This year, a record £12.2 billion in grants will support the creation of affordable homes. I welcome the extension of the affordable homes programme, which has delivered 464,500 new affordable homes since 2010. The recent announcement of a boost in funding by £9.5 billion over five years will help to unlock billions more in public and private investment.
Despite the excellent efforts of the Government, not only in increasing the supply of affordable housing but in truly trying to enshrine the best traditions of localism into the planning system, communities can still be at the mercy of local leaders who ignore the wishes of the people they serve. Nothing illustrates this better than a story—one I like to refer to as “A Tale of Two Andys”. Since Andy Burnham became Mayor of Greater Manchester Combined Authority, just 1,715 affordable homes were completed in 2017-18 and 1,619 in 2018-19. That represents a 19% and 24% reduction, respectively, compared with figures for 2014-15, showing that the supply of affordable housing has gone backwards in Greater Manchester. Yet in the smaller West Midlands Combined Authority area, 3,801 affordable homes were built in 2018-19 alone, under the watch of Andy Street.
I believe it is entirely possible to support the building of affordable homes and garner the support of local communities at the same time. Therefore, I cannot fathom the Mayor of Greater Manchester’s strategy to seemingly jettison the sensible policy of “brownfield first”, whereby permissions are more likely to carry the support of local communities and to support important regeneration products in our towns and cities, and warrant the destruction of our green belt instead.
I have been working with local campaign groups in Heywood and Middleton such as Save our Slattocks, Save Bamford Green Belt and campaigners at Crimble Mill to resist the disastrous Greater Manchester spatial framework. I will continue to do so. Andy Burnham’s plan, at present, demonstrates a woeful lack of community engagement. I will use my privilege as a Member of this House to urge him to reconsider. Dickens himself would have described the approach taken in the west midlands as “the age of wisdom”. I am afraid that in Greater Manchester, with Labour’s Mayor, we are witnessing “the age of foolishness”.