Monday, 11 February 2019

Planning is evil (or something like that...)

Over in the USA, Scott Beyer at Big City Sparkplug lays into how planning rules (zoning to Yanks) aren't just annoying they used by the rich, powerful and connected to get what they want:
Most readers are likely familiar with zoning’s practical purposes, such as separating incompatible uses or expelling nuisances. But they may not realize just how comprehensively it is now used to micromanage society, impose petty moralism and protect special interests. Are you a restaurant that doesn’t want competition from food carts? Just lobby for zoning that limits where they can open. Do you think fast food pollutes cities with unhealthy burgers and ugly signs? Pass an ordinance targeting them specifically in the language. Do you think big box stores are run by greedy corporations? Write laws that unfairly punish retail establishments above 75,000 square feet. These regulations are used most consequently, though, for housing—large developers desire complex zoning and building codes that create barriers to entry for smaller competitors, while homeowners aim to limit housing supply, inflating the price of their own property.
I know you're thinking that none of this sort of stuff would happen in civilised, uncorrupt England! How then are all of those things Scott lists features of UK plannng? We have bans on street food vendors, restrictions of new fast food outlets, Byzantine sequential tests for retailers, and an unholy alliance between NIMBYs, national housebuilders and town planners to limit the supply of housing (something that suits all such folk).

P J O'Rourke concluded that the US Congress' 'Omnibus Farm Bill' should be taken round the back of the barn and finished with an axe. May I respectfully such the same goes for use classes, zoning, sequential tests and all the restrictive, market-destroying rigmarole of town planning.



Etu said...

Maybe a young whippersnapper like you doesn't remember the Poulson scandal in West Yorkshire, Simon?

But if you do, then would you venture to suggest that the problem has been eradicated?

Etu said...

PS, I'm not sure whether the article is a swipe against planning law per se, in the UK and elsewhere, or not, really.

However, the UK's is some of the laxest in the EU in some regards. The consequences of that are counter-intuitive. Because buildings can be thrown up very cheaply, with ersatz stone, slate, and the rest, the profits in developing land are very large, since the land hoarders can always strangle supply. Naturally, the sellers of land want their share, in turn making land expensive, and a perfect, vicious circle is created.

Far stricter planning laws would give us a more beautiful country, and far better VFM homes. Development would cease to be a get-rich-quick scheme for scoundrels.