This morning, Greater Manchester Mayor, Andy Burnham, held a press call in Salford* where he announced that Salford Mayor Paul Dennett will lead his policy for the conurbation on housing, planning and homelessness.
Burnham said he was "signalling a change in Greater Manchester housing policy", moving to solve the housing crisis by "building more council houses, more social housing...
"In recent times there has been more focus on flagship, on high end developments and on commuter homes" he added "...but now the focus does need to change to ensuring the right homes at the right level of affordability in all communities..."
He insisted that there would be "a radical re-write of the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework" which would "result in a substantial reduction in loss of green spaces across Greater Manchester...
"I said in my campaign that I would change politics and I mean it" Burnham said "We cannot have devolution being a new form of imposing decisions on communities that they don't want to see.
"...I am signalling here that I intend listening to what people have said" he explained "Yes, we need high ambitions for the homes and the jobs that we're going to bring into Greater Manchester in the coming years - but we cannot do that in the teeth of opposition from those communities and isolate them from the debate.
"Devolution should be about changing politics, not just doing the old way of coming up with a solution in closed rooms and then dumping them on communities; we cannot work in that way in the future" he said.
However, the GM Mayor added what he called a 'tougher message'... "It's not going to be possible to protect every bit of green space that people care about – I'm not coming here before you today claiming that it will be" he declared "What I am saying is that I hear what people have been saying about how precious green space is to them, and if we re-balance the Spatial Framework in the way that I'm describing - less on the big roads, more development in town centres - I think we'll get a plan that works better for the vast majority of people in Greater Manchester."
Burnham explained that if the current Spatial Framework had been imposed it would have led to "town centres surrounded by urban sprawl". Salford people had objected to huge swathes of Green Belt in Irlam and Cadishead, and green spaces around Boothstown that would have been developed under the previous plans (see previous Salford Star articles – click here and click here).
Salford City Council not only led on putting the £800,000 Framework together but supported it in the city's Local Plan, enthusiastically backed by Planning Lead Member, Derek Antrobus, who called Boothstown objectors 'NIMBYs' who 'shouldn't be listened to' (see here). It's ironic that the Salford Mayor now has the job of tearing up the Framework and starting again.
Meanwhile, Dennett, as well as sorting Greater Manchester planning, will also lead on housing and homelessness, with Burnham's campaign promise to change the direction of £300million Greater Manchester Investment Fund hopefully coming to fruition.
The Fund allowed some of the richest developers in the North West – including Peel Holdings and Fred Done – to get cheap multi-million pound loans to build unaffordable luxury apartments in Manchester and Salford (see here and see here).
"While I'm not saying it was all wrong, what I am saying is that there will be a change of focus" Burnham said, explaining that as the loans get paid back they will be used to provide council and social housing.
"The beneficiaries of some of what we've been doing in Greater Manchester haven't always been the people of Greater Manchester and I think we have to be honest about that" Dennett added "But moving forward, when we recycle this £300million we can actually use it to meet some of our aspirations around social housing, council housing and truly affordable housing..."
There will also be a Greater Manchester wide 'voluntary' regulation scheme for private landlords aimed at those who, Burnham said, "don't invest in the upkeep of their properties, charge unfair fees on their tenants and don't respect their communities, allowing their properties to fall into unacceptable states of disrepair – we've got a clear message for them today 'Respect our communities or get out of Greater Manchester'..."
The GM Mayor's first act on Monday morning was to tour Manchester's streets, speaking to homeless people and launching his Homelessness Fund, and Paul Dennett will also be leading on this policy...
"Homelessness is the scourge of our society in the 21st Century in my opinion" said Dennett "It's an absolute disgrace that we have people sleeping on our streets without a roof over their head. A home is basic human necessity and tackling homelessness and ending rough sleeping by 2020 will be absolutely critical to the success of the Mayorality in Greater Manchester..."
Andy Burnham avoided the Cornerhouse squat on Monday (see here), which is the most visible campaign against homelessness in Greater Manchester and, in answer to a Salford Star question, the new Mayor said he would be happy to talk to the activists...
"I'll be a Mayor for everyone and prepared to listen to everybody, and I'm serious about both ending rough sleeping, ending homelessness and building homes that people can truly afford" he responded "I came to the housing hustings in Salford and it was challenging but I understand the feelings underneath it; that there is a focus on gentrification maybe, and people pushed out of communities.
"I heard that very clearly and I want to build good places for people to live that have that mix, and we don't force anyone out of communities where they grew up" he added "I'm open to discuss these things with anybody..."
* Today's press call was held at Salix Homes' The Hive off Cromwell Road in Charlestown. Named in honour of environmentalist, bee guru and local councillor Harry Davies, the facility allows up to 14 young people, aged 18 to 25, to live in an affordable place while in work, training or education. After the press call, Andy Burnham was shown around what he called a "great example of ensuring the right homes at the right level of affordability in all communities"...