|But CPRE won't let you have one|
We're off again.
A campaign backed by 18 British countryside and environmental groups has called on Robert Jenrick, the Housing Secretary, to abandon the Government's controversial proposals to build the new homes under a reformed planning system.It doesn't come as a surprise to see this coalition of organisations that have been, to put it mildly, at the forefront of the UK's NIMBY Movement. A movement that has resulted in the housing crisis that, on days when the media aren't complaining about new homes spoiling their nice view, we hear about so often. The crisis of rising rough sleeping, escalating waiting lists, sky-high rents, housing costs sucking up ever larger parts of people's incomes, and a wrold for some where the choice between paying the rent and feeding the kids is real. It is an act of callous selfishness to think keeping your view is more important than housing the poor, the young and the homeless - yet that is precisely what CPRE is about, what NIMBYism gives us, the ultimate 'we're alright Jack' outlook.
The RSPB, Woodland Trust and the Ramblers walking charity are among those saying the plans would be disastrous for Britain's green spaces. The CPRE, a countryside charity leading the campaign, warned that the proposals would see a "halving" of local democracy, with little option for local people to object to developments.
It is striking that, despite their utter selfishness, the positioning of this CPRE objection to building any houses anywhere at all is now couched in terms of democracy. As if my 'right' to object to somebody building houses is more important than people having affordable homes to live in? And, as if the objections of a few hundred people should be allowed to trample over the needs and desires of people who'd like to buy or rent a home somewhere nice where they can reach their job?
This is the reality of the CPRE campaign. It's a celebration of the loud. A championing of government by aggressive lobbying. The view that being able to stop your neighbour building in his or her field is the acme of democracy, that removing (in truth reforming) that degree of interference will "halve" local democracy.
Put simply this is nonsense - unless you think that the entire purpose of local governmen tis as a conduit for objections to things. The government's proposed move from the current system to a zoning system doesn't remove local choice or local control, it shifts it away from the ridiculous situation where developments that local planning policy says are appropriate for housing development get blocked by the discretionary planning system. Choices about that local planning policy will still be subject to democratic control, they just won't be as conveniently exploitable as CPRE and its friends would like.
Our planning system is the single biggest reason we have a housing crissis. Not just that but it's a huge drain on our economic growth and development, slowing down social mobility, reducing choice and adding huge unneeded costs. Reforming it would be the single best thing we could do to meet the needs of rising generation, many who see no prospect of doing what my generation did and buying their own home. The proposed reforms - and the need, denied by CPRE, for at least 300,000 new homes per year - represent a small step towards a planning system that protects the best of our countryside while allowing the development of homes for all.