximise profit for shareholders.
Affordable housing is possible if the brownfield land is both available and the finance delivered by the market to support modern methods of construction.

By Graham

Save The Greenbelt . Build affordable housing . By developing brownfield-derelict sites . In affordable parts of Manchester . Not destroying greenbelt fields . Where greedy developers . That have friends in government . Can build houses and demand a premium . For maximum profits for the directors . Same old same old

By Clean Air

It’s time to build housing for the many and not be held back by the few (the tiny percentage in population of GM terms) who don’t want to lose their view. Let’s increase the supply and get housing within reach of the many.

By Inrerested Observer

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