Friday, September 02, 2011

Planning with no Plan

The British economy faces some serious questions about how it can grow in a sustainable way, but one thing has become clear: the planning laws are now so restrictive that they are not sustainable. The problem is that NIMBY-ism has mutated into BANANA-ism (Build absolutely nothing anywhere near anywhere). The consequences are villages that no longer have populations that can support a pub, let alone a school, shops or anything that makes a community- as a result the countryside is losing population fast.

It is in a word “unsustainable”.

Meanwhile the less than 7% of the land area that is actually built up has to take ever more of the population- and the costs of housing now put it out of reach of the majority of the young generation. Our “property-owning democracy” isn’t one.

The self appointed “defenders of the countryside” (funny how so many “Greens” turn out to be large landowners) continue to avoid tax by putting their land into trusts, so that for a large part of the land area of the country, we neither know the real ownership, nor do we receive a penny in tax: indeed the subsidies we give to the agro-business sector could pay for a whole new rail and road network.

The UK infrastructure is a joke- we can not continue to make do on the 19th century rail and mid 20th century road system.

The UK planning regime is draconian, arbitrary and restrictive and unless a more flexible and intelligent one is put in its place, the UK faces drastically higher costs and much lower living standards- that is the flip side of opinions these self-appointed “defenders of the countryside”. They are not evidence based, they are visceral and they will end up undermining our whole economic- and with it environmental- future.

BANANA-ism is anti-social special pleading, and it is time we had a far more realistic debate on the wider issues.

The Town and country planning act was routed in the neo-Marxist ideas of the time and has failed in every purpose it set itself: it does not protect sensitive sites and does not allow sufficient flexibility to allow growth where it is needed.

A full review of the planning regime in the UK is not "concreting over the country". Already more people are living in squalid and overcrowded conditions- as housing becomes unaffordable for more and more people, then a return to large scale programme of council housing will creep ever higher up the political agenda.

No comments: