Dumb and Dumber Tank – Policy Exchange Jumps the Shark with its Latest Crazy ‘Reforms’

Alex Morton Complements his Successor Johnathan DuPont

Every few years the Policy Exchange comes up with a crazy report with ideas like abolishing the Green Belt, PD for change from employment making local plans toothless. For years they were ignored, at least they wernt as bad as the IEA with its abolish planning agenda.  Then their dumb tank ideas, ever more half baked and eccentric got implemented verabatum, after all it was founded by Cameron, Gove and Osborne.

Now after have shaped the planning system completely in their own image through the NPPF and the Localism Act, with disastrous effects having slowed down allocations of land rather than speeder them up; and breeding a new culture of Nimbyism recasting to the disempowering of  locally elected officials, you would think they might shot up in utter humility.  Far from it their modus operandum is to recycle the same report every year, slating the planning system created by their previous years reports, and proposed ever crazier, ever more eccentric and ever more counter-productive ‘reforms’.  The planning system must be smashed because it challenges the hegemony of untrammelled property rights.  The global evidence is clear that those countries that plan well grow quickest.  This fact must be wiped from the face of reality.  The Policy Exchange and neo-liberal agenda is to warp reality so that no possibility of a planned and shaped market remains.  Hence the NPPF is breeding a new Nimbyism, supported overtly by Eric Pickles, less and less land for housing is allocated, the planning system is deemed to have failed, Policy Exchange pushes ever more neo-liberal anti0planning reforms which see use ever closer to the point of abolition of control and build what you like where you like, rinse repeat.  It has and will go on for years until some government of any colour realises that the only way to build lots is to plan big and exiles the the Policy Exchange to the Dumb Tank ghetto where its reports are considered as dated and ignored as the Bow Group.

Some low lights of their latest non-research non-report.

Introduce a Presumption against Interference in the planning system with residents acting as quality control, rather than officials. Change of Use restrictions should be limited to clear externalities, and local plans should be drastically stripped back – no density targets, or top down regulation of minutiae like car spaces, bike standards or the number of hotel rooms. If less than half of the people in the immediate vicinity object, planning permission should automatically be granted subject to appropriate compensation.

Perhaps the biggest overall systematic barrier to improved competition and productivity comes from our overly restrictive planning system. Planning makes it harder for new firms to enter a market and for infrastructure to expand rapidly to enable supply and for workers to go where the jobs are. Most obviously, it prevents the UK from fully capitalising on the success of Europe’s most successful conglomeration in the South East. Just as important, however, is that it has almost certainly slowed growth in cities like Manchester through shortages in houses and office stock. The cost of regulation on office developments is equal to 250% of development costs in Birmingham, let alone London (400% to 800%), compared to only 0–50% in New York.69 One study found that since the 1980s, planning policies have restricted efficiency improvements in the retail sector by 25%.

Property is not a perfect free market: the decision to build a new housing estate or open a 24 hour club can affect others’ quality of life too. However, our seventy year strategy of trying to resolve these trade-offs through top down planning has not only failed, it has had much wider knock-on effects on our economy. Our restrictive planning system has led to smaller and more expensive houses, higher living costs, and a less dynamic economy. Instead of trying to plan an inevitably unknowable future, we should rely on local residents rather than bureaucrats to act as the quality control. We should introduce a Presumption Against Interference that people are free to do as they will with their property except where clear justification or requirement for intervention exists.

Investing in housing is a bet against planning reform ever gaining traction.

The ultimate cause of house price hyperinflation is a lack of housing supply, which in turn is the result of restrictive planning law. However, the costs of bad planning law to the British economy and saving go far beyond housing. When you look at intangible investments in things like research, training, design or branding, Britain is actually a world leader.105 It is only when it comes to building physical things that require land and the complex weighing up of wider and local interests that.

It is pretty clear that the author  (who never appears to have had a proper job) has never read anything on planning other than by Paul Cheshire and Alex Morton.  This is rather like a Dr learning medicine by reading the writings of David Tredinnick MP.    They have conducted no research on local  plans or land supply, none of the barriers to development, none of regulatory process, and we call this a think tank, all it does is recycle thinking, research, doesn’t come into it.  This is a first year essay that would be marked C- even for a PPE student.

Note the agenda, ‘planning reform’ is needed to produce more land for growth, so we need less planning, less planning means less land for growth, so we need ever more ‘planning reform’.

Reverse the cycle as dozens of countries around the globe, including our main economic competitors in Europe and BRICS, has shown succeeds, more and better planning leads to more land for growth, and growth that benefits eveyone rather than just the rentier elite that funds bodies like the Policy Exchange.  An elite that doesn’t want planning to succeed as its main income stream is through restricting access to land and charging everyone else for the privilege.  Perhaps the dumbest thing the Policy Exchange believes is that its benefactors want its reforms to succeed.

This is our 5,000th post. A change of WordPress theme is in order.


2 thoughts on “Dumb and Dumber Tank – Policy Exchange Jumps the Shark with its Latest Crazy ‘Reforms’

  1. “If less than half of the people in the immediate vicinity object, planning permission should automatically be granted subject to appropriate compensation.”

    Crikey. On the converse, a simple 50.1% objection allows preservation in aspic.

    Then again, if they can’t proof read the grammar, the fact the planning is a shambles isn’t especially surprising.

  2. Pingback: Pickles – You Are Local Decision Makers and You Will Make Exactly the Local Decision I Tell You to | Decisions, Decisions, Decisions

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