Does a “Tory target” really exist?
Throughout much of the debate surrounding the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework, much has been made of the “Tory target” i.e. a mandated housing target that Greater Manchester must meet. The big question though is does it even exist?
The target, or to give it its official name, the Local Housing Need, is created via a standardised methodology. The Government also imposed an outdated data set on the process based on 2014 household growth projections, rather than using the 2016 data set which projected lower growth. So the Government has to all intents and purposes indirectly produced the Local Housing Need figures.
However, in a letter received by Councillor James Daly of Bury dated February 2019, Secretary of State James Brokenshire (the most senior position at the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government) wrote that the housing need figure is “not a target” and should be the result of a “realistic assessment … using the standard method”. The result of this analysis would then be scrutinised by an independent inspector. The letter can be viewed here.
This point was further reiterated in a parliamentary debate on 21st February 2019 dedicated to the framework with Minister of State for Housing and Planning Kit Malthouse stating the Local Housing Need is just a “baseline” (viewable below). He offered the following clarification: “Any inspector will accept a properly evidenced and assessed variation from that target … If, for example, you have constraints like areas of outstanding natural beauty or greenbelt, or whatever it might be, and you can justify a lower number, then an inspector should accept that.”
UPDATE 5/3/2019: Kit Malthouse followed up the debate with a letter to Jim McMahon confirming the position of Government policy which can be viewed here.