Greater Manchester’s interim mayor, speaking at a debate hosted by the Forum for the Built Environment, offered colourful opinions on a wide range of topics, from the EU referendum – “madness” – to his questionable enthusiasm for planning policy – reassuring the audience that “only some planning is boring”.
Lloyd, a former Labour MP, was appointed interim mayor last year as part of the Government’s devolution agreement, taking the post alongside his role as police and crime commissioner. Lloyd will stay in the post until the mayoral elections in May 2017. He is seeking the nomination to be the Labour party candidate for the mayoral election.
Lloyd has on earlier occasions, including a dinner for property and construction company leaders hosted by Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce in December at Elliot House, described planning as “boring” and made clear his disinterest in talking about planning for long. In his role as interim mayor, Lloyd holds the position of planning and housing lead for Greater Manchester Combined Authority. He is also chairman of the Greater Manchester Land Commission. If he wins the mayoral election, he will oversee the implementation of the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework, a statutory document to guide development across the city region for the next 20 years.
When reminded of his views and asked by Place North West to reassure the FBE audience that he was well placed to hold the planning and regeneration mandates for the city region, Lloyd admitted “some planning is boring, but some planning is very exciting”.
He said that planning had to be “the servant” of wider devolution goals, and commented: “I was once a councillor on a planning committee, arbitrating over whether someone can get an extra six inches on their kitchen extension, with another side resisting it, and in that sense planning is boring.”
He went on: “Strategic planning is absolutely fundamental to how we liberate social Greater Manchester, liberate economic Greater Manchester. Some planning is boring, some planning is exciting, as it’s about the liberation of the resources and capacity to use them more intelligently and in a strategic way.”
In a pitch for votes from the property industry, Lloyd argued: “For the first time, we’ve got the capacity to create a strategic planning framework across Greater Manchester which will integrate the variables that are fundamental to transforming our land space. We can make sure transport is a servant to planning process, make sure we get the balance between things like green belt, and more generally make sure we retain the quality of the non-built environment, consistent with the massive amount of development that we know has to take place, increasing housing and commercial projects.
“To do all that is a challenge but the offer to people within the development industry is, we can only do that in partnership with you, because while we can create the framework, we create that framework better if we do that by listening to people on the things that will make it more likely to happen. In the end it won’t be me investing in a particular sector or plan, it will be people in the development community.”
Lloyd, who was interviewed on stage by Alex Pitman, commercial director of building services design firm Beverley Clifton Morris, gave a broad overview of devolution activity in Greater Manchester, and set it apart from the Northern Powerhouse concept, which he said “is seen as some kind of magic wand”. He said “devolution is not a Northern whinge, but a Northern demand for economic efficiency.”
In the mayoral election race, other potential candidates aside from Lloyd are Ivan Lewis, Labour MP for Bury South, and Andy Burnham, Labour MP for Leigh. In terms of the qualities needed in a mayor, aside from being able to work at the intersection between national and local government, Lloyd said he would need to have “the technical capacity to work with people like Sir Howard Bernstein”, Manchester City Council’s chief executive.
Lloyd was asked whether Greater Manchester might follow London’s model, where newly elected Mayor Sadiq Khan recently appointed four deputies, three of which were women. He said that electing two deputies might be possible in Manchester, but “therefore probably only one would be a woman”, although there are “a lot of competent women working across Greater Manchester”.
When the discussion took the inevitable turn towards the question of Brexit, Lloyd described the referendum on 23 June as “madness”, but confirmed he would be voting to stay in. He also joked that he was mixed-race as one parent was from Salford and another from Manchester.