Azara Blog: Government puts further treacle into the planning system

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Date published: 2011/04/02

The BBC says:

People living in parts of England will be able to decide where new houses, shops and businesses should go in their neighbourhood, under a localism trial.

Seventeen pilot areas will get £20,000 to draft plans, which could be enacted once the Localism Bill becomes law.

The plans must comply with national planning policy, law and local strategy, and be backed by at least half of voters in a local referendum.

Labour says it will make council planning "incoherent and ineffective".

Labour also argues that the policy has been hastily put together and could make local authorities less effective.

But ministers say it will give people a say over the location of shops and schools and style of developments locally.
...
Housing minister Greg Clark said planning had become a controversial issue because people felt "alienated" from the process.

At least the government is doing a trial, that is about the only positive part of this announcement. The idea that voters can sensibly decide on where development should happen is far-fetched. And it certainly will not help sort out the treacle that the planning system has become in England. It will just make things worse by putting even more obstacles in place, because it allows no changes to the local strategy, which means that fewer developments will be allowed, not more.

For example, in Cambridge, pretty much all areas bordering the edge of Cambridge will get new housing developments the next few years (if the developers do not get cold feet because of the recession). The only area that is being exempted is Newnham, where the rich people live. If the government was serious about localism, then the rest of the city should have the right to force Newnham to take its fair share of development. As it is, this will not happen.

And Greg Clark is completely missing the point. The people whom he thinks are "alienated" from the planning process are the rich, propertied classes who want to stop all developments in their backyard because they deem it a threat to their privileged status. Needless to say, these are the one class of people who are capable of fighting the planning system, and so are "alienated" only because they resent having to make the effort to be obstructive (and once in awhile they lose).

The ordinary people of England struggle to afford to buy a house because prices are kept artificially high by the artificial restriction on building land, and it is they who are really alienated from the planning process, and it is they who the current government will continue to ignore.

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