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“Revolutionising the fraught local politics of planning”

  • by JW

“Solving our housing problem … requires confrontation with vested interests.”


Locally, the politicking over house-building is becoming increasingly fraught:

The Greater Exeter Strategic Plan “is dead”: long live the East Devon Local Plan! – Vision Group for Sidmouth

There is huge pressure for large towns and cities to expand.

Whether Torbay:

Campaigners face losing battle against housebuilding on Devon fields – Devon Live

Or Exeter:

Farringdon says ‘enough is enough’ – Radio Exe

Cities of whatever political make-up want to grow:

Housing crisis: Where are the most new homes being built? – BBC News

And Labour-run Exeter is no exception:

Major £55million infrastructure project set to begin this month | InYourArea Community


All political parties are coalitions, but when it comes to the Conservative party, there are fractures happening which could have profound effects on plans for house-building in Devon.

The current point of contention is the government’s proposals to change planning law:

The ‘planning revolution’ in house building – comment – Vision Group for Sidmouth

And revolt is brewing:

Planning and local democracy: of zoning laws and revolt – Vision Group for Sidmouth

Planning and local democracy: of zoning laws and revolt: part 2 – Vision Group for Sidmouth

What’s been particularly upsetting many is that an algorithm being used to calculate housing numbers “risks destroying suburbia and creating the slums of the future”:

Planning algorithm may destroy suburbia, Tory MPs warn Boris Johnson | News | The Times (paywall)

Tory critics force ministers to review planning algorithm | News | The Times

Algorithm angst: Conservatives detect the hand of Cummings in the planning white paper – West Country Bylines

Neil O’Brien: The next algorithm disaster – coming to a Conservative constituency near you. This time, it’s housing growth. | Conservative Home

Boris Johnson’s drive to build more houses will trigger the next Tory rebellion |


The most ferocious critique of the government’s proposals comes from Liam Halligan writing in the Telegraph, reproduced by East Devon Watch – with a few choice excerpts here. It shows the precariousness of that coalition within the Conservative party and some suggestions for “revolutionising the fraught local politics of planning”:


Housebuilders hold the key to homes crisis

Solving our housing problem requires tackling vested interests, and many of those are connected to the Conservative Party

The galling truth is that the big, powerful developers which hoover up most new planning permissions have long staged a deliberate go-slow, making higher profits overall by producing fewer homes so prices keep rising. Unless ministers acknowledge and tackle this massive market failure, our chronic housing shortage will remain – with all the social and political fallout that entails…

So the big boys control the rate at which homes come to market in certain localities, boosting profit margins way higher than they should be, while keeping smaller rivals at bay. And that’s why our housing market is “broken” – because the industry is largely controlled by a few large players deliberately restricting supply…

We need to free-up parts of the greenbelt – much of which is urban scrub. Far from being “concreted over”, it has doubled in size since the Seventies – and now covers 13pc of England’s land mass while housing, including gardens, accounts for little more than 1pc. This white paper flunks that challenge too, preserving all greenbelt land.

We must recognise, also, that “zonal” planning in some areas won’t much help smaller builders, or tackle unaffordability, when land prices, driven by speculation, remain sky high. When agricultural land is granted planning permission, its value can jump an astonishing 200-fold or more.

But the right to land ownership should not include the right to capture almost the entire value uplift when planning permission is granted – given that the uplift reflects state spending on local infrastructure and the efforts of local businesses to create amenities.

Uplift should be split 50-50 between landowners and local authorities. That would rein-in speculative pressure by making it less attractive to sit on land as prices rise, bringing more acreage to market. Plus, it would raise serious cash to provide schools, hospitals and other local public services, revolutionising the fraught local politics of planning.

“Solving our housing problem … requires confrontation with vested interests,” observed the late Roger Scruton last year, in one of his final interviews. “And an awful lot of those vested interests are, it has to be said, connected to the Conservative Party”.

Has Johnson got the intellectual grit and political determination to inject some genuine competition into our moribund housebuilding industry? Will he fight for capitalism or protect “crony capitalism” instead?

Housebuilders hold the key to homes crisis |

Housebuilders hold the key to homes crisis | East Devon Watch