Esther McVey, housing minister, has said Manchester “needs to make sure it lives up to the powers it’s already got, and the significant support it has had from this Government”, particularly in pushing through the delayed Greater Manchester Spatial Framework.
Giving the opening address at MIPIM UK in London this week, the minister said the property sector needs to “stretch, and stretch even further, and considerably so” to meet the demand for homes, but stressed her focus on developing affordable homes “does not mean tearning up Green Belt… I’m passionate about using brownfield first and that we utilise this fully”.
McVey also discussed investing in infrastructure, ensuring communities are listened to and “given what they need”.
While the Government devolved planning powers to Greater Manchester several years ago, leading to the need for the 20-year spatial framework to guide development in the City Region, the implementation of the GMSF has been repeatedly delayed, most recently due to a deadlock between the Greater Manchester Combined Authority and Whitehall over what type of legislation the document should be.
When asked by Place North West whether this lack of co-operation demonstrated the Government was not truly willing to follow through on its devolution promises, McVey said: “The Government has made devolution a key enabler.”
“Manchester has never had so much power, but you have to make sure with powers comes responsibility, and there’s checks and balances in place.
“It needs to make sure it lives up to its powers that it’s already got, and the significant support it has had from this Government.”
At the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester earlier this month, Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham blamed “the dysfyunctionality of Westminster” for the delays: “We’ve been waiting for regulations and still are.”
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 under this format, but this has met with resistance.
Under a different form of document, the GMCA will be required to submit further evidence, which would likely yield further delays.