I always felt I was in a minority having a pet hate for the term ‘development management’, and only slightly less for ‘development control’ = it only sounded like you were keeping a house on a lease and neither described what DC officers do – which is not to control or manage the process of building something.
It would seem neither term is favoured in the NPPF, where we have Decision Taking. Not Decision Making. It sounds very American such as in terms like ‘take a meeting’ as in the scene from Annie Hall, but I am reliably assured that its usage is much more common in England, but still rare. 6.6% of usage net wide is the ‘take’ varient but 12% in England, where the usage is much more common in formal bureaucratic language. Which left one commentator on Word Reference Forum saying it
“Take a decision” is just a silly way of saying “make a decision”. It is favoured by people (like politicians and bureaucrats) who like to sound more important than other people. Another thing I have always thought possible, though, is that “taking” a decision is rather like a passive construction: a person who takes a decision maybe isn’t quite as responsible for the decision as a person who makes a decision.Take a decision” is a particularly annoying, pompous, jargonistic bit of bureaucratese. (Where is it being taken from?) It led to “take a meeting”, worse. It is, fortunately, heard less and less these days….Normal people, in everyday life, make decisions about what to do; politicians and bureaucrats take them. No one has ever taken a decision about what colour T-shirt to buy. “Take a decision” really, really is meaningless in English; it has an ascribed meaning, but no inherent meaning.
Of course its usage comes from the French, the language of Bureaucracy, where the ‘take’ usage is meaningful, though not at all in English. In closely related Spanish whenever you take a decision you never get around to actually making it. Very appropriate for planning then.
Alex Morton: The National Planning Policy Framework changes nothing
Alex Morton is Policy Exchange’s Senior Research Fellow for Housing and Planning.
The current planning system has utterly failed. Even after recent falls, the current system has seen house prices triple since the mid 1990s, and rents have soared with them.
At the same time as prices have gone up, housing construction has fallen back, because market forces do not really operate in housing. Analysts like the McKinsey Institute and the London School of Economics say that our creaking planning system puts us at a huge competitive disadvantage compared to our international competitors. On top of this the planning system lowers our quality of life.
Planning affects everything else in the country. The current system leads to so many bad consequences, that it’s difficult to know where to start. But amongst other things it means:
- A housing benefit bill heading to £25 billion.
- Around half of all areas now ‘unaffordable’ for private renters.
- A social housing waiting list of over 5 million people, almost 2 million households.
- Falling home ownership for the first time since the first world war.
- Ever smaller and unattractive housing.
- A destabilising housing bubble (which areas outside the Euro with more liberal planning avoided).
- The massive diversion of bank funds from small business investment into property speculation (75% of lending was for mortgages by 2007 and mortgage lending is rising while SME lending falls).
- The practice of ‘land-banking’, a necessary part of risk management in our slow and unwieldy system. This makes developers unable to cope with land prices falling and creates a cyclical trend of fewer and fewer homes.
- Destruction of green urban space, London lost greenery at 1.5% a year, while only 10% of England is developed. 67% of green belt is intensive farming or already used.
- Six of the top 50 most expensive cities in the World for office space (there simply isn’t that much derelict brownfield to convert and our system is bad at doing it).
- Destruction of manufacturing as no new sites can be built and old ones are converted (Brownfield first and the collapse of manufacturing as a share of GDP both begin in 1995).
- Land with planning permission costs over £1 million a hectare across England, versus £20,000 a hectare for intensive farming, meaning nothing left for quality construction.
- A quasi-cartel of housebuilders, creating high profit for large developers and less competition over time.
Almost all the attractive development, parks and homes that exist in this country were created well before 1947, whether Georgian terraces or Victorian villas, whether Hampstead Heath in London or Heaton Park in Manchester. We can all think of buildings created at the peak of the current system in the 1960s that are terrible. And we know that people prefer older buildings (and always did) through opinion polls. Yet the current system, based as it is on the complete overriding of private property by council planners, is somehow seen as good and worthy by some Conservatives. Concerns about development are not new. The green belt was first proposed in 1875 around London. There would be no Fulham, little of Hampstead and Highgate, Clapham and other areas. Eight million people would be crammed into an area around a third of London now. It would be a triumph of protecting countryside but a disaster for quality of life. Support for the existing system on the right is largely explained by two factors. Firstly, there is a lot of misinformation around. Around 10% of England is developed. Even in the South East it is less than 20%. Secondly and more importantly, new development imposes a cost on local people, particularly if it is mediocre. Councils gain and at the peak of the last bubble collected £5 billion in 2007 under something called Section 106 agreements. Council incentives in the UK don’t work both because they are too small per council and because those affected by new homes gain nothing from them. We need to stop insulting NIMBYs and instead understand their concerns. We need to reform the system to force developers to build better homes and places. Our report Cities for Growth argued for new Garden Cities but also for fundamental planning reform based on four principles:
- Less interference on brownfield sites. If an office wants to change to a home or someone wants to build a small extension this would be automatic unless a) neighbours are clearly affected b) a majority of those affected complain.
