Archive for September, 2013

Sunday Times Charter letter

The letter in today’s Sunday Times supporting CPRE’s charter to save our countryside was signed by many of the country’s finest artists and writers.   


In support of the Charter, Jeanette Winterson said: “We need imaginative people, not policy wonks or developers, to re-draw the UK housing strategy.  I don’t know why politicians can’t think in colour.  Especially the colour green.”  This may have concerned all CPRE’s policy wonks, but we support her drift.


Marina Lewycka captured the essence of CPRE’s approach brilliantly: “The countryside is like the lungs and cities are the heart.  We need to both to keep alive, but we need to keep them separate.  The worst thing is to let the city seep into the countryside, while allowing areas of our cities to become wasteland for growing weeds.”  (In case anyone thinks we want to develop every bit of brownfield land regardless of its importance for nature, I should make clear that CPRE is not anti-weeds.)


I’m hugely grateful to all the writers and artists who signed the letter.  Almost everyone we managed to contact agreed to sign, a tribute to how much people care about the countryside.  Here is the letter.  Continue reading ‘Sunday Times Charter letter’

Anne Power: meeting the housing challenge

A confession: when in my last blog I described the Green Alliance collection on housing as ‘very interesting’, I had not actually read it.  I have now, and it really is very interesting.  I will write another blog later in the week about some of the pieces in it, but for now I want to reproduce the great Prof. Anne Power’s essay, Meeting the housing challenge.

Anne spoke at a CPRE debate on suburbia last year and challenged us to come up with a vision for revitalising and densifying suburbia.  In her Green Alliance essay she emphasises the potential of the small brownfield sites that are always ignored when people call for more greenfield land to be released for housing.  She reinforces the argument CPRE made a few years ago in Untapped Potential, a report on micro-sites which revealed, to quote Lord Rogers’s foreword, that ‘there is a wealth of brownfield potential that remains untapped, but also proven steps that can be taken to make it more likely that this potential will be realised’.

Here is Anne Power’s essay.  I have highlighted a few passages.  Continue reading ‘Anne Power: meeting the housing challenge’

How to unblock home building

A very interesting new collection of essays on housing has just been published by Green Alliance, Green social democracy: better homes in better places.  My essay contributed as an ‘independent commentator’, is on how to get more homes built without sacrificing the countryside.  Here it is.

Britain needs more houses.  For years we have built too few new homes and converted too few existing buildings for housing, with the result that too many people are forced to live in housing conditions that shame a wealthy nation.  We have a housing crisis.

But setting ambitious targets and imposing development on local communities will not solve the crisis.  The last government tried that and the coalition is following a remarkably similar path, except that it calls it ‘localism’.  Top down imposition results in aggravation and poor development.  Numbers come to trump location, design and environmental efficiency, but still too few homes get built. Continue reading ‘How to unblock home building’

Breaking the Bag Habit: what next?

Congratulations to everyone involved in the decision to introduce a charge for single use bags.  The Liberal Democrat conference supported the policy last year, and now the party has seen it through.  But the coalition as a whole deserves credit, not least because it was under no pressure from the Opposition to bring in a charge.

CPRE helped found the Break the Bag Habit coalition in August last year. Continue reading ‘Breaking the Bag Habit: what next?’

New planning guidance: what a Boles-up

Planning seems to be in a state of permanent revolution.  At the end of last month, the Government opened a six week consultation on a great wodge of new guidance.  This follows a review led by Lord (Matthew) Taylor which set out to précis 7,000 pages of technical guidance.  The aim was not to alter the substance of the guidance but to make it more usable, and Lord Taylor and his colleagues were scrupulous in sticking to that brief.  But their work appears to have been Pickled, or Bolesed-up, with the introduction of significant new policy proposals on parking and housing affordability.    Continue reading ‘New planning guidance: what a Boles-up’