Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Why Not Just Build New Houses.

Affordable housing seems to dominate today's Telegraph. Front page announces that " House prices are at their most overvalued for 15 years" and page 4 previews an announcement by shadow housing minister, Michael Gove of a proposed new scheme which would allow househunters to buy only the actual building, leaving ownership of the site with a community trust. I will be interested to read details of this scheme - but the real answer is to eliminate the shortage by building more houses.

The main culprit is the planning system - the leviathon state at its worst. It is a real 'ball and chain' on local democracy and the single greatest cause of social disruption in our rural areas. The whole planning system needs a radical overhaul, giving much more freedom to Local Planning Authorities to decide what is appropriate for their own areas. If an LPA decides that it wants to satisfy an obvious local need by approving an application to build houses, why on earth should 'cental' government stop it.

So many young people's dreams of home ownership are destroyed by our planning system. So many marraiges founder on the frustrations imposed by our planning system. So many communities are asphyxiated by a planning system that eliminates green space in towns - because of a mindless ban on building elsewhere. So many of our rural services are rendered unviable as young people fail to find housing in their local areas.

The worst part of all this is the new grotesque rules which have been brought in to prevent local councillors expressing their opposition to their planning 'masters' - threat of costs - ban on speaking when there is even the tiniest remote pretext. We need a new planning system which allows people to build more houses. The most effective response to a shortage is an increase in supply.


Anonymous said...


as a I carry the double burden of being a qualified planner and aspirant AM can I add a few thoughts :

a) councils have many of the necessary freedoms to be proactive, if they so wish, (sites for 100% affordable housing, exceptions sites, negotiating affordable units on sites - see Carwyn's MIPPS of June 2006)

b) but the councils often choose more restrictive aproaches in the light of local pressures,

c) have you tried encouraging housing sites in the light of the often significant local opposition.

However I would agree that we need to build more houses and I suggest that the planning system can deliver that outcome if we apply the national policies available to us.

Martin Eaglestone
Prospective Assembly Candiidate -Arfon

Glyn Davies AM said...

Martin - I spent 6 years as Chair of a Local Planning Authority in the 1980s, which was a constant battle between members and officers who were only interpreting the Authorities own 'Development Plan' - which had to be approved by the Welsh Office (National Assembly now)and so did not reflect the Councillor's actual opinions.
And today the position is that if Coucillors threaten to grant permission outside the approved 'Plan' they are threatened with call-in and costs.
And any Councillor who has any knowledge whatsoever of the application is now barred from taking any part in the process - carrying the principle of 'interest' to ridiculous lengths.
I also worry about the meaning of 'affordable'. Too often it is used to limit the size of a new property to something more akin to a Wendy House - and I am being told that in Powys, there is even a move to introduce a condition stipulating a maximum price. This is too bizarre for words.
Anyway, for a planner ,you seem ready to address what is a hugely damaging social problem in rural Wales at present.

Anonymous said...

From your experiences I think I have often fallen in to the bracket of 'planners' you are not keen on !

However my recent experience includes the rural family who told the sob story to councillors, got their affordable permission (against officer advice), and sold the plot for many tens of thousands only a short time later.

However I fully recognise the tensions you describe, and am increasingly of the view that as a profession we need to find ways to "chill" a bit on how policies are interpreted- but the line between local deomocracy and local disaster can be thin indeed !

However my thinking is that the problem may now be more to do with local interpretation , rather than national policy.

Also the rows seem often over single plots, which I dont feel do anything for the real supply problem, but probaly reflect some tactical advantage about land ownership.

But it is a good debate that needs airing all round (see today's Daily Post) to generate energy and possible solutions. By the way the Comunity Land Trusts is gaining steam type 'Community Land Trusts' in to Google and read away......

Anonymous said...

Also featuring today on