Government halts plan to give West Yorkshire mayor 'strategic planning' powers as part of devolution deal

Whoever is elected as West Yorkshire's first metro mayor will not immediately be given new powers to raise taxes for major planning projects and create a county-wide planning strategy, the Government has announced.

Saturday, 10th April 2021, 7:00 am
West Yorkshrie Devolution deal
West Yorkshrie Devolution deal

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government published a statement saying these planning powers, which were part of the West Yorkshire devolution deal signed last year, "will not be conferred at this time" as the Government wants to reform the planning system.

Its controversial Planning for the Future vision, which received heavy criticism due to its 'mutant algorithm' which Tories feared would see large numbers of new homes built in the South East rather than urban areas of the North, was unveiled last summer.

And the government said that given this plan, "it would not seem sensible to proceed now with the conferral to the Mayor of strategic planning powers and the power to raise a strategic infrastructure tariff powers that may be subject to significant change."

It added: "Instead, government commits to confer these powers (or any equivalent powers established through planning reform) to the West Yorkshire Combined Authority when the position is clearer, either through primary legislation or bespoke orders."

The devolution deal signed by Chancellor Rishi Sunak and local leaders after months of negotiations last March came into force on February 1 this year.

The metro mayor who is elected in May will have a range of powers over transport and housing, as well as taking on the powers currently held by the police and crime commissioner to oversee West Yorkshire Police.

The original deal would have allowed the mayoral authority to seek consent to raise a 'strategic infrastructure tariff' to raise funding for strategic infrastructure.

It would also have conferred strategic planning powers to the mayor to create a 'spatial development strategy' across West Yorkshire, which if local leaders agreed would help guide the way planning issues are managed.

Local leaders say the deal will unlock more than £1.8 billion in investment to "drive up living standards through better transport, improved skills and stronger businesses, while tackling the climate emergency".

It includes a guaranteed £1.1 billion over the next 30 years in a new West Yorkshire Investment Fund, money to develop plans for future housing sites and a new heritage fund which will support the creation of a new British Library North in Leeds.

The Government - which has a target of building 300,000 homes a year - revised its planning formula for calculating housing need in December so that more homes would be built in major cities in the North and Midlands.

It came after a huge backlash from Conservative MPs regarding plans for the formula – dubbed a “mutant algorithm” – which would have focused housing in high value and rural areas in the South East.

The new algorithm proposes a cities and urban centres uplift, whereby 20 of England’s largest urban areas will have their housing targets increased by 35 per cent.