Archive for September, 2014

The party conference season: reasons to be gloomy

Housing was a big issue on the Labour conference fringe last week, as it will be at the other party conferences. Quite rightly, every meeting on the issue called for more building. Even CPRE’s event was held jointly with the Federation of Master Builders.

I am pro-house building, but not at any price, and it was disappointing to hear fringe speakers and audiences uncritically parrot the anti-planning line pumped out in recent years by the Treasury and the free market think-tanks. Continue reading ‘The party conference season: reasons to be gloomy’

On NIMBYs and the ‘battle for the countryside’

I have just seen that a piece I wrote last month for Show House, the house builders’ magazine, has been published. Here it is.

The programme for the Whathouse? ‘battle for the countryside debate’, in which CPRE’s Paul Miner is taking part, asks: ‘Will the UK’s NIMBY culture ever change? How can the new homes industry win over its harshest critics?’

Well, this critic might be more easily won over if the industry seemed less obsessed with battling NIMBYs. I do not deny that NIMBYs exist. There will always be people, perhaps even some in the house building industry, prepared to fight for the places they care about.

That is not necessarily a bad thing. Fight to save a local school or hospital and you are a community hero. So why should someone trying to save their local countryside be branded a selfish NIMBY? And looking at some of the eyesores that have won planning permission over the years – not all housing developments by any means – anyone can wish that NIMBYs were sometimes more successful.

Nevertheless, ‘not in my backyard’ implies that something bad is acceptable as long as it is in someone else’s someone else’s backyard. That is not a defensible stance, and certainly not one that is attractive to CPRE, an organisation set up by architects and planners, among others, and committed as much to promoting good quality development as to stopping things being built. Continue reading ‘On NIMBYs and the ‘battle for the countryside’’

Housing and the countryside: Hilary Benn’s CPRE lecture

I am looking forward to Hilary Benn’s CPRE Lecture tomorrow. He follows a distinguished line of previous speakers, including David Miliband, David Cameron, Nick Clegg, Caroline Lucas and, more recently, Greg Clark, Chris Huhne (when he was Energy and Climate Secretary) and Patrick McLoughlin


Hilary Benn made himself a CPRE hero when, as Environment Secretary, he approved the South Downs National Park, including the Western Weald. I am sure his speech tomorrow will be thoughtful and that he will grapple with the question of how England can get the housing we need without unnecessary loss of countryside. I do not expect that CPRE will agree with everything he says, but there are three areas we particularly hope he will cover.  


First, any future Labour government should seek to reinvigorate the urban renaissance. Continue reading ‘Housing and the countryside: Hilary Benn’s CPRE lecture’