25 May 2016
On 24 May, the new Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, officially appointed five of his special advisors to support the implementation of his manifesto policies; James Murray will advise the Mayor on housing policy, Val Shawcross has been appointed Deputy Mayor for Transport (and Deputy Chair of Transport for London), while Lord Andrew Adonis has been proposed as Chair of the Crossrail 2 Board.James Murray is currently Executive Member for Housing and Development at Islington Council, a role that he has held since 2010 (he announced his intention to stand down from his role as Islington councillor). During his time as lead member on housing at Islington, he launched a major building programme of homes for social rent; this delivered 1,800 new affordable homes in 2010-2014 (projected to reach ‘at least’ 2,000 homes by 2015), while the Borough’s Housing Strategy 2014-2019 sets the target for 2,000 additional affordable homes in the Borough (including 500 new council homes) to be built in four years. The strategic planning policy objective that Islington Council set for at least 50% of all new homes delivered in the Borough to be affordable has been reflected by Sadiq Khan’s manifesto pledge on affordable housing requirement.During James Murray’s office, Islington was also the first council to publish an Article 4 direction (July 2013) to remove permitted development rights for office to residential conversions. In January 2016, the Borough adopted a supplementary planning guidance (SPD) on Development Viability, requiring that information submitted as a part of a viability assessment ‘should be treated transparently and be available for wider scrutiny’.
Val Shawcross has a long-standing experience at London Assembly, having served as a member for Lambeth and Southwark during the last sixteen years, before standing down at this year’s mayoral elections. Her extensive Assembly experience led her to be appointed Chair of the London Fire & Emergency Planning Authority (2000-2008), and alternate Chair and Deputy Chair of the Transport Committee (2008-2014).
The Mayor has also announced his intention to propose the appointment of Lord Andrew Adonis, as Chair of the Crossrail 2 Board. Lord Adonis, who has been long-rumoured as potential Deputy Mayor for Transport, is the current chairman of the National Infrastructure Commission (NIC), a position that he has held since October 2015. Before being appointed at the NIC, Lord Adonis has been Transport Secretary (2009-10), Minister of State for Transport (2008-09) and Minister for Schools (2005-08). He was also Head of the No10 Policy Unit from 2001 to 2005. His extensive infrastructure and transport experience has granted him a wide cross-party credibility and respect, which led to his nomination as chairman of the NIC by the Conservative Government.His appointment as Chair of the Crossrail 2 Board is of no surprise, given the work he undertook as chairman of the NIC; Transport for a World City, the second report published by the NIC on 10 March 2016, has called the Government to prioritise Crossrail 2 by granting the needed funds to Transport for London (TfL) and the Department for Transport (DfT) to draw up a business case for it; in the Budget 2016, the Government granted £80 million to help fund development of Crossrail 2. It’s worth noting that the appointment’s statement clarifies that he ‘will continue his role as chair of the National Infrastructure Commission’.The other two appointments announced on 24 May are Sophie Linden, as Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime, and Fiona Twycross as Chair of the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority.
06 May 2016
The Northern Powerhouse concept has received a considerable amount of favourable coverage since Chancellor George Osborne first introduced it in his speech at Manchester’s Museum of Science and Industry back in June 2014. Whilst highlighting the north’s thriving cities, growing universities and iconic cultural events, Osborne’s speech stressed that although individually strong, collectively the northern cities were less than the sum of their parts.Osborne’s suggestion was the concept of a Northern Powerhouse, “not one city, but a collection of cities sufficiently close to each other that combined they can take on the world” and in so doing, providing a powerful counterbalance to the dominance of London. The key ingredients to creating this Powerhouse were identified as: transport connectivity; backing science and universities; creative clusters; and, crucially, the devolution of power.Almost two years on from this speech, the Northern Powerhouse remains a concept rather than a tangible policy. Whilst a number of interventions have been announced, such as the Greater Manchester Devolution Deal and the Northern Transport Strategy, no explicit growth targets have yet been identified. This has led to concerns amongst the development industry that the rhetoric is not being followed through into actual delivery programmes or strategic planning frameworks.
The issue is encapsulated by the Strategic Options Consultation on the emerging Greater Manchester Spatial Framework [GMSF], produced by the Greater Manchester Combined Authority [GMCA] to provide planning policy at a strategic level for the 10 Greater Manchester authorities. The document’s planning policies are underpinned by generally under-whelming growth targets for the City Region at just 0.7% annually for employment growth (despite achieving 1.2% annually since the recession) and most controversially, just 0.8% for annual housing growth (10,350 dwellings per annum). This would put Greater Manchester’s housing delivery rates behind the likes of Leeds/Bradford, London and Bristol.Indeed, the level of housing growth pursued is barely higher than the demographic starting point identified in the latest household projections – hardly the level of growth necessary to allow Greater Manchester to drive forward the Northern Powerhouse and act as the counter-weight to London that Osborne envisages.In this regard, NLP was commissioned by the ‘Housing the Powerhouse’ consortium to produce a report analysing Greater Manchester’s likely role as the driving force behind the Northern Powerhouse initiative, and what this was likely to mean in terms of housing and economic growth.Our work found that job growth of 1% annually would represent a realistic target that better aligned with past achievements and future prospects, and which also compares favourably with levels achieved by similar pro-growth cities on the continent (with the cities of Dortmund and Nantes used as case studies).We reported that Manchester was ‘best placed’ amongst the northern cities to drive forward the Government’s growth agenda, but that to avoid unsustainable levels of in-commuting from adjoining areas, a step change in housing provision was required - in the order of 16,640 dwellings per annum. NLP’s work also explored the (very substantial) economic benefits of pursuing this significantly higher housing target.Our report concludes that Greater Manchester can lead the way in driving forward the Northern Powerhouse as it has in the past, but the emerging GMSF risks missing this opportunity by pursuing conservative levels of housing and employment growth well below many cities elsewhere in the UK. A re-booted, pro-development, GMSF would be beneficial for Greater Manchester, sustain the Northern Powerhouse and act as a healthy counterweight to London and the Greater South East.Click here to see our Greater Manchester Report