- Compensation for those near new development, and a levy on green field development to pay for new parks and open public spaces around our cities.
- Direct quality control over new development by those who live nearby.
- Ultimate yes/no on new development going to local people.
We must break the vicious cycle of the current system which has produced ugly, small, cramped, expensive development. The tragedy is that the less we build, the more land costs, the more land costs, the less green and attractive new development is. An ever worsening cycle.
We need a planning system that creates more high quality homes and open and attractive public green spaces. Thatcher argued “If a Tory does not believe that private property is one of the main bulwarks of individual freedom, then he had better become a socialist and have done with it.” We need a planning system that is designed to work with private property rights – not based on 1940s style utopian economic and social planning where government knows best.
Will the government’s proposals break us free from the old, failed system?
The reforms represent some progress, but not enough. The vested interests from the big developers to National Trust support the NPPF because it changes nothing. While much of the national level guidance is simplified, local authority planning and town hall bureaucrats remain at the centre of the system. The attempt to move away from top town targets to local incentives is broadly right too. But the incentives that are now being set up still aren’t targeted enough on those who are most affected by development – money still flows to the council, not local people. The government needs to go much further in breaking from the old way of doing things. Allowing people to change the use of empty buildings could help – but that idea is facing resistance from town hall planners. New garden cities would have big advantages too – but will the government succeed in pushing them through, or will they go the way of Gordon Brown’s flopped “Eco Towns”?
Got an appeal to fight, a deadline to meet, costs to fend off, dont worry MUDDLINE is hear to help.
Our cracking up, sorry crack team of ancient, sorry highly experienced Town Planners is here to answer your questions – before we go home at 4.
If you cant square what Greg Clark said in the commons and what is said on the page ‘well get back to you’.
And if you are claiming costs our new CASH FOR MUDD service will help you CRUSH THE MUSH – those arguments for those who read planning policy to say what they want rather than what it means.
So call CASH FOR MUDD on 0303 44 45500 MUDD now – so we can spend the rest of the day arguing about the answer, before we get outsourced to Bangalore.
Terms and Planning Conditions apply. House prices can crash spectacularly as well as rise.
After the good headlines, well at least in the Telegraph, yesterday for the NPPF the profession and others are waking up to well how ‘Muddy’ much of the NPPF is – as the Guardian Editorial today rightly says.
The Times says ‘victories for all’ hmmm. Of course the ‘mutual gains’ Smart-growth approach can reduce conflict and satisfy many previous opponents and much of what we advocated as been taken on board, a rare practical triumph for some planning theory there, but as a number of commentators such as Simon Heffer, Damien Carrington, myself, Roger Humber, even Colin Miles have said this is probably because they haven’t read it because the mud is very thickly encrusted on many key paras (see our not rushed out and containing errors like some others responses). Indeed it is likely that conflict will be resumed once it is realised how paper thin some ‘protections’ such as those on protecting greenfield land, actually are. Indeed we suspect the compromise with the Treasury was to give the impression of enhanced protection for political reasons whilst in actuality allowing the reality of relaxed control to be found through implementation after only a few weeks. Since when did that kind of approach ever work in the long term politically? It just gets you past the Easter reshuffle.
The final NPPF has a few typos and errors and a lot more cases where its meaning is opaque, in some cases unintentionally, in other it seems to avoid taking hard policy decisions or making the true implication of policy implicit.
Helpfully a helpline has been set up – Chief Planning Officers Letter
To assist with any questions that local planning authorities may have about the implications of the Framework for plan making or decision taking, a helpline has been established jointly between the Local Government Association, the Planning Inspectorate and the Department for Communities and Local Government. The helpline is available from 9am until 4pm, Monday to Friday until further notice, on 0303 44 45500.
