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04 Nov
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Mayor of Manchester to Gain Strategic Planning Powers

Chancellor George Osborne yesterday (November 3rd) rubber-stamped a devolution deal that will see Greater Manchester granted an elected mayor, who will have powers over regional housing, planning and transport. 

The "revolutionary" agreement will see the directly elected mayor take on devolved powers worth £1 billion, with the government preparing legislation to schedule the first election for 2017.

Powers

According to a statement from the Treasury, the mayor will wield:

  • Control of a £300 million Housing Investment Fund
  • Powers over strategic planning, including the power to create a statutory spatial framework for Greater Manchester
  • Responsibility for a devolved and consolidated transport budget
  • Control of a reformed earn back deal, guaranteeing the extension of the Metrolink line to Trafford Park
  • Assume powers currently held by the Police and Crime Commissioner.

Osborne claimed the move would prompt practical improvements in the economy, transport and the responsiveness of policing.

"It's a really exciting moment. It's a major moment not just for Greater Manchester but for the north," he said.

Manchester council leader Sir Richard Leese added that the local authority was extremely pleased with the opportunity to demonstrate what a city region with greater freedom could contribute to the wider UK.

He claimed that the council's ultimate ambition would be full devolution in public spending for Greater Manchester, which currently stands at around £22 billion each year.

"Greater Manchester has been in the vanguard of the national devolution debate. It was clear that an over-centralised national system was not delivering the best results for our people or our economy," Sir Richard said.

Implications

While Mancunians rejected previous attempts to bring elected regional mayors into power, this latest deal is markedly different to the mayoral referendums of 2012.

The proposed elected mayor will preside over the wider Greater Manchester region's 10 metropolitan boroughs, as opposed to the limited scope of previous proposals.

However, the big question for planners is whether or not this subsidiarity will help progress development in the region and go some way to alleviating the housing crisis.

Housing

According to the National Housing Federation (NHF), local leadership has a "vital role to play" in tackling the disparities in the area's housing markets.

"In some places spiralling costs have put housing out of reach of many people. In other places we see communities that are struggling - in desperate need of jobs and regeneration.  If Manchester is to be the northern powerhouse we all want to see, then we need to sit down with local leaders to make sure that good quality accessible housing sits alongside skills, jobs and transport," said Rob Warm, head of member relations at the NHF.

The deal also comes shortly after Greater Manchester's planning authorities revealed plans to create a statutory development plan for the region, with the aim of more than doubling the current rate of house building.

Development

With control over the £500 million skills budget devolving to the new mayor, alongside a pledge to make Manchester a science capital and invest in its economy and skills – the news could be a potential positive for developers.

The Chancellor also claimed he wished to speak to other cities that wanted to go down the same path – a move that could have profound implications for the way development will works in England in the long term.

However, elected mayors shouldn't be thought of as a silver bullet for any region's woes. For every Boris Johnson, or Rudolph Giuliani – there's a Rob Ford waiting in the wings.

And, while Manchester has retained a staunchly Labour stance in recent years, there's every chance that a high-profile, independent, local figure could step up to the plate. So until plans become a bit more concrete, it's fair to say the jury's out on planning policy.

What Next?

If you've got any questions about how an elected mayor might affect development, or think we've missed any big points – be sure to leave us a comment below or give us a shout on Twitter.

And if you're looking for advice on how devolution could impact your long-term development goals, or any aspect of planning – don't hesitate to get in touch with us today.

Image used courtesy of Stacey MacNaught on Flickr.

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