30 August 2011: Opposing the deregulation of planning could unite strange bedfellows says Bob Colenutt
Remember how the forests sell off was achieved by an alliance of anti-privatisation groups and Tory countryside lovers? The same alliance could come into play with the recent announced planning for deregulation of the planning system.
The coalition policy is contained with the draft National Planning Policy Framework released in July 2011. The key policy change at the heart of the document is ‘the presumption in favour of sustainable development’.
The non-controversial part of this is the word ‘sustainable’ which the framework says means preserving resources for future generations, taking into account economic, social and environmental considerations.
But the concern is whether this is meaningful, or honest, given the overriding concern of the government is growth and development. In effect, the word ‘sustainable’ equates with any new proposal for development. The politics are clear, the bottom lines of the development industry and business will prevail. And if local authorities and communities resist, lawyers for the developers will have a field day in court citing the ‘presumption’.
For a countryside in the South East which is mobilised against new housing this sounds like very bad news– and not what they elected a Tory/Lib Dem government for. As Camilla Cavendish wrote in the Times on 4 August: ‘Building in shires could demolish the Tory vote – relaxing planning rules to promote growth will cause an uproar that could dwarf the row over selling off forests.’
The NIMBYs are up in arms – and so are many other considered voices. The National Trust, CPRE, FoE and other groups are joining the clamour against the relaxation fearing building in the countryside which they had so relentlessly opposed when Labour was in office.
Thus the Tory-led growth programme for the South East looks very similar to the Labour one, albeit with more emphasis on business in distinction to Labour’s central government-imposed housing targets. In both cases local democracy gets short shrift.
Indeed, the framework runs straight up against the flagship Tory policy of localism. The localism voice sits uncomfortably with the presumption voice of government. How can you have local determination of planning schemes if the national policy is that there is a presumption in favour of giving planning permission - before the community has had its say? It makes no sense.
What should be the response of the left? In principle, we should support regulation of the land use planning system, but advocate going further to limit land prices and redistribute the benefits of high land values to poorer areas and to local communities. More housing in the South East is needed, particularly affordable housing. But the Tory market-led approach does not ensure balanced communities, affordable homes, decent design and environmental protection because of the presumption rule.
Thus, the need for an alliance to stop the white paper and to address the impasse between the NIMBYs and those who want to see a more socially just land, property and planning system.
After Woolwich – Stand together against the politics of hate Michael Calderbank says nothing excuses the Woolwich killing - but the hands of our political classes are no less besmirched with blood
Dawkins vs democracy Leigh Phillips looks at Richard Dawkins’ proposal to put scientists instead of bishops in the House of Lords
The Spark of learning Morten Thaysen Laurberg previews a week of workshops, skill shares, organising, and talks in London in the lead up to the G8
Right-to-buy in the great rip-off economy On the Woodberry Down estate in Hackney, all the council homes are being demolished in a £1billion regeneration project. It is a perfect illustration of why we have such a housing shortage says Koos Couvée
Fasting to support Guantanamo Bay hunger strikers We spoke to Maya Evans during her fast over the weekend in solidarity with Guantanamo Bay hunger-strikers
A new party of the left comes one step closer Salman Shaheen of Left Unity, the group supporting Ken Loach’s call for a new left party in Britain, reports from its first national meeting
Diary of a ‘wannabe MP’: local elections, UKIP and the left Davy Jones is Green Party parliamentary candidate for Brighton Kemptown at the next general election and a member of Red Pepper’s board. This is the second of a series of regular blogs on his campaign
South Africa’s poor resist home attacks Amid Britain's decision to cut aid for South Africa by 2015, Caroline Elliot hears from poor shack dwellers who vow to resist the destruction of their homes.
Open House begins this weekend in London A nine-day event bringing together people facing the housing crisis across London to organise and take action around our collective housing needs
Call to protect Colombian human rights defender On 10 October 2012, a man pushed a gun into the chest of Alfamir Castillo and told her that both she and her lawyer were going to die.
Confronting the Climate Crisis: Graham Petersen interview On Saturday 8 June the Campaign Against Climate Change Trade Union Group is holding a conference bringing together climate scientists, trade unionists and environmental activists. Red Pepper's environment editor Kara Moses speaks to Graham Petersen, UCU environment and Greener Jobs Alliance co-ordinator
Tapping the resistance in Greece A combination of opposing privatisation and putting forward practical alternatives is helping water campaigners mount an effective challenge to austerity in Greece. Hilary Wainwright reports
The seven faces of Michael Gove Mike Peters looks at how the Tory education secretary uses the words and ideas of the left to win support for his policies
The Brighton pay dispute: the union view GMB union organiser Rob Macey puts the workers' side of the argument
The pay dispute at Brighton council: a Green view Davy Jones, Green Party parliamentary candidate for Brighton Kemptown, gives his view of a dispute that has caused huge debate among Green Party members in the city and across the country