Of course many questions will be daft and the answer will be as they say on the internet – RTFM. But others will be quite pointed. I can already think of a few dozen. But then again im not LPA. I expect some cries from the private sector that this puts them at a disadvantaged in having matters clarified and access to the latest interpretations. For example a developer might be basing a whole appeal on a counsels opinion on the meaning of a paragraph and the Muddline might give an interpretation that is ‘common sense’ from a planner not a lawyer. Such advice is of course subject to FOI as it concerns the implementation of policy not its development.
However a recent supreme court decision has underlined that the interpretation by planners of policy cannot be stretched beyond the logical ordinary language meaning of words, and you have to do this prior to undertaking any professional judgement. I write about the case here.
planning authorities do not live in the world of Humpty Dumpty: they cannot make the development plan [& any other material consideration] mean whatever they would like it to mean….If there is a dispute about the meaning of the words included in a policy document which a planning authority is bound to take into account, it is of course for the court to determine as a matter of law what the words are capable of meaning. If the decision maker attachs a meaning to the words they are not properly capable of bearing, then it will have made an error of law, and it will have failed properly to understand the policy.”
It is not a question which can be answered by the exercise of planning judgment: it is a logically prior question as to the issue to which planning judgment requires to be directed….Whether there has in fact been a misunderstanding of the policy, and whether any such misunderstanding may have led to a flawed decision, has therefore to be considered.
So to my mind those manning the Muddline, and answering the emails at Eland House, need to apply this two stage test and not read into any paras which are shown to open to different interpretations, or not giving the interpretation the Minister wanted, the interpretation they want it have rather than a reasonable person would have. In fact in some cases this may require an errata. Even in the medium term a policy shift where feedback shows problems.
You may not have noticed but the first errata was issued today over a typo we spotted cross referencing to the wrong document. We emailed DCLG and it was quickly fixed. This means the NPPF on the website today is different than yesterdays. However for any more significant errata it may be disastrous if the correction results in slightly different versions of the NPPF being used at an inquiry. Scotland, Wales and NI all have well developed errata recording and clarification systems. England, as ever, should learn from its more advanced neighbours.
Whatever you think of the sustainability of gas and coal the government policy on the CO2 emissions of the energy mix between the two is not coherent.
The Chancellor in the budget praised gas as a cheap lower carbon than coal source. Again whatever you think about the dash for gas and fracking it is lower carbon than coal.
So if the overall carbon targets are met there has to be substitution between the two. Neither coal or gas receives any cross subsidy so substitution has to be arranged by either emissions controls or planning controls on either the source extraction or power plants.
Interestingly yesterday the Obama Administration
effectively blocked the construction of any new coal-fired power plants on Tuesday, introducing rules to cut carbon dioxide emissions from the next generation of plants.
Now if government policy is to move away from an energy mineral it makes sense to restrict growth in extraction of that energy mineral. If there is an energy shortage you would want to relax other planning controls to expand – such as when famously Durham wanted to demolish lots of small villages to increase open cast. When the need is less you apply controls and issues such as impacts of proximity more strictly.
Now there is no strategic case for coal.
You could argue that this can be solved through carbon capture and storage, however this will always be expensive, more expensive than for gas, is not wholly effective, reduces the energy efficiency and hence increases the CO2 emissions of the plan and is a technological second best to treating carbon emissions as a carbonate resource for manufacturing.
The NPPF is already being interpreted as making open cast (para 149. a bit easier), though thankfully the technical limits on noise, dust and proximity remain and are evidence based and not based on an arbitrary distance.
Are then energy policy and planning policy, which of course fulfil separate but complementary roles, pulling in opposite directions?
It would be interesting to see if anyone could successfully argue that para 149 should be interpreted as meaning that coal is against the ‘national interest’ because it fills up the UKs carbon envelope and is therefore unsustainable development. Remember this is not an argument about energy effectiveness – which is not a planning matter, but about carbon effectiveness, which is.
The response is published on the DCLG Select commitee website and is not up yet, including the intruiging 5 I think recommendations not accepted (3 are obvious like a final consultation). We should also see a response to the question of where the burden of proof lies.
