Commercial Property Solicitors

“Northern Power House”, “Northern Hub”, “DEVO Manc” – You will have heard all sorts of bold headlines heralding the arrival of devolved central government powers to an elected Mayor and the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA).

What are the facts and how will they affect the property sector in the North West of England? Firstly, let’s look at the facts.

The devolution of central government powers to Greater Manchester was announced by the Chancellor George Osborne in the 2015 budget. The Chancellor confirmed that the 2015 spending review would contain the major investments already set out to build the “Northern Power House” covering railways, roads and science parks.

The GMCA will take control of fire services, children’s services, transport, employment and skills training and health (which has already happened). There will also be, and this is of particular importance to us, a Regional Land Commission. The GMCA will be formed from the 10 existing Borough Councils within Greater Manchester. An interim Mayor (Tony Lloyd) has been appointed and elections for the first elected GMCA Mayor are expected in 2017.

The Greater Manchester Mayor will have powers covering a devolved and consolidated transport budget, with a multi-year settlement to be agreed at the next spending review, franchised bus services, strategic planning, a new housing investment fund and the functions of the police and crime commissioner.

A new Greater Manchester Land Commission will be created and tasked to build a database of all publicly owned land within the GMCA region. The Commission will identify land for housing and specific demand for 10,000 new houses within the region has been set by Central Government. The Mayor, once appointed, will have enhanced powers over planning including the right to make compulsory purchase orders, provided that there is also a consent given by the relevant authority member of the council which is affected by the order. As such, both the Mayor and the local authority will need to approve a compulsory purchase order scheme before exercising the enhanced powers of the Mayor.

The Land Commission will look at and direct the use of publicly owned land which can be used to support the wider aims of the GMCA region, including not just house building but also development to support the growing economy and community infrastructure. The aim is that the Land Commission together with the powers vested in the GMCA will accelerate the development of land within the region for both housing and economic growth.

The Land Commission will be jointly chaired by the Mayor of the GMCA and the Housing Minister from the GMCA and will also include representatives from other key land-owning departments within the authority.

The aim of the powers granted to the elected Mayor is to encourage regeneration and development within the GMCA area and this will include the right to create Mayoral Development Corporations which can help drive regeneration and progress more complicated development schemes. The Mayor’s office will also control a new £300million housing investments fund.

The plans for the establishment of greater powers for the GMCA have been published in a combined government and the GMCA agreement setting out the perimeters of devolution to the GMCA and the transition to a directly elected Mayor. The chief executive of Manchester City Council, Sir Howard Bernstein has described the creation of devolved powers as follows:

“our compass is the Greater Manchester Strategy: an ambitious vision for the Greater Manchester we want by 2020. Our offer to the Government is that by creating the conditions for economic growth and job creation and supporting people to become less reliant on expensive reactive services, we can eradicate the deficit between the amount of tax raised and the costs of public services.

It will be good for UK PLC but also for our residents and businesses, by making Greater Manchester a place of opportunity where residents have skills, confidence and health to prosper”.

Let’s hope that the reality is as impressive as the vision. Watch this space.

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