As the race to become the first elected Mayor of Greater Manchester continues, another quieter battle is taking place behind the scenes of councils across the region. This battle could be the biggest challenge yet to the Northern Powerhouse project, writes Tom Mellor of PPS Group.
The Greater Manchester Spatial Framework is the policy which will decide where the new homes the region needs to meet demand by 2035 will go. The 10 local authorities that make up Greater Manchester will have to agree on how many new properties are built in their area, and what form they will take.
This will be no mean feat. Authorities such as Manchester City Council already know the outcome. Limited space and a more urban build-up will result in a focus on high rise flats and brownfield redevelopment.
In contrast the more rural authorities, such as Trafford and Rochdale, will have to concede large areas of Green Belt in order to meet their quotas and comply with the GMSF.
Cracks are showing following publication of the number of properties each authority will have to build following a call for sites earlier in 2016.
Stockport in particular will struggle to find space for the proposed 20,000 new homes it will be tasked with delivering by 2035. It is expected that the authority will have to release up to 10% of its Green Belt in order to hit these targets. It is inevitable that the Labour-led Council will push very hard to reduce the number of homes it will be forced to build during the GMSF consultation process this autumn and vigorously resist development.
With the GMSF due to be published in 2017 with a view to adoption in 2018, the new Greater Manchester Mayor will face the mammoth task of getting the 10 authority leaders to agree to the GMSF framework. In addition, all of this will take place as the Manchester chief executive Sir Howard Bernstein steps down after 45 years of service in local government.
It remains unclear as to whether the new Mayor will have the power to force the GMSF on the Greater Manchester local authorities and given the objections raised before a draft has even been published, this could prove to be the first major test of the new position.
It’s clear all 10 local authorities are committed to the Northern Powerhouse, and similarly all 10 will have to chip in and co-operate to make a success of the Greater Manchester mayoral model. This may mean local sacrifices to ensure the region can fulfil its potential, avoid stumbling over the GMSF, and make a success of the Northern Powerhouse.
The question remains whether the local authorities will continue to work together for the common good. Either way the GMSF is set to be a huge test of Sir Howard’s legacy and could shape the ultimate success, or failure, of the entire Northern Powerhouse project.
Tom Mellor is associate at PPS North