Memorandum from Association of Greater
Manchester Authorities (AGMA)|
- The Association of Greater Manchester Authorities
(AGMA) is a successful partnership which has achieved significant
success in delivering benefits for Greater Manchester through
- AGMA is evolving and has already established
new governance arrangements comprising an Executive Board (the
decision making body comprising the leaders of all 10 local authorities)
and six Commissions, including a Planning & Housing Commission.
AGMA has an agreed strategyThe Greater Manchester Strategywhich
sets out a vision for a new model of sustainable economic growth.
- AGMA agrees that spatial planning should be undertaken
at the correct spatial levelfor some issues this will be
district or below, however for others it is necessary to plan
across district boundaries. AGMA believes we need to collaborate
at the level of the "functioning economic area"which
for GM is the 10 districtsto properly drive economic growth
and provide essential infrastructure more sustainable and efficiently.
- AGMA is producing a non statutory Greater Manchester
Spatial Framework, to be agreed by the 10 Councils on an entirely
voluntary basis, which will form a core element of our integrated
investment framework and will provide the context for the work
of the districts when progressing their Core Strategies.
- AGMA is not seeking formal planning powers for
our LEP at this time as we are not clear what added value this
- In GM we have a ready supply of housing land
with political and community support for housing growth however
the restriction of development and mortgage finance is preventing
development. AGMA is unsure that the New Homes Bonus would be
successful in unblocking this.
The Association of Greater Manchester Authorities
(AGMA) was formed in 1986 as a voluntary collaboration between
the Local Authorities in Greater Manchester, to co-ordinate the
delivery of functions at the metropolitan level after the abolition
of Greater Manchester County Council. More than 20 years on, our
successful partnership has matured enormously, and continues to
evolve, to reflect our growing understanding of the importance
of Greater Manchester as a functioning economic area, and our
ambition to influence key policy levers to address our economic
challenges and reach our full potential as an engine of national
growth which can complement London and the South East to rebalance
the national economy.
New governance structures are taking place; we established
the Executive Board, comprising the leaders of the 10 local authorities;
and six "commissions" which are charged with overseeing
the new economy, planning and housing health, environment, public
protection, improvement and efficiency functions on behalf of
the Executive Board. The Commissions have a mix of public /private/third
sector membership. The Planning & Housing Commission is chaired
by Councillor Derek Antrobus, Lead Member for Planning at Salford
Our proposals for the Greater Manchester Combined
Authority provide a platform for the devolution of powers to ensure
that key issues are dealt with at the most appropriate levelwhich
we believe is increasingly at the Greater Manchester and local
level. They have been developed through a willing coalition of
the 10 elected leadersacross all three political partiesand
have been democratically ratified by each of the Councils. The
proposals have received overwhelming support from the business
community. The Greater Manchester LEP, recently announced by Government,
is a natural addition to these governance arrangements and builds
on the unique public-private partnership already in place within
Greater Manchester. Together the Combined Authority and the LEP
will enable the private sector to play an even more active leadership
role in securing sustainable economic growth and allow for the
effective alignment of decision making and delivery in key areas
such as economic development, regeneration, planning, transport,
housing, inward investment, business support, marketing and tourism,
environment and employment and skills.
Our understanding of the economic potential of Greater
Manchester was supported by the independent analysis of the Manchester
Independent Economic Review (MIER). MIER demonstrated that while
the scale of the opportunity in Greater Manchester is of national
significance, we face two significant challenges: to increase
our productivity and the competitiveness and the efficiency of
our labour markets; and, secondly, to ensure that all parts of
Greater Manchester and its people benefit from and contribute
to growth by tackling low skills levels, worklessness and public
service dependency. MIER presented us with hard-hitting challenges
over our priorities for spending and how we use the levers of
Government, both national and local, to support growth. These
levers need to operate at the optimum level: Greater Manchester
for strategic direction; and at the most localcity and
neighbourhoodfor effective delivery.
We translated these challenges into a Greater Manchester
Strategy, a well-directed and coherent response focused on creating
wealth through private sector growth by building a bigger critical
mass of skilled activity and focusing on the particular needs
and opportunities for the local economy. The Strategy sets out
our vision for a new model of sustainable growth, supported by
a series of added value priorities for action across Greater Manchester,
which provides a focus for public service reform and presents
a framework for making choices about our priorities for investment.
