a cursory read of British newspapers suggests that even in these times of global economic uncertainty, little else matters as much as reforms of Britain’s antiquated planning regulations. A new National Planning Policy Framework prepared by Chancellor George Osborne will cut more than a thousand pages of regulation into a simple policy document containing a presumption in favour of development. Before I continue, I should declare an interest. The changes just announced by the British government including the controversial ‘presumption in favour of development’ were first proposed in a report I co-authored for the London think tank Policy Exchange. Incidentally, it was launched in February 2006 by none other than George Osborne MP. Osborne, then shadow chancellor, was very supportive of our ideas but equally aware of the political dynamite they are.
Dr Oliver Marc Hartwich Austrailian Business Spectator Although they are now backpedelling desperately and disowning the #NPPF we have been exposing for months their central role in setting its key ideas. Now we have it from the horses mouth, from their former chief economist. He is mistaken on timing as the 2007 report is ‘Living for the City ‘ whilst the relevant one is the 2006 report ‘the best laid plans’ co-authored with Alan W. Evans source of almost every statistic the chancellor quotes on the ‘cost’ of planning. That familiar figure Simon Wolfson of Next wrote the foreword. The basic idea of the report was that planning served to constrict the expansion of cities and that this pushed land prices up harming the economy. The report called for the abolition of the Green Belt, it attacked (page 48) the ‘inflexible, Soviet style, central planning system of so called ‘plan led’ development’ they go on that for this to change ‘there has to be some presumption in favour of development, a presumption which existed before the 1991 Act. After that date, since everything had to be in accordance with the plan’.
So the argument was crystal clear abolish restraint, allow sprawl, move away from plan -led and have a presumption in favour of development. And the report launched by George Osborne and best pal
The RTPI responded at the time
Confused, over-simplified and just plain wrong – a tissue of misinformation’ was how the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) described the latest report from the Policy Exchange, ‘Best laid plans’, set to be launched on Wednesday 24 January. The report shows a fundamental misunderstanding of the planning system and lacks any real evidence in support of their claims. Jim Claydon, President of the RTPI said: “This report is wrong, it is confused and often contradicts itself. The authors’ determination not to recognise contributing factors, such as employment patterns, transport infrastructure or good schools, could lead people to assume the report was written with a clear agenda – to undermine the planning system and allow chain-stores such as Next to be built anywhere. Government should not be persuaded to abandon our town centres in favour of a wave of out-of-town tin sheds. This report is a tissue of misinformation. “The authors of this report are five or six years behind developments in planning. Their conclusion states that planning can no longer be seen as affecting only the physical environment. The RTPI developed this position over five years ago in our ‘New Vision’ where we championed spatial planning. Sir Nicholas Stern recognised in his report the indispensable role planning plays in tackling climate change – by arguing for less planning the authors have shown that they have not understood this, and many other concepts.” Examples of poorly constructed arguments in the report include: The Policy Exchange report blames the planning system for constraining the delivery of houses. Yet two key studies both identify that land with planning permission sits empty. House builders have a role to play in delivering new homes yet the only time the Policy Exchange report mentions the term house builders is in listing consultancy work carried out by Professor Evans for the House Builders Federation. High land prices are judged by the report to be the ‘main obstacles to social mobility’. However land prices are not even across the UK. Failing northern towns are doing their best to create housing markets and make their land more valuable, and yet they share the same planning system. The housing market is not like other markets – they might as well be asking to abolish successful schools for pushing up property prices.
MArc Hartwich is certainly not a mainstream economist. He holds rather extreme view ultra pro-market of the Austrian school, he is also a member of the Mont Perelin Society which propagates them.