With six new Metro Mayors elected in a major shake-up of devolved responsibility and local government, our teams look at the implications across planning, housing, investment and sustainable development.
“Change creates opportunity and we’re optimistic that the UK’s new Metro Mayors can use their powers to positive effect. But as for any political representative, the electorate will only be patient to a point so key for both the individuals and the credibility of the office will be to secure early wins and show an immediate impact.
“On planning and development, we welcome the powers being vested in the new Mayors and their ability to channel investment in line with their priorities. The result should be more effective delivery – what the Mayor wants to see happen should in theory happen. Across the board, housing, jobs and transport will be top priorities for investment as well as delivery and need to be to support the whole country.
“Critically, the urgency with which Mayors will have to prove themselves should stimulate action. You would hope they would have political support locally, to enable delivery on the ground. For those of us involved in planning and development, this combination of the need for action and the control of finance that the Mayor has should create opportunities. I certainly hope so.” - Mark Sitch, Senior Partner
West of England
“It was fantastic to hear Tim Bowles commit, within the first few hours of his election, to working with the three existing leaders of local authorities within the area to address housing, transport and planning matters.
“His three-year term of office coincides with a period in which hugely important decisions need to be made about the scale and location of development for the next 20 years. Later this year, the three authorities over which the Mayor takes on new powers, together with neighbouring North Somerset, will be publishing a Joint Spatial Development Plan for consultation covering the period up to 2036. Whilst the Metro Mayor will only gain his strategic planning powers in May 2017, there is absolutely no chance that the plan being drafted by the existing Council leaders will be in place by that time, so it is critical the aspirations of the Mayor and the existing leaders are aligned.
“The new Mayor will need to find a way bring together the West of England’s decision makers to finalise a plan for submission to the Planning Inspectorate later next year. Unless the plan changes significantly from earlier drafts, there is a huge risk that it will be thrown out. If the initial proposals for only 105,000 homes over the next 20 years is not increased towards the c. 140,000 – 150,000 homes that independent assessments think are necessary, then it is unthinkable that the plan will be supported by the Inspectorate. The biggest challenge for the Mayor will be bringing together the West of England’s leadership so that it can take forward a more realistic plan that grapples with the big issues of housing, transport and, dare I say it, the Green Belt.” - Simon Prescott, Partner
Cambridge and Peterborough
“The job starts now for James Palmer as he steps up for a role commanding some big budgets and big responsibilities. With a £20 million annual budget and the powers to spend up to £800 million on local housing, infrastructure and jobs, he has the opportunity to make a significant difference to a region with pressing needs. Infrastructure and housing must come forward and they need to happen together. The Mayor has the chance to make a positive difference and he needs to take it.
“His pledges on transport infrastructure in particular are bold and interesting. I welcome the vision but there will be complex challenges too. What we must have for the Mayor to be successful and for this new office to make a meaningful difference is leadership, cooperation with all of the various stakeholders, and the drive to make things happen. He will be creating and investing in a long-term vision which needs the buy in from all of these stakeholders and that’s no easy task. It’s early days so let’s see what the Mayor can do.” - Gareth Wilson, Partner
“Congratulations to Andy Burnham on his decisive victory in Greater Manchester’s mayoral election. The powers and funding vested in these new positions across the country should bring many benefits to more effective housing delivery and planning, yet here many in the development industry will now be waiting with baited breath to see what Burnham does with the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework. Going back to the drawing board on this framework at this stage, if Burnham sticks to his manifesto pledge, could create delays and a period of prolonged uncertainty – which is not a recipe for encouraging development. So all eyes will be on how Burnham works with council leaders on this spatial plan, and how he will support the required housing delivery in the meantime.” - Dan Mitchell, Partner
“Steve Rotherham's election as the first ever metro mayor for the Liverpool City Region is a historic appointment and represents a further opportunity to maximise the economic growth that stems from Liverpool2 as well as driving investment in rail infrastructure, housing delivery, and regeneration across the entire combined authority area. With £900m made available to this position over the next 30 years, Steve Rotherham now needs to ensure development and growth spreads out beyond the city of Liverpool to secure benefits for the city region as a whole.
“Key to his success will be building a strong relationship with the region’s other key decision-makers, most notably Joe Anderson, and we would expect a natural synergy between these two Labour Mayors. But by also working closely alongside Andy Burnham in Manchester, there is a real opportunity for Steve Rotherham to push the North West to the forefront of the wider Northern Powerhouse agenda, and promote the Liverpool City Region as a great place to live, work and invest.” - Greg Dickson, Planning Director
“Andy Street's manifesto included some significant and necessary commitments from building 165,000 homes by 2030 to helping to transform public transport in the region, with the expansion of the metro and reopening of various heavy rail lines. We hope to see these promises delivered soon and hope the new Mayor provides some cohesion for the various members of the combined authority, to continue to support the positive growth the West Midlands is experiencing.” - Kathryn Ventham, Partner
“As head of the combined authority, it is crucial that Ben Houchen brings together the region’s decision-makers – including Sue Jeffrey and other Labour leaders, as well as building a strong relationship with the Conservative government to secure benefits for the region. There is a real opportunity for strategic decisions to be made for Tees Valley. We hope that the Mayor uses his £15m a year to increase housing delivery and improve local high streets, such as Middlesbrough town centre, as well as improving infrastructure beyond the Durham Tees Valley Airport, to support the advancement of the region as a whole.” - James Hall, Partner
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