Tories commit planning suicide – again

Let’s be very clear, this is a dysfunctional coalition government desperately seeking measures to divert attention from the real problem – that economic plan A [austerity] isn’t working. The end game is now apparent, be it tomorrow or 2015, Labour can win the next general election, especially if, with Gordon out of the way, it signs a provisional pact with the Lib Dems.          

The latest diversion, to blame the lack of ‘growth’ on planning, is plain daft – and they’ve tried it before. They try to think that it is ‘red tape’ that is holding back growth, not the banks or their austerity policies.

For every large extension that isn’t refused or moderated by planning, there will be two happy persons: the home-owner and the contractor. There will be between 2 and 5 very unhappy persons:- the neighbours to the sides and at the back. The emotions of the latter will be stronger and linger longer than those of the home-owner. Democratically unsound…

For every green field in the green belt approved for a housing estate on previously ‘guaranteed countryside’, there will be two transient beneficiaries – the landowner and the contractor. There will be a whole village or market town’s worth of very angry people. Their anger will be even greater and last longer if the houses are for well off incomers and not, as previously promised, at least in part for local people in need. Another democratic disaster in waiting…

Bear in mind that the Tories learnt these lessons in the past:-

  • In 1988, Nicolas Ridley (not the one burnt at the stake) rescued a by election by agreeing to distinguish in planning between local need and open market. Thus the affordable housing system was born leading to thousands of targeted houses. To throw that way is as ill-considered as his own simultaneous attempt to protect his own backyard.
  • On at least two occasions, the Tories have proposed loosening the green belt. Each time a few growls from their very own faithful “saved” the green belts.
  • In 2010, they launched a bonfire of planning policies which had been developed with great care and consensus over 50 years. As per the usual tactic, they backed off a bit to give the impression that they were listening. The National Trust and the CPRE rather fell for it and accepted that their concerns about greenbelt and rural development had been met. But the house-builders / landowners weren’t satisfied. Thus a second attempt to push for greenbelt development, in the name of ‘growth’.

They must be either very desperate or very silly to try these tricks again

The real answer is well proven. The Housing Corporation used to sign off £millions of grants for housing schemes every year that met the real need and kept thousands of workers in work. The money was provided and this was a sound investment in durable infrastructure. The money is there today, there isn’t really a deficit – just tax the tax avoiders; tax aviation fuel and air ticket sales; cancel Trident and nuclear power; invest in renewables to generate revenue and reduce imports; create green jobs and reduce the dole and generate taxable income. And then – Bob’s your uncle. A happy 90% and the planet saved. Oh yes – and the next election won!

© John Youatt September 2012. 

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