Monday, 13 May 2019

NIMBYs gonna NIMBY (and why the planning reform we need will be so hard)

To understand why (however much doing so is the right thing) it'll be tricky getting major reform of planning policies to allow better land supply and ultimately more affordable housing, here's the new leader of Uttlesford Council (Uttlesford is the bit of Essex round Saffron Walden) explaining his plans:
R4U will also revisit where the new towns will go and how many new homes are needed. After Brexit he says an economic downturn may mean fewer people moving here.
While the Great Brexit Train Crash is largely to blame for Conservative collapse here, it's worth noting that this new leader points at a growth-oriented local plan as the thing that matters. Along with his pals, John Lodge wants to re-apply the tourniquet to the local area - limiting new housing and stifling the potential economic growth that should accompany the expansion to Stanstead Airport.

Across the south of England groups got elected committed to preventing new housing, limiting growth and riding the narrow self-interest of existing home-owners. These groups have a variety of names - most commonly (name of place) Residents or (name of place) Independents but sometimes just plain old-fashion Liberal Democrats - but the unifying feature to them all is that 'residents voice' always means 'not in my back yard', these are NIMBY parties and they're going to NIMBY good and hard.

The current local plan process isn't fit for purpose - it takes an age to produce, is compromised by endless central government tinkering, and produces a system that doesn't meet housing need while, at the same time, promoting NIMBY attitudes. It's not just Green Belts (only 6% of Uttlesford is in the Green Belt) but the view that, as Cllr. Lodge puts it, "we will decide..." when outside Green Belt, UK law tells us that there's a presumption in favour of development and it rests with the planning authority to give reasons for any refusal that are compliant with local plans and national guidance.

Up here in Bradford, we are now in our 12th year of preparing our local plan - we've agreed a core strategy but, as a result of the latest bit of central government tinkering, we're in the process of reviewing the central part of that strategy - how many houses we need. The number right now is 43,500 and, under the (not yet introduced but, you know, we'll use it won't we) standardised method, this might drop a little. And, at some point in the next two years, we might get around to considering the actual land allocations to build those houses, a process that will take at least two years.

The whole strategic planning system is a joke but it will stay so long as it can be used to secure anti-growth, anti-housing policies at a local level. And we'll continue to see the likes of Cllr. Lodge elected with a mission to deliver NIMBY policies - mostly by booting the growth into long grass labelled 'infrastructure'.


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