We successfully submitted a joint programme proposal
to Government for the Greater Manchester Transport Fund, and more
recently, for a programme of investment across GM through the
National Affordable Housing Programme.
AGMA is clear that spatial planning strategy has
a critical influence on our ability to influence and enhance our
economic performance. It provides a framework for development
and investment, both public and private, in respect of employment,
transport connectivity and housing, and prioritises areas for
economic development and regeneration investment, given the need
to focus limited resources where they have the greatest impact
and make the best use of existing assets. To enable us to deliver
this, AGMA has agreed to develop the non-statutory Greater Manchester
Spatial Framework, now in preparation through the voluntary collaboration
of the 10 districts.
We are clear that to plan for sustainable economic
growth, the most appropriate spatial level is that of a functional
economic area, rather than historical administrative units. Strategy
must reflect the real influences on our economy; complex drivers
and multi-layered interdependencies, in terms of work, leisure,
shopping etc, around a core economy. Using these realities and
relationships as our building block enables us to build on assets
such as catchments for skilled labour, supply-chain relationships,
knowledge transfer and the benefits of agglomeration.
Perhaps the most useful way of understanding the
functional economic area is from analysis of its economic "reach",
or the "flows" of activity. These can be examined in
terms of travel to work, business supply relationships, use of
retail or leisure facilities and housing market activity. For
Greater Manchester we consider the 10 districts comprising the
"conurbation" to be our "functioning economic area"the
area which will be addressed by our Local Enterprise Partnership.
The Greater Manchester Spatial Framework is, therefore,
AGMA's voluntary and non-statutory strategic planning framework
for the functional economic area of GM. It will form a core element
of our spatial investment framework, through which we will plan
and co-ordinate investment and the delivery of infrastructure
to promote private-sector led growth.
AGMA broadly supported the main thrust of published
RSS NW in 2008, and its core objectives, of improved, sustainable
economic growth and a more competitive, productive and inclusive
regional economy. We also advocated and supported RSS NW's "city-region"
approach, believing that this would be most effective in providing
a spatial policy framework by which the NW could achieve its goals..
However, we were, and remain, of the view that the region itself
was an artificial construct which, given its size and diversity,
did not reflect how places actually work, and could not effectively
influence their success.
Notwithstanding AGMA's reservations about the appropriateness
of the region as a basis for strategic planning, our view is that
the abolition of RSS has resulted in a policy "deficit"
between national policy statements and local development frameworks.
As already outlined, administrative boundaries mean little in
the lives of people, in the minds of investors and developers
and in the users of services and facilities. However, the inability
to co-ordinate activity and investment across a spatial scale
greater than individual local authorities would result in inefficiencies
and lost opportunities, for example in achieving much-needed housing
growth, coherent investment in infrastructure and creating the
conditions in which business can flourish. This is relevant, and
of concern, both within GM and beyond GM.
The "Regional Centre" is recognised as
an economic powerhouse for the whole of the North and is "shared"
between three districts (Manchester, Salford and Trafford). Even
the more tightly bounded "City Centre" straddles both
Manchester and Salford. The continued success of the Regional
Centre is a policy priority for all GM districts (and many beyond);
however following the abolition of RSS there is no formal mechanism
to plan for this.
AGMA already collaborates across a range of areas
of direct relevance to spatial planning. We have the benefit of
long established officer groups, in particular the Planning Officers
Group (POG) which comprises the "Chief Planning Officers"
or equivalents in all 10 districts. POG is chaired by Chris Findley,
Assistant Director of Planning and Sustainable Futures, Salford
City Council, who is the Planning Lead for GM.
GMPOG is one of the mechanisms we have used to implement
significant joint working, and one of the critical issues it is
currently working on, is identifying opportunities for further
collaboration within the context of localism. We believe, from
our extensive experience that collaboration between willing authorities,
rather than statutorily imposed to down arrangements is so importantand
We have already collaborated to produce:
- a Strategic Housing Market Assessment;
- Strategic Flood Risk Assessment (Level 1 at GM
level and Level 2 through clusters of LAs working together);
- Employment Land Supply assessment;
- transport modelling work to assess the cumulative
impact of proposals in our LDF;
- a decentralised energy study; and
- a study of our eight sub regional town centres.
We are currently working on:
- joint waste and mineral Development Plan Documents;
- a framework for green infrastructure;
- a Surface Water Management Plan for Greater Manchester
funded by Defra; and
- are concluding a piece of work to advise the
10 districts on the most cost effective and efficient way in which
to respond to the new responsibilities under the Floods and Water
In addition we have undertaken two major pieces of
work in collaboration with our independent Business Leadership
Council to examine market demand for large employment sites and
the future of our eight sub regional town centres.