Government response to Select Committee report on draft National Planning Policy Framework
“I warmly welcome the DCLG select committee’s constructive recommendations to the draft Framework consultation. I invited the Committee to make specific suggestions to the draft framework and am grateful for the practical and measured way they have approached the exercise.
The Committee concluded that “we can report that most witnesses to our inquiry were broadly content with the concept and approach of the NPPF in simplifying planning guidance and did not want a wholesale rewrite.” (p7)
In particular, the Committee considered that “it is reasonable and practical for the NPPF to have as an overarching principle a presumption in favour of sustainable development.” (p32)
And indeed that “if the final NPPF contains an agreed definition of sustainable development which is balanced and comprehensive, then the ‘presumption in favour of sustainable development’ becomes a very constructive part of the Government’s wider environmental, social and economic agendas.” (p22)
The Committee helpfully provides its own suggested definition of sustainable development (p28) which it considers would achieve this purpose.
It is a definition that respects the core Brundtland definition but reflects the balance between economic, social and environmental dimensions. The Government will carefully consider the proposed approach.
Mr Clark said:
“The Government will consider carefully each of the suggestions that have been made, along with all responses to the consultation.
“We are determined that the National Planning Policy Framework will put power into the hands of local people, through a simpler, clearer system, which safeguards our natural and historic environment while allowing the jobs and homes to be created that our country needs.”
The Committee’s report establishes common ground with the Government that:
- The planning system needs to be simpler and more accessible (p63)
- The local plan is the starting point for decisions (p4)
- The current absence of plans has been a contributory factor to the shortage of homes (p48)
- That a ‘presumption in favour of sustainable development’ should be a golden thread running through the planning system (Press release)
- The definition of sustainable development should be based on the longstanding Brundtland definition (p24)
- Local Authorities should be incentivised to have plans in place as soon as possible (pg 41- 42)
- Transition arrangements should be established in consultation with local government (p53)
The report makes specific constructive suggestions including:
- An expanded definition of sustainable development (p28)
- Standardising key terms – such as weight in decision making (p15)
- Emphasising the importance of the local plan (p34)
- Clarifying the expression of policy on brownfield land, offices in town centres and windfall sites (p57-60)
The government has no idea if its radical changes will turbo-charge growth or ruin landscapes, making them not so much a straw in the wind as a haystack in a hurricane
So which is it? Is it driving a JCB digger through thickets of strangling red tape, as Chancellor George Osborne suggested in his budget? Or is it a sensitive streamlining that will leave communities able to “live their lives tomorrow better than today”, as planning minister Greg Clark said when announcing the revised national planning policy framework?
The short answer is no-one knows and until the inevitable court battles play out, no one will. That in itself is utterly extraordinary. Why plough ahead with Osborne’s “biggest reduction of business red tape ever undertaken” with no idea of the consequences for either the economy or the environment?
A bundle of environmental “red tape” was thrown on the bonfire earlier in March, with environment secretary Caroline Spelman saying it would save business £1bn over five years. Where is the equivalent estimate for the much-vaunted economic benefits of slashing planning rules down from over 1,000 to 50 pages?
Using the emollient Clark to announce the revised planning changes was certainly smart in presentational terms, given the bluff and combative style of his boss, Eric Pickles. But so sweet were Clark’s soothing words that one planning expert was left asking “where is all the housing that it is needed going to go, given all these protections?” In direct contradiction, the CBI praised the government for “holding its nerve” in tackling a planning regime that has “acted as a drag on growth for too long.”
So what’s the reality? It’s clear the new plan makes a series of concessions to the many opponents of the original proposals, including on the definition of “sustainable” development; restoring the need to prioritise brownfield sites; the transitional arrangements for places currently without a local planning strategy; and on the “intrinsic value” of otherwise unprotected countryside, which makes up 55% of the nation.
But are these concessions significant? Let’s take the first one. The definition of “sustainable development” has been expanded to explicitly encompass five principles: living within environmental limits; ensuring a healthy and just society; achieving a sustainable economy; promoting good governance; and using sound science responsibly. Does that look like a clear, easily interpretable set of rules to you, or a field day for lawyers?
The truth is this enormous upheaval in the rules that protect our landscapes and wildlife is a straw in the wind, or perhaps more accurately, a haystack in a hurricane. The government has no idea what it will deliver.
