Theresa May’s long-awaited “industrial strategy” looks a bit thin….the government is making a habit of overpromising. What was billed as the biggest shake-up of the railways in 20 years turned out to be timid. The “biggest overhaul in a generation” of prisons has so far amounted to even less. Even with the publication of the much-advertised industrial strategy, Mrs May lacks a flagship domestic policy.
Well it wont be the Housing White Paper which after endless delays and interventions by number 10 and Mays massively over-promoted SPADS seems to have ever more meat lobbed off the bone and seems likely to emerge in skeletal form sometime in Feb, March, April?? with all substantial political meat scavenged by Nimbys.
The last few weeks and now months have been somewhat farcical with DCLG ministers in the press hailing policies is speeches and through leaks only for number 10 to reign back on them a week of two later – to the extent that the emergent draft White Paper is simply unable to deliver on the promise of Javid of a ónce and for all‘ solution to the Housing Crisis. Javid rightly predicted in his November speech o that successful governments had got into this mess out of fear of political reaction – that is exactly what has happened in his interactions with number 10, with a series of delays to the white paper and reports of fear of number 10 of a ‘backlash’ by the Shires. With policies like developing around stations in the Green Belt stripped off and seemingly of large scale land releases on Greenfield sites watered down. Number 10 is spinning that ít wants to see ‘more meat on the bones’deflecting from interventions that have seen all meat stripped away leaving a White Paper draft that simply cannot deliver.
May is making exactly the same mistake that Prescott made in his first years at DoE, fearing a backlash on Greenfield releases, beliving (against 70 years of evidence) that industrial/regional policy will see people flocking to the North solving everything when of course the growth areas of the North like Manchester also have a shortage of Brownfield sites. they persues not just a policy of Brownfield First (disgracefully stripped from the NPPF) but Éxtreme Brownfield First’ which leads to a reduction in land for housing because all of the evidence shows that policies promoting brownfield solutions, higher densities, empty shops to housing, commercial centre redevelopment, cant produce enough housing especially with limited government spending. Besides all are already government policy so what extra difference will saying again they are government policy make, except feeding into the Nimby Agenda that you shouldnt release Green land providing X housing because of a fantasy drip drip source of housing never located in actual earth space or cordinates which could only deliver x-y units. This is exactly the line pushed by appeal objectors and residents associations which simply wont believe the ‘facts’on housing numbers and so want to provide their alternatives.
As John Elledge states in the Guardian Today the solutions to the housing crisis are not that difficult in policy terms, they have been tried out in other countries and in other times in England and have been showed to work, intensification where it can be done and urban expansion and Garden Communities where it can’t, with social housing through land capture making up the gap where the market fails.
May seems to have a bizarre prejudice against Garden Cities, simply it seems because George Osborne liked them, and seems to be trying to shut down Ebbsfleet Garden City Development Corporation even though it has done its job and will deliver more completions than anywhere else this year. But by pushing for sweet small solutions that dont make waves she is simply appeasing the Nimbys and building up pressures down the line with endless appeal led developments for totally disproportionate developments of 100s of houses in small villages to make up the difference.
The DCLG seem to be responding with desperate solutions, like making houses ever smaller to make up the gap in numbers, and digging holes to bury station car parks. Just give every young person a coffin and dig a few holes – that will be a once and for all solution.