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Removing barriers to housing delivery in Greater Manchester

Across England there is a shortfall of over 90,000 residential planning consents a year. With populations continually rising, the division between housing needs and granted planning consents remains ever present.

Yet in Greater Manchester, in 2016 that figure was zero, as the balancing act between planning consents and housing need finally reached equilibrium.  This was by virtue of a 68% increase in granted planning consents over the period 2015-2016 – a significant improvement upon the 3,453 shortfall of consents detailed in 2015 and a certain cause for celebration.

But the challenge remains how to deliver this much-needed new housing – i.e. converting the consents into homes.

Savills research details that in 2015 the gap between housing delivery and need in Greater Manchester was 10,091 dwellings, almost triple the shortfall in consents. With its population expected to surge by over 200,000 in the next 20 years, how can Planning solve Greater Manchester’s housing delivery challenge?

Greater Manchester leaders continue to innovate by using tools such as the transformational Greater Manchester Devolution Agreement to provide a framework for new housing related powers and new investment mechanisms – including the use of the £300m Housing investment fund.

The sub-region has been proactive in seeking to address this gap and has established a series of key partnerships with the Homes & Communities Agency, registered providers and developers as well as actively utilising its land assembly powers to bring forward larger sites.

However, recent announcements detailing delays to the production of the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework has raised concerns that this could lose some of the momentum that has been created through this innovation, at a time when developer interest in the sub-region is at a level not seen since the last market down turn.

At a national level, the host of proposals to tackle these delays detailed in the Government’s much heralded Housing White Paper are taking time to materialise. Progress in adopting Local Plans (required to address the shortfall) nationally is continually slow with just 41% of local authorities in England having a post- National Planning Policy Framework compliant Local Plan. It is clear that more needs to be done to incentivise, resource and streamline this process.

Plan-making progress across GM is similarly patchy but will be a vitally important component in the armoury of improving delivery in Greater Manchester. If delays to plan making continue to restrict the supply of new sites coming forward, the sub-region is going to have to continue to innovate locally if it is to fulfil its ambition, otherwise the demand for new homes will go unfulfilled and the challenge of housing delivery remain unresolved.

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