On Friday night, hundreds of top industry professionals gathered to hear from the candidates to become Greater Manchester’s first elected mayor; Andy Burnham, Sean Anstee and Jane Brophy, at the Midland Hotel.
PPS was delighted to be a sponsor for this well attended and exciting event, which was not so much a gentle start to the rounds of hustings likely to take place, but a full-on lively debate in a sold-out venue with the candidates poised intently at their lecterns. Experienced politicians they may be, but talking about housing to a room full of property professionals is a tough gig for even the most seasoned politico.
Unsurprisingly, a key topic for the evening was the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework with both Andy Burnham and Jane Brophy criticising the draft proposal in its current format. Mr Burnham said that: “Building according to the current framework doesn’t give the variety of homes we need. Transport is not integrated, it puts too many cars on the road, and it’s not ambitious enough for industry, it’s too dependent on warehouses, and we can aim higher.”
He also said: “It’s got to be the right plan and taking people with it, there’s no point pushing a plan that people are rejecting, and they’re right to have issues with it.”
Sean Anstee, Conservative candidate and Leader of Trafford Council, said in response to this that: “The spatial framework is critical to the future of Greater Manchester. The GMSF is not going to go away; it is with us for 20 years and needs to be flexible enough to work with a changing economy. The framework needs tough decisions, and every day we avoid a decision, or talk about rewriting, we’re letting down the people of the city, and not giving them the transport or the homes they need.”
He said: “We owe it to the 20,000 people who responded to do something with this plan. Let’s not make it a race to the bottom and use it as a political football.”
Interestingly, Mr Burnham also responded to a question regarding whether running for GM Mayor was a strategic career move: “If I was a career politician, I’d have stayed in Westminster. I’ve become disillusioned with how our political system works. There’s a Southern bias, and there’s only so much you can achieve as one voice amongst 650 with an intrinsic bias within the M25.”
Whether Mr Burnham is the candidate chosen by the people of Greater Manchester to take the region forward remains to be seen, but with just three months until voters go to the polls, this encounter is just the beginning of what is sure to be a hotly contested campaign in the run-up to the election on 4th May.