Whether or not this Coalition Government is for or against new housebuilding, the effect of changes to national planning policy guidance announced today is almost universally expected by the construction sector and town planners to reduce the total number of new homes being built.
Surely encouraging housebuilding should be a key component in ensuring economic recovery in the UK, creating genuine jobs and creating real wealth. Whether or not it is intended, unless it is amended, the new planning regime is likely to have the opposite effect.
What could potentially amount to a freeze on planning permission for new homes comes at a time when the UK economy is barely recovering from the worst recession since the 1930s, and we are building fewer new homes than at almost any time since the Second World War.
There is a major shortage of quality homes where they are needed, and the idea that the UKs empty homes offers any sort of solution is misguided – most of these empty homes lie in the old industrial cities of the north, where there is all too often little employment and little demand for housing.
Hopefully common sense will prevail, and local authorities, the RTPI and the Planning Inspectorate will interpret the new planning guidance sensibly and ensure that it is applied to prevent genuinely inappropriate development, whilst not allowing NIMBYs to bring a halt to the new homes this country so badly needs to build.
Sadly ‘localism’ – placing power in the hands of NIMBYs – is only likely to have one outcome when it comes to new housebuilding.