AGMA considers that the model of working which has
evolved over time meets the needs of the 10 districts and demonstrates
added value over and above that which could be achieved separately.
Greater Manchester is not an islandwe have
strong relationships with neighbouring authorities and there are
mutual dependencies, particularly with local authorities to the
south of the conurbation. Policies agreed at the regional level,
in respect of housing for example, reinforced our policy priority
to repopulate the conurbation core, one of the most deprived areas
in the country, and supported GM in delivering significant new
housing development. Prior to the publication of the Government's
Localism and Decentralisation Bill, it is not clear to us how
the proposed new arrangements will work, for example, will LEPs
be subject to the "duty to co-operate" with each other
on issues of cross boundary importance?
A PLANNING FUNCTION
As we described above. the Greater Manchester Spatial
Framework, which is being developed voluntarily in collaboration
with, and for agreement by, the 10 GM districts, will support
and add value to the districts' Local Development Frameworks,
and address matters of wider strategic and cross-boundary significance,
such as the requirements for infrastructure, employment sites
and housing growth, to help the districts and GM as a whole to
grow and prosper.
However, AGMA is not seeking formal planning powers
through its LEP at this time.
In our view, it is essential that any planning powers
ceded by local planning authorities do not result in a loss of
democratic accountability, and are fully supported by all parties
involved. It is difficult to see how LEPs, as currently constituted,
could acquire planning powers when they are not democratically
elected and not accountable to the residents of GM. While we may
wish to consider the acquisition of specific powers over time,
with the complete agreement of the Local Authorities, we would
need to be convinced of the probity and demonstrable benefits
that a LEP with planning powers would bring to all communities
in GM before we could decide to pursue this course of action.
AGMA is concerned that the rationale behind the abolition
of RSS appears to be that the "imposition of housing figures"
at district level resulted in the lowest housing figures for many
years. GM has produced high housing figures up until 2009-10,
a period which coincided with RSS, but more crucially, with a
period of unprecedented economic growth. What is constraining
the delivery of housing is clearly not the imposition of regional
targets, but rather the lack of development and mortgage finance.
We are firmly of the view that this situation will not change
until finance availability increases.
The incentives offered through the New Homes Bonus
pre-suppose that development will go ahead - that is not our experience.
A recent review of our housing supply, including sites under construction
and those in the pipeline (with planning permission or allocated
in development plans) indicates that there is an abundance of
land for housing, but little possibility of development starting
on site in the short to medium term, due not to local opposition,
but, as above, to the shortage of investment and mortgage finance.
The AGMA authorities are committed broadly to the
figures which were in RSS as these were figures which reflected
or demographic projections. In general all districts are attempting
to bring forward significant housing growth over the new 15 years.
AGMA considers that financial incentives which underpin
development viability of schemes to "kickstart" development
would be more beneficial in a GM context and could result in significant
levels of new house buildingour emerging development plans
are making provision for around 200,000 new homes. This funding
needs to be "up-front" whereas the New Homes Bonus funding
seems likely to be retrospective. We are currently working with
the Homes & Communities Agency to maximise the impact of the
funds remaining in their capital programme for 2008-11. Through
close collaboration with housing association and private developer
partners, we currently anticipate a mixed programme of NAHP, Kickstart,
Homebuy and local authority new build investment will secure in
excess of 700 new homes from a programme of less than £30
This illustrates the potential impact of relatively
minor investment, even when this is constrained by the rules of
existing programmes and the need to focus only on projects able
to start on site this financial year. If New Homes Bonus funding
could form part of a more flexible cocktail of funding in line
with Government's decentralisation ambitions, then we see an opportunity
to bring it together with other levers such as the use of public
sector land assets, new models of private sector investment in
housing delivery focusing perhaps on opportunities to develop
for private renting, etc, to help drive housing delivery. We will
pursue those other options with our partners through our second
GM Local Investment Plan, but it would seem to be a missed opportunity
if the terms of New Homes Bonus funding prevented it being used
to add further momentum.
AGMA's history of collaboration means that a duty
to collaborate is not of itself a matter for concern. The establishment
of our Combined Authority and Local Enterprise Partnership are
a natural extension of our effective collaboration over the past