Archive for October, 2016

How to intensify the housing crisis

Tomorrow the Government will decide how it plans to intensify the housing crisis in the south-east and usher in more strife over house building. In other words, it is going to decide whether it favours expanding Heathrow, Gatwick or both.

The justification for airport expansion in the south-east is largely economic. Both airports have spent astonishing amounts of money lobbying MPs and others.[1] Heathrow, we are told, will add £211 billion to the UK economy by 2050 and create 80,000 new jobs in London and the South East. Gatwick’s backers claim a second runway “will generate 21,000 jobs at the airport, as well as indirect and catalytic employment” in “places such as” Croydon, Hastings and Brighton, i.e. across a pretty wide area.

This is investment that could help rebalance the UK’s economy, already skewed to the southern counties of England. These are jobs that could be created in the places that need them most, where there is more space within existing towns and cities to accommodate the workers. Continue reading ‘How to intensify the housing crisis’

Custom build in Holland: lessons for the UK

“Don’t let the developers near. They won’t develop.” That was the advice given to British planners in 2009 by Wulf Daseking, Freiburg’s chief planner for nearly 30 years.[1]

One way to speed things up and improve quality is custom and self-build housing, which puts the buyer in control of the development. The sector accounts for some 60% of new homes in France, around 80% in Austria. In Britain, it contributes only around 12-14,000 new homes a year, but it is attracting growing interest from politicians. So I was pleased to join a two-day visit to Amsterdam hosted by Igloo Regeneration to get a better idea of how it works.

Our first afternoon was spent in Almere, a new city 25 kilometres out of Amsterdam. Continue reading ‘Custom build in Holland: lessons for the UK’

Building near Green Belt stations

It is rumoured that the Communities Secretary, Sajid Javid set to announce a serious investment in house building and the infrastructure to go with it, with a strong emphasis on brownfield development. This is very welcome. But the Daily Mail’s suggestion that he will announce “enhanced planning powers to allow construction of houses and apartments on land, much of it derelict around railway stations especially in the South East” raises concern about the integrity of the Green Belt.

The principle of building around transport hubs is a good one and was supported in a recent CPRE report, Making the Link. But the Communities Secretary should beware of the idea that simply building around Green Belt stations in the Green Belt is an unproblematic way to solve the housing crisis. This has been energetically proposed by various enemies of the Green Belt and the planning system (step forward the Adam Smith Institute). The argument against is put briefly in CPRE’s Green Belt myth-buster. I have copied the relevant passage below.

In brief, building around Green Belt stations could be incompatible with key purposes of the Green Belt, preventing sprawl and stopping places merging together. Continue reading ‘Building near Green Belt stations’