Osborne’s desire was certainly clear: growth at any environmental cost to jolt the nation’s flatlining economy. But burned by the farcical attempted sell-off of the public forests and the searing backlash to the original “build, baby, build” planning proposals, Clark and Pickles have backed down a step or two. Labour’s Hillary Benn taunted them by asking which minister had told Osborne he was behaving “like the Taliban over planning” (my money was on Pickles but I’m told that’s not so).
An irony not to be missed is that, in their own constituencies, Osborne has opposed two waste-to-energy plants, Pickles an old folks’ home and Clark 6,000 new homes. So, as ever, all politics is local. The impact of these seismic planning changes will only be known when local communities, who are told they are newly-empowered to control planning, have fought out their battles with the developers, who are told everything holding them back has been hacked away. They can’t both be right.
Ministers stripped out 95 per cent of Britain’s ‘impenetrable’ planning laws yesterday but immediately caused fears for the future of the countryside.
Planning Minister Greg Clark brushed aside opposition from conservation groups to signal the biggest shake-up in the planning system for decades.
He said the changes, which came into force immediately, would help provide the jobs and homes needed to get the economy moving again.
A series of concessions divided opponents of the changes yesterday.
Councils will be encouraged to bring brownfield sites back into use before giving permission to build on green fields.
They will also be expected to give priority to town centre sites.
And Mr Clark said the new planning regime would recognise the ‘intrinsic value of the countryside’, as well as strengthening protections for the Green Belt and national parks.
Councils have also been given a year to come up with detailed plans on where they want to see development.
But ministers have refused to back down over their controversial ‘presumption in favour of sustainable development’, which means planning applications will have to be approved unless they can be shown to be against the ‘collective interest’.
The National Trust, which led the opposition to the reforms, said the revised guidance had a ‘better tone and balance’ than the original.
But Ruth Davis, from Greenpeace, said: ‘The reforms were based on a flawed assumption… that we can boost the economy by uprooting decades of protection for the natural habitat and the countryside. This is misguided, dangerous and wrong.’
The Woodland Trust said it was ‘severely disappointed’ with the final document. Chief executive Sue Holden said: ‘Ancient woodland remains significantly threatened under this new framework.’
But business leaders welcomed the changes as a boost for the economy.
Experts claim the bureaucratic planning system costs the economy up to £3billion a year. Simon Walker, director general of the Institute of Directors, said: ‘Being able to develop new shops, houses and factories is crucial to delivering economic growth, and too often planning regulations have prevented that. Britain needs to get building again, and these reforms allow that to happen – as long as they are followed through.’
The radical changes replace more than 1,300 pages of complex planning guidance with a single streamlined document running to just 50 pages.
A string of top-down targets imposed by Labour have also been scrapped. Instead, ministers are now urging local communities to take responsibility for planning in their own areas.
Critics have warned that the move will lead to a string of court challenges as developers, conservation groups and local campaigners line up to test the new law.
Labour said the changes were a recipe for ‘chaos and confusion’. Shadow Communities Secretary Hilary Benn said: ‘The Government’s planning reforms could cause widespread delay and chaos with many developments held up while the courts decide how to interpret this radically new and untested approach.
This would both harm the house building we desperately need and put our countryside and green spaces at risk of unwanted development.’
But Mr Clark insisted ministers had listened to the Government’s critics, adding: ‘The framework guarantees robust protections for our natural and historic environment, and goes further by requiring net improvements to put right some of the neglect that has been visited on us.’
Simon Heffer is that rare beast these days a right wing Keynsian Liberal – so an explanation for why he hates neo-liberal planning policy & property spivs.
Britain’s economic future, says Planning Minister Greg Clark, depends on property developers being allowed to concrete over large parts of Britain.
This is why, yesterday, he gave councils the power to allow building in places where it has been banned for 65 years.
It was the 1947 Town and Country Planning Act that provided protection to large areas of Green Belt and ensured that post-war housing developments were built on other land.
However, Mr Clark and the Coalition Government believe that those sensible restrictions hold back prosperity and, therefore, they are backing a major liberalisation of planning laws.
A sign of how much of a field day for lawyers the new rules will be was given by Mr Clark himself. His guidelines say that there is ‘a presumption in favour of sustainable development’. However, he said there was no reason why that ‘presumption’ couldn’t be overridden.
But that was simply his interpretation: others might, and with property developers breathing down their necks no doubt will, interpret the presumption differently. This means that countryside preservation groups who gave the Government report a cautious welcome should examine the small print.
