New Deal for Planning Must Avoid ‘Planning by Cronyism’ to Avoid any Chance of Success

We all await what Cummings has in store as part of the ‘New Deal for Planning’

I will write much more on this next week, including what is necessary as part of a wider package of measures to ‘make zoning work’.  It certainly wont work if presented as simply part of a wave of liberation and removing planning red tape.  Zoning is about reforming not replacing regulation.

A basic pre-requisite however is that ‘planning by cronyism’ must play no part otherwise the reforms will lack any moral or political justification.  The worst thing that could happen is simply to hand consenting powers to developer led development corporations.  Then effectively planning permissions would be seen as capable of being bought and sold depending on the scale of political donations.

Jenrck is a bust.  He will go in the sepember reshuffle.  Im sure th planning white paper and any new deal will wait until a new clean pair of hands is through teh door.  If it isnt then the reforms will have xero legimimacy.

There is nothing wrong with the development corporation as the main deliverer of change.  They have been around since the middle ages and when set iup correctly can be very successful.  The Olympics was a great success, the LDDC a great failure, spending a great deal of money investing in the wrong infrastructure  and then having to replace it at huge expense.    But boards of DCs packjed with developers has everywhere been a conduit for cronyism.  In many regimes they are packed with party palacemen.  They have become a vehicle for rent seeking.  Their power is used to wrench aside existing owners of property and development rights and then reallocate them to cronys.  They are the antithesis of free markets, property rights and competition.  Everything that Sunak says he is for.

A classic case is Cairo – a city I know well, which has been badly planned for 80 years.

The Guardian

Looming above the affluent Zamalek neighbourhood in the centre of Cairo, the Forte Tower has stood as the tallest building in Egypt for the last 30 years – yet it remains unfinished and abandoned. A …t was to be the first part of a “new Manhattan of Egypt”, a cluster of skyscrapers imagined by president Anwar Sadat to rise from Gezira Island in the middle of the Nile, signalling Cairo’s place on the world stage. Following Sadat’s assassination in 1981, the project hit the rocks.

Empty … the unfinished Forte Tower.

“This building sums up the Egyptian way,” says Mohamed Elshahed, author of a new architectural guidebook, Cairo Since 1900. “A developer gets direct permission from the president, then another president comes in with his own circle of businessmen who want a piece of the cake. The original investor says no. The project is abandoned. “

We can see the same pattern in crony led development corporations around the world.

This is what happens when the normal ‘liberal; virtues of democracy and the rule of law get replaced by dictat and decree.  We can already see the pages of the Daily Telegraph calls for the ‘orbanisation‘ of the political system, abolish elected mayors, human rights – they just get in the way.

Be very clear,  This is nothing to do with markets and efficiency,  It is everything to do with rewarding through rent seeking elites and political client groups who can be bought off at the expense of others – the only aim being retention and enlargement of political power.

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