This week, after years of mounting pressure the Prime Minister has finally been forced to admit, to nobody’s amazement, that there is a housing crisis affecting our country today. 

Since 2010, home-ownership has fallen to a 30 year low, rough sleeping has more than doubled, and the number of new homes being built still hasn’t recovered to pre-recession levels, but rather than tackling this problem head on, the Government has put its head in the sand.

We’ve heard hand-wringing on housing from Theresa May before and there’s absolutely nothing new here that will make a difference. Her rehashed year-old policy shows that Ministers have no proper plans and no new ideas to fix the housing crisis. Eight years of failure on housing is the fault of Whitehall, not town halls.

Theresa May’s weak set of announcements are not only a damning indictment of 8 years of failed Tory government policy, but also a vindication of the work being undertaken by Andy Burnham across Greater Manchester.

Andy’s radical rewrite of the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework (GMSF) is concentrated on tackling homelessness and refocusing housing investment away from up-scale apartments in Manchester city centre.

The initial plans would have changed the green belt boundary around the conurbation in order to allow for new housing over the next two decades. The initial plans included development on significant parcels of existing public open space, protected urban greenspace, playing fields, play areas and other previously undeveloped land.

I found those plans deeply misleading and totally disingenuous to local communities which is why I support Andy’s rewrite which include proposals to completely redraw the contentious elements within the Spatial Framework.

Keeping our greenspace green matters, not just as recreational and leisure space, but as an environmental asset and to prevent urban sprawl, that is why I support a proper ‘brownfield first’ strategy. Building on brownfield sites makes sense for several reasons:

– It means we can build on disused or derelict land rather than greenspace,

– That we can build on land which has already been developed which reduces urban sprawl,

– Reduces pollution as brownfield sites are found in urban areas, so building housing there reduces demand on car use.

Tameside, and Greater Manchester more widely need housing targets which reflect the reality and demand in local housing markets and not just be a tick box numbers game. By taking the bold decision to rewrite the GMSF, we can have a well-informed discussion about what other land may be required to meet Greater Manchester’s future growth needs.

Moreover, the PM has finally admitted that the issue of “land banking” by private developers is contributing to the housing shortage, an issue that Labour has highlighted for some time, which is why Labour is calling for a policy of ‘use it, or lose it’. This approach will enable the government to take the land away from private contractors if they don’t deliver within a prescribed period of time.

In the week that a Guardian Cities investigation showed that across Manchester none of the 14,667 homes being built by big private developmers are set to be “affordable”. This is in direct contravention of developers own rules which they assured would be followed leading to worries that London’s affordable housing crisis is spreading.

We now have a Mayor in Andy Burnham and a Council Leader in Brenda Warrington who are both willing to put the wider needs of Tameside and Greater Manchester first. We now need a government which will do the same.

 

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