The truth is that major new building projects play a big part in the Government’s economic policy.
According to ministers, the country’s prosperity will be harmed if such schemes don’t go ahead. For example, long-term prosperity will be damaged if the promised £32 billion high-speed railway between London and Birmingham is not built.
Any philanthropic motives behind this vision should be discounted at once. At a time when it seems the Conservative Party’s main priority is to find very rich people to bankroll it, perhaps we should not be surprised that ministers seem so keen to make property developers happy.
Just about the first people to salute Mr Clark’s proposals — which could irrevocably change the face of the countryside, notably in crowded areas such as the South East — were the British Property Federation, mouthpiece of the property spivs.
Indeed, such was their enthusiasm that they praised the report ten minutes before Mr Clark rose to make his statement on it in the Commons, and more than an hour before it went online.
Either the federation has a clairvoyant, or someone gave it preferential advance information about this developer-friendly policy.
Mr Clark said that building on brownfield [abandoned or unused industrial] sites would be encouraged, which is good. But he also said that all development has to be ‘sustainable’. Yet it is unclear what this means.
The example he gave was that — in his view — a shopping centre built outside a town centre was not ‘sustainable’. What, though, if a vast housing estate were built on what one lobbyist for development yesterday called ‘nondescript agricultural land’? Presumably, at that point, the shopping centre on land adjoining it becomes ‘sustainable’.
Local councils will be asked to make a judgment on what is or is not ‘sustainable’. However, two different planning committees are highly unlikely to come to the same conclusion.
There will be a problem, too, if any council seeks to use the accepted definition of ‘sustainable development’ as its yardstick. For the definition is in five parts — having originally been set out in a document published by the Blair government in 2005 and embodying all the meaningless gobbledygook of that regime.
The rules are ‘living within environmental limits’, ‘ensuring a strong, healthy and just society’, ‘achieving a sustainable economy’, ‘promoting good governance’ and ‘using sound science responsibly’.
What some of this incomprehensible planning-speak has to do with building houses is unclear. These are the clichés of environmentalist claptrap, and would — if you accept the politically correct definition of ‘sound science’ — allow the building of wind farms the length of Britain.
Above all, the Government’s decision to make it easier to build houses is underpinned by assumptions that must be subjected to the fiercest scrutiny. The first is what really lies behind the supposedly shocking statistic that the average age of first-time buyers is nearly 40, suggesting we need more houses.
True, the price of property is prohibitive for many, and it depends partly on the balance of supply and demand. However, first-time buyers’ ability to purchase property depends on the availability of finance.
It is currently extremely difficult to borrow money. Unless that changes and banks make funds available, we can build thousands more homes, but people will still struggle to afford them.
Also, buyers in the South-East must compete with large numbers of recent arrivals to this country who are mostly interested only in living in or near London.
The fact is that if our Government chooses not to restrict immigration, we face trying to cram millions more people into a space that cannot sustain them.
Let’s not forget that governments have encouraged family breakdown, refusing to support marriage and making divorce so easy. This places enormous additional demand on housing. As a policy, that is truly unsustainable. When more housing is allowed, more roads, schools and shops must automatically follow, eating up yet more land.
It is precisely because land is a finite resource that we must husband it carefully. The normal laws of the free market cannot apply. If you look at places where restraint has not been followed — such as in Ireland where huge swathes of countryside are pock-marked with abandoned speculative-build housing estates — you understand why there must be rules.
Yet George Osborne, the Chancellor, boasted that the proposed planning reforms would lead to the biggest reduction in business red tape ever undertaken. He claimed that firms were taking their business — and jobs — to other countries because of England’s planning rules.
It’s unfortunate that when the Chancellor got round to cutting red tape, it was the wrong sort. Rules to stop indiscriminate building are almost the only regulations the public actually support, because of the protection they give for their quality of life. It is elsewhere that red tape needs to be reduced.
With business parks half-empty because of the absence of a growth strategy and the huge increase in retailing on the internet, industry badly needs fewer taxes on jobs and far less employment regulation.
Leaving aside the favour these planning law reforms offer to the Tories’ rich friends in the property business, several Cabinet ministers are guilty of deep hypocrisy by supporting these changes. For many have blocked the building of new developments in their own backyards.
