The Four Tried and Failed Fallacies of Gove’s New Approach to Planning


A source close to Mr Gove said he was committed to hitting the Government’s target of building 300,000 new homes a year in the middle of this decade.

One source said: “He is in listening mode and we have been talking to backbenchers. Our focus is definitely on brownfield sites.”

One new idea is to replace these growth zones, where development would be largely unrestricted, with smaller growth sites to avoid a risk of a “Manhattanization” in some towns and suburbs, where they become heavily developed.

The Telegraph disclosed last month that 61 Tory MPs had signed a letter to Mr Gove and the Prime Minister asking that the Planning Bill is given pre-legislative scrutiny before it is formally introduced in Parliament.

Allowing this “pre-legislative scrutiny” would show that ministers are open to finding a middle ground when the proposals are discussed. This request was made directly to Mr Gove at the meeting with rebel MPs last month.

Some facts

There is no evidence that regeneration in the north will reduce housing demand in the South. Recovery in the north reduces outmigration and increase immigration , but it also boosts household formation and wealth in the north and upskilled and higher wage people in levelled up areas will now have more ability to move south for jobs in the South so long as wages and productivity are higher there, which they will be for decades. Also more housebuilding in north is more houses for retirees from the south to move into. Shifting housing targets between functional economic area is a bad idea from John Prescot which first led to the massive escalation of house prices in the 90s as the pressure was taken off on building in the South. It tried and was proven to fail.

Brownfield First. Well again the policy was tried and failed as it just throttled supply and eas badly and unworkably drafted. About two years brownfield supply for South East. You cant meet Woking’s housing need in Hull. Even if you took all the nations brownfields it meets only around 2 million houses out of a need for around 15 million over 15 years. Even by CPRE’s most optimistic figures it doesn’t work.

No Manhattan’s. If course if you want every city to look like Manhattan you go for Brownfield only – just look at Leeds. This seems to be an idea ive heard every now and again from Tory housing spokes people that if only you built a few homes in villages everywhere you don’t need these new towns and large sites. Problem is it doesn’t work. I’ve done the numbers on this blog on many posts over 15 years. It means the typical rural tory authority doubling the size of every village in 15 years -political suicide. I did the numbers for Stratford District for example. A developer printed the numbers for every village for every resident and the political backlash led to members almost instantly switching from a dispersed strategy (which they had introduced away from a concentrated one because of opposition in Stratford) back to one of concentration and even adding a Garden Community. Always the political pain will be less, and far more sustainable, from Garden Communities strategies. The fact that Gioe even thinks and uses terms such as ‘Manhattenisation’ shows how ill informed and still ill read in his brief he is.

Also in growth zones or sites whatever you call them if planning schemes/permission in principle survived development would not be restricted and the draft bill would not im sure have proposed that. Rather you can restrict heights or any design parameter through parameter plans and design codes. You you want to see an example of failure see the millions of houses built without a proper zoning system driven by good masterplanning on the continent. Of course Give hates anything European (blaming them for everything) – like regional investment, more housebuilding, better design, zero carbon new developments, better cycling provision etc. etc. So I doubt he will listen to evidence or sense.

So don’t panic that the Uber Nimby’s and the CPRE see a tiny chink of light and reveal there real agenda, which is not just to reduce housebuilding but almost eliminate it, even from past permissions. Reality will hot ministers in the face and we will get yet another u turn in a couple of years time.

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