Telegraph – More likley an expression of despair on lack of house-building – which government reforms had led to a collapse – than vote of confidence in the failed NPPF.
Local communities that once opposed new housing developments now support them because of the Coalition’s controversial planning reforms, the Government’s new planning minister has claimed.
In an article for The Telegraph, Brandon Lewis appeared to suggest that Nimbyism was on the wane as he said there had been a “dramatic swing” in public opinion – with almost half of people now in favour of new housing in their area.
He claimed the Government’s reforms, which introduced a presumption in favour of sustainable development, were responsible for this transformation because people now had a greater say in where new housing goes.
However the comments risk causing anger in the countryside where the Coalition’s reforms have triggered a huge surge in planning applications for new house building – often in the face of significant local opposition. Many communities across the country are fighting plans for new housing estates imposed by councils that have to meet new five year housing targets under the reforms.
The Government has published the results of a British Social Attitudes survey which found that the proportion of people in favour of house building in their area had risen from 28 per cent to 47 per cent between 2010 and 2013. By contrast, the proportion of people opposed to the construction of new homes in their communities fell from 46 per cent to 31 per cent in that time.
In his article, Mr Lewis, who was promoted to new Housing and Planning minister in last week’s reshuffle, hailed the survey as evidence that the Coalition’s planning reforms had made house building more acceptable.
“Since 2010 there has been a dramatic swing in public opinion about house building,” he said. “Now that local people have a bigger say over where new housing goes they are much happier to support housing building in their area.”
Writing on the Telegraph’s website, he said that this “changing mind-set” could be seen in an increase in new homes with planning permission after the introduction of the National Planning Policy Framework in March 2012.
He said: “This changing mind-set can now be seen in the pipeline of projects coming through the reformed planning system. Last year successful applications for major housing schemes were up 23 per cent, and planning permissions were granted for 216,000 new homes.
“The new planning system puts local people in control, so if they want to build more homes, they will.”
The Coalition has faced significant controversy over its decision to rip up 1,200 pages of planning protections and replace them with a new planning rulebook, known as the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), with a new bias in favour of sustainable development. Some claimed the reforms amounted to the greatest threat to the countryside since the Second World War.
In 2011, Greg Clark, the then planning minister, caused anger after saying that critics of the changes were behaving with “nihilistic selfishness”. His remarks prompted protests from groups such as the National Trust. The Telegraph launched a campaign against the changes, called ‘Hands Off Our Land’. The Coalition was ultimately forced to make changes to the framework because it became law in 2012.
In his article, Mr Lewis praised the Coalition’s two previous Planning ministers – Mr Clark and Nick Boles, who drew up and then drove through the reforms, ripping up protections that dated back to the 1940s.
Mr Lewis, who was given the job of both housing and planning minister in last week’s ministerial reshuffle, said: “It’s a job that has been brilliantly executed over the last four years by my predecessors Greg Clark and Nick Boles.
“Regional Strategies have been scrapped, thousands of pages of Government ‘guidance’ have been streamlined, and local communities have been put back in control.
“Those reforms are now complete. That’s why the Prime Minister has decided to reunite the housing and planning portfolios, and I am delighted to have been appointed the new Minister of State for both.”
But campaigners warned that many communities, particularly in rural areas, were battling unsuitable development from builders who were taking advantage of a bias in favour of sustainable development in the NPPF.
Shaun Spiers, chief executive of the Campaign to Protect Rural England, dismissed the report as a “propaganda bulletin” for the Government’s planning reforms.
He said: “The new minister suggests Nimbyism is dead but we know lots of communities are very concerned about poorly-sited housing on their doorsteps.
“It is very good news if more people are in favour of house building, but I think it is a bit hopeful to suggest that this is down to the Government’s planning reforms.”
Clive Betts MP, the chairman of the Communities and Local Government committee which is investigating the planning reforms, said: “It shows is that there is an increase in the understanding that we are short of housing and need to built more.
“Even if people have got a home, they have worries about their children getting one – getting a home for the next generation. There is evidence that the planning reforms are working in some places and not in others.
Steve Turner, from the Home Builders Federation, said the findings of the survey were “extremely positive” and pointed to a “growing acceptance of the need for more homes”. However, he said: “I am not sure it is accurate to link the planning reforms in 2012 to a sign change in public attitudes between 2010 and 2013.”
The British Social Attitudes study surveyed 3,000 people in 2010, and then 1,000 in 2013. The study also found that opposition to housing has fallen most among those aged 65 and over, from 52 per cent in 2010 to 30 per cent in 2013.