May 2017 was a milestone month for Greater Manchester, which voted to elect Andy Burnham as its first metro mayor. After receiving 63 per cent of the vote to lead the Greater Manchester Combined Authority, he will now take responsibility for the powers associated with being a devolved city region, including delivering new homes, strategic planning, transport and the skills agenda.
The role will see Mr Burnham become a key figurehead for the region, working with a cabinet of 10 council leaders to drive and deliver new growth while giving Greater Manchester a voice on a national and indeed global stage. So what does the creation of this role mean for the region’s property agenda?
Setting the planning framework
Perhaps the most important aspect of the metro mayor’s role, in terms of property, will be his powers over strategic planning and the ability to create a long-term development plan – known as the spatial framework – for the region. Devolved planning freedoms will make it easier to guide investment and development across Greater Manchester, though decisions will still need to be approved unanimously by the region’s 10 council leaders.
Increasing the supply of new housing
As well as influencing the broad direction of housing policy, the metro mayor will be able to compulsorily purchase areas of land, with the agreement of the relevant local council leader, to help bring forward some of the sub-region’s key development opportunities. This should make it easier for development to take place.
Mr Burnham will take on responsibility for an existing £300 million Housing Investment Fund, which is dedicated to creating new housing on former industrial sites in Greater Manchester. This should pave the way for sites not currently being put to their best use to become much needed new homes instead.
Funding and co-ordinating new transport infrastructure
The metro mayor will take charge of a Government fund to pay for the development of infrastructure over the next 30 years. This could involve further extending the Metrolink, creating a more straightforward bus network and exploring opportunities for developing rail stations throughout the region. Improving connectivity between Manchester and the other towns and cities of Greater Manchester would allow them all to grow and become stronger as a whole.
Ultimately, Mr Burnham’s new role as elected metro mayor will allow Greater Manchester to pool its resources and focus investment on areas that will genuinely benefit the region and its residents. Devolving the agenda locally will lead to a more successful and cohesive sub-region, which in turn will help to raise its profile internationally.
For the property industry, this would mean more inward investment, boosting development and an agreed approach to delivering new economic and housing growth, which can only be a good thing for Greater Manchester.