Thursday, 8 April 2010

Analysis of Regional Spatial Strategy Housing Targets for Salford

Analysis of the North West of England Plan: Regional Spatial Strategy 2010 for Salford

Published by the Government Office of the North West. 2008. 

Regional Overview

The North West regional housing target is 416,000 new units. The region's population is approx  6.7million (Census, 2001).  The North West is an area of 5469 square miles (14,165km2).  On average the region is expected to build 76 new homes for every square mile.

Each local authority within the region is set allocation of this broader target.  Clearly some authorities are bigger than others in terms of area and population.  So Manchester, for example, is expected to provide 15% of the 416,000 units - around 62,000 new homes, which will be quite of challenge given that Manchester is already relatively built up and has little space in which to expand.

But what are the implications for Salford?


Table 1: Greater Manchester Housing Targets


Local authority

Housing target as % of NW total

No. of units




% of NW




















































Table 1 shows the housing targets identified in the Regional Spatial Strategy for Greater Manchester.  The data is ranked according to size of the targets.  Salford is ranked 2nd after Manchester, as the city is expected to provide 7% new units to be constructed in the North West.  This equates to 28,800 new properties to be constructed within Salford's boundaries.  In other words – Salford with just 3% of the region's population plans to build 7% of the region's houses!

Several important questions emerge from this:

  1. What is the justification of this whopping target?  Comparable local authorities have been allocated much lower targets.  Oldham, for example, has almost an identical population, but its target is just 4000.   So why is Salford required to build over 24,000 more new homes than Oldham?

  2. Where are these homes to be built in Salford?  Salford is an area of just 37.5 sq miles.  To meet its target Salford will need to provide 768 homes per square mile.   However,  Chat Moss takes up 10.6 sq miles, almost a third of the city's area.  If we take this out of the equation, then Salford will need to build 1071 homes per square.  This is probably not  feasible, and hence the pressure to release green fields for development.


But, the stated policy is to concentrate new housing in the inner city on empty brownfield sites or redeveloping existing houses.  The regional strategy asks local government not to convert open space or green space: 


“Manchester / Salford and Liverpool / Knowsley – provision of sufficient new residential development to support the role of the Regional Centres and inner city areas, including those parts involved in the Government’s Housing Market Renewal Programme’s Pathfinder Initiative (including replacement and renewal of housing stock), as priority areas for economic growth and regeneration. Outside the inner city areas, development should be complementary to the regeneration of the inner core, and be focused on regenerating existing housing areas which suffer from high levels of deprivation” (emphasis added). Section 7.18. Part a. Page 63.

But if Salford is meet its target, inevitably this will put undue pressure on the release of green belt land for housing development.  This is preferred option of private sector developers, who in the most part oare unwilling to risk the expense of converting brownfield sites into habitable land.  Its much cheaper and profitable to build new homes in empty fields.


Where next?

  • We need an explanation and justification of the 28,800 target figure?  Given the demographic trends of the region and the city, I would suggest the target for Salford needs to be a lot lower to bring it into comparison with similar local authorities.

  • Why are there planing applications already going in to construct houses on green fields, when there is an abundance of empty land and empty existing properties within the city?  A thorough survey of the existing housing stock and availability of brownfield sites for housing development either needs to be completed or made public before any construction begins on greenbelt, farmland or unmanaged open space.  

I would love to see this data, because I suspect what it will show is that there 100s acres of suitable space within the city available for new housing which is currently lying empty because of unscrupulous private landlords just sitting on the land or through failed property developers, victims of the credit crunch.  I also suspect such a survey will show that the city suffers from a massive under-occupancy problem.  Salford has an ageing population, with many large family homes occupied by single people or couples.  And many new apartments in central Salford, like Manchester, are currently empty - as much as 40%.  Essentially the private sector has built the wrong type of housing and in the wrong type of area and nobody wants to live in their tiny expensive flats.  What is needed is stronger policies to construct family housing in inner city areas like Blackfriars, Chapel Street, Seedley and Langworthy.  But hey ho, we have just witnessed the demolition of hundreds of terraced houses in these areas.

Author: Steve Millington 8th April 2010




Wyrdtimes said...

When did the people of the "north west" of England or England as a whole give permission for their country to be broken into regions?

Steve M said...

The regions referred to here reflect how the country is administered by regional bureaucracies. This goes back to the beginning of regional policy in the 1930s.

The key problem is that these regions are purely administrative, and don't reflect any strong regional cultural identity and neither do they map onto functional economic spaces, such as travel-to-work areas.

People don't identify with these regions. Research in the North West shows that people here identify more closely with the concept of Granadaland than they do the North West. Many people and businesses in Cumbria would actually rather be in the North East.

And where we do have relatively strong regional identity, e.g. the North East, even the people there rejected plans for greater self-autonomy.

In global terms, however, England is missing out in not having strong regional government. When you look around the world at places doing well in the global economy, they tend to have very strong regional governance structures with real power to make strategic decisions e.g. German lander system, The THird Italy, Barcelona and Catalonia etc.

Unfortunately in England the regional assemblies don't even constitute a half-way houses and have failed miserably in encouraging regional development, because too much power is centralised in Whitehall and decisions affecting regional development have become part of a political game.

Tom said...

Steve - do you think the new Greater Manchester Authority will substitute well for "strong regional government". After all they will have the power to make policy on transport/skills etc

Steve M said...

It's a definite improvement on things as they stand. A conurbation like Greater Manchester needs a strategic planning authority. The abolition of the GMC by Thatcher in 1986 and the shift to a unitary system of local government has been a disaster. I guess the problem is that the new authority is kind of GMC-lite.

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