Sunday, September 19, 2021

Planning for disaster?

Is Michael Gove going to row back on the Government’s plans to concrete over the countryside? He should do if he wants the Conservatives to win the next election.

The disco-dancing, nerdy new Secretary of State for Everything Important to Re-election has supposedly been told to do something to stop property developers decimating this green and pleasant land.

First off, he’ll have to abandon the Tories’ proposals to deny locals any say in what happens in their back yard and drop the idea that local councils are ordered to build X-thousand new homes whether they like it or not.

Sadly, even if the Government does trim its sails a bit and refuse to provide a blank cheque for property developers, not much will change because the planning system itself is in the hands of bureaucrats who will ensure it cannot change.

The local authority ‘experts’, the planning lawyers, the civil service command-and-control policy and the developers themselves will ensure nothing really puts the brakes on a rotten and corrupt system.

Yes, we need more homes (though we need fewer of them now most EU migrants have gone back home again). Yes, they need to be affordable for young people. And yes, they might as well be as environmentally-friendly as possible.

This can be achieved by re-purposing redundant town centres, unwanted office blocks and abandoned factories. It’s just a bit harder for the developers to do that and there may be a little less money to be made.

But the alternative of ploughing up the Green Belt is worse. And if Mr Gove does not realise that then he need only remember the Chesham and Amersham by-election when the seat was won by the Liberal Democrats with 57 per cent of the vote on a swing from the Conservatives of 25 per cent.