Mr Osborne’s was the first signature on a petition in 2010 against an energy-from-waste plant in his Cheshire constituency. And Eric Pickles, Mr Clark’s boss, successfully campaigned against a composting site and residential home for the elderly being built in his.
Anyone who lives in the South-East experiences daily the problems of this island running out of space; not just in the high price of property, but also in the overloading of roads and public transport systems.
Property developers love building in and around London because of the high rate of return on investment. So the Government must stimulate demand for land in the regions to take pressure off the South-East.
This can be achieved by cuts in corporation tax and VAT to encourage businesses to move to the Midlands and North.
If Mr Osborne finds the courage to press ahead with his suggestion to introduce regional pay for public sector workers, he will make it easier for private enterprise to set up in areas where average wages are currently inflated by generous state pay.
Also, in the South-East, no development should be allowed except on brownfield sites. To encourage this, owners of such areas should be made to pay a derelict land tax to reflect the economic cost of doing nothing with their land.
Given the Government’s desperation to raise revenue to pay off the national debt, it is amazing this hasn’t been thought of before — though the truth is that such a tax would punish some of its friends in the property business who are sitting tight until land values rise.
Leave London in almost any direction, and a glance from your train or car window reveals derelict land in abundance. Such sites prove that if the South-East must be further built up, there is no need to do it on the Green Belt.
Our overcrowded island is difficult enough to live upon as it is. It would be outrageous if the obligation the Tory Party feels it has to enrich property spivs were to make things still worse.
The architect of the Government’s planning reforms – which pave the way for swathes of Green Belt to be concreted over – grew up a stranger to the countryside.
Greg Clark, the Minister for Planning, Decentralisation and Cities, lived on a deprived Middlesbrough estate.
He was also, for many years, a stranger to the Conservative Party.
In the early 1980s, Clark, 45, joined the SDP, the left-of-centre party which preceded the Liberal Democrats.
His political heroine was not Margaret Thatcher but Shirley Williams, a founder of the SDP, who as Labour education secretary shut down hundreds of grammar schools in the 1970s.
Even though he converted to the Tory Party after the disintegration of the SDP in the early 1990s, Clark never abandoned all his ideological baggage.
He proved the point in 2006 when he argued that Sir Winston Churchill should no longer be regarded as one of the Tory Party’s cultural and political icons.
Instead, Clark, who in 2005 was elected MP for true-blue Tunbridge Wells, argued that the Tories should embrace the views of Guardian columnist Polly Toynbee, the high priestess of the Labour Left.
‘It is Polly Toynbee who supplies imagery that is more appropriate for Conservative social policy in the 21st century,’ he wrote in an article in The Guardian (where else?).
The intervention by Clark, who was then a key adviser to David Cameron, infuriated the party’s grassroots supporters.It was seen as another indication of how far the Conservative ‘modernisers’ were willing to go to break with the party’s past.
Now, in his role under Eric Pickles in the Department of Communities and Local Government, he finds himself at the eye of the storm in the row over the new planning legislation
To most mainstream Tories, Ms Toynbee is a torch-bearer for the high-taxing, high-spending, nanny state policies of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown’s Britain.
Clark is the son of a milkman, as was his father before him.
His mother worked on a Sainsbury’s checkout.
Thanks to his intelligence and drive, he was the first member of his family to go to university, studying Economics at Cambridge.
After he joined the Tory Party in the early 1990s, he was talent spotted writing policy papers for the cross-party think tank the Social Market Foundation.
He went on to work as a special adviser to Ian Lang, who was Trade and Industry Secretary in John Major’s government, and had a stint at the BBC in charge of commercial policy.
Clark then had a brief, undistinguished spell as a Westminster City councillor before becoming head of policy for William Hague when he was leader of the Conservative Party.
Now, in his role under Eric Pickles in the Department of Communities and Local Government, he finds himself at the eye of the storm in the row over the new planning legislation.
The Coalition’s proposals have alienated not just the National Trust and the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England.
They have also led to thousands of Tory members in the shires, where much of the building will take place, witholding their subscriptions from the party.
In a recent interview, Clark revealed he loves cycling with his wife Helen and their three children in Tunbridge Wells.
He described the constituency as a ‘glorious, undiscovered part of the world: wonderful views, rolling hills, beautiful woods’.
It may not be so beautiful when the property developers and their diggers move in.
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