Monday, 3 November 2014

The first item in the Manc Mayor's In-Tray

Of all the challenges awaiting the first directly-elected mayor of Greater Manchester in 2017, and there will no doubt be plenty, the one that drew my eye amongst the 'devo-manc' coverage (3 November 2014) was the need for the Spatial Framework to be approved 'by a unanimous vote of the Mayor’s Cabinet' (here). John Geoghegan at Planning Magazine has been told by Eamonn Boylan at Stockport Council (here) that the Cabinet would retain the GMCA model, which means that it will comprise all ten Council leaders.

According to the Spatial Framework consultation material, 2017 should herald a 'publication' draft of the new statutory document, as well as it's submission for examination. Even without a unanimous cabinet vote that is an extremely ambitious timetable because it means plan publication either before or very soon after an election in May, cabinet consent to the submission of the plan in the summer, and an examination by Christmas. The need for unanimity though means that just one dissenting voice around the cabinet table could delay progress on a plan already three years in the  making. In other words, the Mayor, who themselves may (depending upon the successful candidate,) have had little involvement in the plan-making process, will have to convince all ten leaders, perhaps themselves new in post, that the plan satisfies all of their interests. Interestingly, other Greater Manchester strategies will require just a two-thirds majority at the new Cabinet.

This matters because any delay to the Spatial Framework matters. This is an extract from a paper presented to Stockport's LDF Working Party on 4 November 2014:

It should not be necessary to wait until at least 2018 and the projected DPD adoption before the Council can proceed with work on its own local plan (in whatever form that might be) because work on that can take place concurrently with the GMSF document. Nevertheless, clearly this work will result in a delay to the adoption of relevant planning documents.

Stockport's Core Strategy pre-dates the NPPF and includes an RSS-based housing requirement. As the Working Party paper states... If it is assumed, for the sake of simplicity, that 480dwellings dpa is the current net housing requirement in Stockport, taking a 10% split of the OAN figure as the comparable figure that could emerge from the GMSF equates to a figure over double the current target.

The use of the word unanimous was perhaps a deliberate attempt to allay fears about control being taken from LPAs rather than given to them, but when dealing with matters as controversial as the proportion of a housing requirement being directed to one or other borough, that bar does instinctively feel like a high one for the new mayor to jump over. 

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