Field day for developers

Opposing the deregulation of planning could unite strange bedfellows says Bob Colenutt

August 30, 2011
3 min read

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.


✹ Try our new pay-as-you-feel subscription — you choose how much to pay.

In Pictures: The World Transformed
Photos from The World Transformed festival in Liverpool, by David Walters

Utopia: Work less play more
A shorter working week would benefit everyone, writes Madeleine Ellis-Petersen

Short story: Syrenka
A short story by Kirsten Irving

Mum’s Colombian mine protest comes to London
Anne Harris reports on one woman’s fight against a multinational coal giant

Bike courier Maggie Dewhurst takes on the gig economy… and wins
We spoke to Mags about why she’s ‘biting the hand that feeds her’

Utopia: Daring to dream
Imagining a better world is the first step towards creating one. Ruth Potts introduces our special utopian issue

Utopia: Room for all
Nadhira Halim and Andy Edwards report on the range of creative responses to the housing crisis that are providing secure, affordable housing across the UK

A better Brexit
The left should not tail-end the establishment Bremoaners, argues Michael Calderbank

News from movements around the world
Compiled by James O’Nions

Podemos: In the Name of the People
'The emergence as a potential party of government is testament both to the richness of Spanish radical culture and the inventiveness of activists such as Errejón' - Jacob Mukherjee reviews Errejón and Mouffe's latest release

Survival Shake! – creative ways to resist the system
Social justice campaigner Sakina Sheikh describes a project to embolden young people through the arts

‘We don’t want to be an afterthought’: inside Momentum Kids
If Momentum is going to meet the challenge of being fully inclusive, a space must be provided for parents, mothers, carers, grandparents and children, write Jessie Hoskin and Natasha Josette

The Kurdish revolution – a report from Rojava
Peter Loo is supporting revolutionary social change in Northern Syria.

How to make your own media
Lorna Stephenson and Adam Cantwell-Corn on running a local media co-op

Book Review: The EU: an Obituary
Tim Holmes takes a look at John Gillingham's polemical history of the EU

Book Review: The End of Jewish Modernity
Author Daniel Lazar reviews Enzo Traverso's The End of Jewish Modernity

Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants
Ida-Sofie Picard introduces Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants – as told to Jenny Nelson

Book review: Angry White People: Coming Face to Face With the British Far-Right
Hilary Aked gets close up with the British far right in Hsiao-Hung Pai's latest release

University should not be a debt factory
Sheldon Ridley spoke to students taking part in their first national demonstration.

Book Review: The Day the Music Died – a Memoir
Sheila Rowbotham reviews the memoirs of BBC director and producer, Tony Garnett.

Power Games: A Political History
Malcolm Maclean reviews Jules Boykoff's Power Games: A Political History

Book Review: Sex, Needs and Queer Culture: from liberation to the post-gay
Aiming to re-evaluate the radicalism and efficacy of queer counterculture and rebellion - April Park takes us through David Alderson's new work.

A book review every day until Christmas at Red Pepper
Red Pepper will be publishing a new book review each day until Christmas

Book Review: Corbyn: The Strange Rebirth of Radical Politics
'In spite of the odds Corbyn is still standing' - Alex Doherty reviews Seymour's analysis of the rise of Corbyn

From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation
'A small manifesto for black liberation through socialist revolution' - Graham Campbell reviews Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor's 'From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation'

The abolition of Art History A-Level will exacerbate social inequality
This is a massive blow to the rights of ordinary kids to have the same opportunities as their more privileged peers. Danielle Child reports.

Mass civil disobedience in Sudan
A three-day general strike has brought Sudan to a stand still as people mobilise against the government and inequality. Jenny Nelson writes.

Mustang film review: Three fingers to Erdogan
Laura Nicholson reviews Mustang, Deniz Gamze Erguven’s unashamedly feminist film critique of Turkey’s creeping conservatism

What if the workers were in control?
Hilary Wainwright reflects on an attempt by British workers to produce a democratically determined alternative plan for their industry

Airport expansion is a racist policy
Climate change is a colonial crisis, writes Jo Ram


1