04Priority for the government: Level up the mayor’s planning powers
Planning policy affects the scale and distribution of new housing, interacting with transport and skills policy. It is a strategic economic power that should be held at the scale of the city region, as in Greater London through the London Plan, not at the local level as in the rest of the Mayoral Combined Authorities.
Local authorities in Greater Manchester remain the lead on local planning and can ignore city region plans, which require unanimous consent from each authority. The Greater Manchester Spatial Framework was rejected at the eleventh-hour last year by Stockport, forcing the Greater Manchester local authorities to create a new joint plan for all the local authorities minus Stockport.
This undermines the purpose of city-region mayors and devolution, as the overlap of powers between mayor and borough generates significant friction between them, duplicating functions and activities and making it harder for the mayoralty to absorb political risk and show leadership on planning.
The mayor should work with the Government and aim to consolidate Greater Manchester planning responsibilities – in terms of plan making and decision making on planning applications – at the city-region level. While the Planning White Paper intentions for the role of the mayors are not yet clear, there is a case for them to solve their ‘duty to cooperate’ problems by allowing the mayor’s office to take the lead on planning. Smaller and more local planning designations, such as design codes, could continue to be made at the local authority level. But the failure of local authorities to agree a joint-framework shows that the mayor should be handed responsibility for tough choices on planning and take the lead on housing and planning policy in Greater Manchester.