Labour’s mayoral candidate said the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework needs to be comprehensively changed to take the focus away from large family homes in favour of higher density town centre affordable housing, concentrated in the outlying boroughs of Greater Manchester.
Speaking at Edgeley Park football ground in Stockport at the latest in his Our Manifesto series of debates, Burnham said the plan should not be scrapped, but was currently unfair and unbalanced. Burnham said: “Whilst it is important to have a clear plan for where new jobs and homes should go, rather than allow a free-for-all for developers, we need to make sure it’s the right plan. I am concerned that the current proposals in the Spatial Framework will not meet our housing needs in Greater Manchester in the way that is needed.”
He continued: “The focus in many of the proposed sites appears to be on ‘higher value’ or ‘executive’ homes, at the expense of affordable homes. I am clear we need a plan that delivers a mix of housing in Greater Manchester, to meet the needs of every section of society.”
He set out a policy line of promoting high density housing on vacant retail sites in town centres and tackling absent landlords who “drag down whole communities”.
Earlier this week, Liberal Democrat candidate, Cllr Jane Brophy, called for the GMSF to be scrapped, claiming local people’s voices have been ignored, and no more houses should be built on green belt until all brownfield sites have been exhausted.
The GMSF will require a unanimous vote from the 11 people around the table at Greater Manchester Combined Authority; the mayor and 10 council leaders.
The plan calls for large areas of land to be released from green belt to accommodate 63,000 out of 227,000 residential units envisaged by 2035. The current round of consultation into the draft GMSF is due to close on Monday.
Until now, council leaders had appeared to agree that the rapid growth of Greater Manchester cannot be sustained without some green belt release. If Labour council leaders line up behind their party’s mayoral candidate, it could lead to problems for the plan’s progress towards legal adoption unless it is extensively rethought. Burnham said he would like to see no net loss of green belt, with extra land put into protected status to replace any that is removed. So far a small number of new sites have been identified that would go into green belt but there would be a net loss under the present draft proposal.
Cllr Alex Ganotis, Labour leader of Stockport, stood to agree strongly with Burnham’s comments on the GMSF. Other councillors in Stockport have called for the 20-year plan to be scrapped in favour of a reversion to Local Plans.
Burnham also called for the £300m GM Housing Investment Fund to be used to compulsorily purchase rental properties from negligent landlords and to provide loans to councils and housing associations to build affordable homes.
Burnham was supported by speeches from Ian Munro, chief executive of New Charter housing association based in Ashton-under-Lyne, Tameside, and the shadow work and pensions secretary, former parliamentary private secretary to Burnham, Debbie Abrahams, MP for Oldham East and Saddleworth.
Edna Robinson, former NHS trust chief executive and current chairman of Trafford Housing Trust, spoke from the audience to say it was “fantastic” that Burnham was standing and wished the Leigh MP “all the best” in the election on 4 May. Robinson’s board at Trafford Housing Trust includes Conservative candidate and leader of Trafford Council, Cllr Sean Anstee.
Anstee supports the GMSF but said he would seek to rewrite the plan if needed where possible.
Green belt protests have taken place across the region in recent weeks including in Bury, Flixton, and Stockport.
- The public consultation into the GMSF is due to end at 5pm on Monday 16 January. To download the draft GMSF, and take part in the consultation, click here