You will recall I questioned the legality of this in a blogpost year as the secondary legislation referred applied only to the London. Deleted the post after being assured the the combined authorities legislation allows the SoS to enable SDSs in combined authority areas but questioned why the secondary legislation referred to the wrong act – a separate secondary legislation mandates SDSs in combined authority areas but did not enable them. What a mess, dont say you wernt warned. .
Greater Manchester’s leaders are in a race against time to avoid their long-term ‘spatial framework’ housebuilding plan being delayed yet again – by up to a year.
It is understood the blueprint’s current timetable, which has already drifted repeatedly, is now unexpectedly contingent on housing minister Kit Malthouse signing off a technicality before a new Prime Minister takes charge and Parliament breaks for summer recess later this week.
If that is not possible, the framework – which was supposed to be submitted to government by early next year – could be delayed until after next May’s mayoral elections.
The spatial framework allows Greater Manchester’s leaders to map out a major development blueprint for the next 20 years and was a key part of the region’s devolution deal in 2014. Since then it has been delayed a number of times, partly as a result of Andy Burnham promising to rewrite the original draft when he took office as mayor in 2017.
However the latest problems hinge on an arcane technicality that senior figures had, until recent weeks, believed would be ironed out in Whitehall.
It is understood the region’s original devolution legislation was supposed to have included a particular technical designation for the plan, meaning it would be classed as a London-style ‘spatial development strategy’.
That gave the mayor and leaders more control over a process that would have ultimately seen them consult this autumn, before then – if all went to plan – finally submitting the framework to government in the new year.
But the key element of the legislation was never actually carried out, meaning the timetable is now, at a late stage, up in the air.
One senior source said it had been a ‘inadvertent’ legislative error in Whitehall, but one they claimed civil servants had repeatedly promised would, in practical terms, be no problem as it could simply be approved by the minister in question instead.
However earlier this year the ‘mood music changed’, they said, and that no longer became so definite.
A flurry of high-level meetings between senior advisers followed and, eventually, a phone call between Andy Burnham and housing minister Kit Malthouse.
On Friday Mr Malthouse then wrote to the region asking a number of questions about the plan, to which Greater Manchester responded this morning.
However with Parliament due to break up for recess this week and a new Prime Minister due in Downing Street tomorrow, they now face a race against the clock.
If the necessary order is not passed this week, the region may not be able to proceed as intended.
Without being classed as a ‘spatial development strategy’, the framework falls by default under another category – known as a ‘joint development plan’ – which would require a different process.
That would need officials to gather every last final bit of Greater Manchester’s evidence for the plan before going out to consultation, work that has not been completed, as they had assumed they did not need to do so until the plan was finally submitted to government.
As a result that would delay it for a fifth time, potentially kicking it past next spring’s mayoral election.
It is understood council leaders were only told of the latest problem a few weeks ago.
One senior councillor called the situation a ‘total f*** up’, adding that they were ‘furious’ that the region was now in that position. Others were more circumspect, with one speculating that the government was ‘playing games’.
A source close to the mayor’s office said: “It’s not a good place to be in, but it’s another symptom of government not really being focused. This should be a really simple change. Officials have admitted it was an error in the draft legislation and it just hasn’t been sorted.”
It remains unclear why official advice over the plan has changed, but many senior figures in Greater Manchester believe the problem is directly linked to tensions between the region and housing minister Kit Malthouse.
In February a row broke out between the minister and Andy Burnham over green belt development, while a few weeks later government pulled a £68m housing deal leaders had long been expecting.