Mayor Andy Burnham has issued a statement in response to comments made in Parliament by the minister of state for housing and planning over the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework.
Burnham said that Kit Malthouse, who has also attracted headlines this year by spearheading a compromise Brexit plan, seemed to be backing the Government away from responsibility in housing.
He said: “The Minister’s comments in the Parliamentary debate on the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework came as a surprise as they do not reflect current Government policy. They give a very different impression to the one offered in private by civil servants.
“Under pressure from Conservative backbenchers, it would appear that the Government is trying to soften its line on housing numbers and Green Belt and deflect blame towards councils. We see this same tactic with council tax rises. It is unfair and dishonest.
“There are two clear reasons why Greater Manchester does not believe it has the discretion over housing numbers which was suggested by the Minister.
“Firstly, the Government’s own planning guidance says that local authorities are ‘expected’ to use the Government methodology to calculate local housing need and will be required to demonstrate exceptional circumstances to deviate from it. The guidance also states that the standard methodology ‘identifies the minimum number of houses expected to be planned for’.
“In Greater Manchester’s case, we have opted for a target which is close to the Local Housing Need target. When local authorities have sought guidance on this from civil servants, they have confirmed this as the right approach rather than the more flexible interpretation which appeared to be offered by the Minister in the House.”
Burnham said Greater Manchester is “particularly interested” in what flexibility Malthouse considers to exist in relation to the use of 2016 household projections. The second reason Burnham put forward relates to housing deals.
He said: “By failing to make any reference to the Government’s policy on Housing Deals, the Minister is only providing half of the picture. To access funding to clean up brownfield land – and thereby reduce the call on the Green Belt – areas like Greater Manchester are currently being told that we must set an even higher target for new homes than the one determined by the Government’s formula.
“So, for these reasons, Greater Manchester does not believe it has been offered the flexibility over housing numbers as claimed by the Minister. His comments were at best partial and at worst misleading.”
Burnham said that given Greater Manchester is amid consultation on GMSF, he and Salford city mayor Paul Dennett will seek an urgent meeting with Malthouse.
The latest draft of the GMSF was published in January. Burnham had made ripping up the unpopular 2016 draft a central point of his 2017 mayoral campaign, immediately appointing Dennett to oversee a rewrite of the plan following his election.