Building Design – Localism Has Failed – Osborne Right to Take Powers Back

BD  Amanda Baillieu

what really matters is Osborne’s two-fold message.

First, that localism is failing a younger generation who can’t get on the housing ladder and, second, he’s had enough of our selfish ways.

We are the problem – not planners, banks, overseas investors buying off-plan or housebuilders hoarding land, but all of us who have somewhere decent to live and choose to deny that right to anyone less fortunate.

And it’s no longer just NIMBYs in their Gloucestershire villages who are stamping their green wellies in protest; it’s people in Havering and Hampstead as well who have taken advantage of localism’s improvisational nature to say “no”.

But this was not how it was supposed to be.

The Localism Act gave people power to decide about new development in their area with the proviso it would only be allowed if they voted for it.

While “neighbourhood plans” are not perfect – they are too complicated and have proved expensive to implement – they gave people a chance to say what they thought development should look like and where they wanted it.

To date, only 35 plans have been adopted (one in London) and they are almost all concerned with hyper-local issues, like parking and the design of traffic junctions, rather than the bigger picture.

Local plans have fared no better. More that half of all district councils lack an up-to-date local plan, not because they’re under-resourced and being bullied by housebuilders, as the TCPA would have us believe, but because a local plan would mean councils having to take their fair share of the total UK housing need, which they clearly don’t want to do.

Many of these councils are Conservative-led and what’s so exciting about Osborne’s proposals is that he’s taking on these recalcitrant Tory councils and telling that they’re out of time.

He’s also called time on his party which always has a tricky balancing act in the run-up to an election, with the last one no different.

In the first three months of this year Eric Pickles, then communities secretary, granted only 10% of called-in applications, blocking the development of 9,200 homes in Conservative-controlled areas. But in the three years prior to that he granted more than 70% of similar applications. Of course elections slow things down but such politically motivated decisions leave a bad taste in the mouth when people are desperate for somewhere to live.

And then there’s the time it all takes. Not just for planning but also to unlock sites in public ownership, which is another power Osborne has wrestled away because, left to their own devices, councils wouldn’t do it themselves.

Localism was a way around that, cutting red tape, transferring power to the local level and changing the way development took place. But it has failed. We were handed the reins, but it turns out we didn’t want them so Osborne has taken them back.

3 thoughts on “Building Design – Localism Has Failed – Osborne Right to Take Powers Back

  1. Dear Mr Lainton Our Local Plan at Bradford hasn’t been held up by NIMBYs but by a Council that is intent on defending the massively ambitious housing numbers that were proposed under the RSS despite the fact that all of the economic and population data shows that people are leaving the area in droves to seek work elsewhere. I live in Bradford. The Local Plan being proposed slaps loads of houses in the greenbelt while great swathes of Bradford and Keighley look as though they have been bombed because the old brownfield sites are lying derelict. House prices fell to a low of £92k up to 2012 and have risen to circa £94k since (from a pre-crash peak of £122K). The Local Plan proposed by our Council officers is based on data that has been manipulated in ways that are not legitimate to achieve this. It will not deliver the houses we need at a price people in Bradford can afford. It will enable developers to squirrel away greenbelt land on the edge of the Dales National Park and build second homes/homes for affluent retirees from other parts of the UK though. The mean property price in this area (which includes a lot of flats rather than houses) was in excess of £350k last time I looked.

    If you would like further details I can send them.

    Yours sincerely

    Jackie Thompson

  2. Housing numbers and their location are of course one of the major stumbling blocks for many councils, where the comfortable middle class have put down roots and see their property as a key element in the portfolio of investments.
    However, we also need to acknowledge that, even where that level of objection isn’t present, applications can also generate resistance, because what is being proposed is of poor quality, to put it mildly.

  3. Jackie’s comments can be echoed for Stratford on Avon DC.
    As a village/parish community we welcome appropriate development that meets the needs of our community. But our District council wants to dump a third of it’s housing requirement on our doorstep; in the process turning 4 villages in to the second largest settlement in the district. All this with no public transport and no secondary school. In the middle of the Warwickshire countryside.
    Don’t blame us NIMBYs for the failure of localism: the fault lies with the govement’s finger in the air figures and the District councils being forced to meet them by fair means or foul; with the help of pro conservative rapacious developers.

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