Housing for town and country

Here is my column from the December issue of the Countryman, available in all good newsagents.

Two recent conversations captured for me, the good and bad sides of the housing debate.

First, I was chatting to a woman hoping to move with her young family from a large town to the sort of village in which she grew up. But almost every village she looks at is facing proposals to double in size in the next few years. “We don’t want to move somewhere that never changes or grows,” she says, “but they’re planning to destroy what makes these places special.”

These are villages where the local authority is deemed not to have an up to date local plan or an adequate supply of land for housing. Developers circle them with proposals for new estates knowing that they will be hard to turn down. This is not an accident of policy. It is England’s planning policy in 2016. And it is leading to angry resistance across the shires.

More cheeringly I spoke to a man who had settled in an attractive village in his home county, Northamptonshire. He expected his neighbours to be “dyed in the wool NIMBYs”, but the village now has a neighbourhood plan and those he most expected to resist new homes support them because they have a say over where they will go and how they are built.

The Government publishes a Housing White Paper shortly and I hope Ministers understand that if they try to impose housing, they will face a battle. But if they work with communities, more often than not they will find them willing to embrace change.

Of course, most new homes will be built in larger towns and cities, close to jobs and services. And here CPRE has glad tidings for Ministers. Our analysis of official data shows that there is enough suitable brownfield land to build well over a million new homes in England. A good deal of this land is in London, the south-east and the south-west. And the stock is growing. Let’s use it!

CPRE wants to work constructively with the government, as we have for 90 years. The Housing White Paper can set out a path for tackling the housing crisis in ways that benefit both town and country. But if it simply entrenches the current developer-led planning system and ignores the potential of brownfield land, we will have a fight on our hands. And we are up for it.







2 Responses to “Housing for town and country”

  1. 1 Nickie Johnson November 19, 2016 at 9:01 am

    A slight warning on Neighbourhood Plans.
    a) The cost to local parishes even with the grants available
    b) The plan must agree with local and national planning policy otherwise it will not be adopted.
    In other words, at present, a neighbourhood plan can be nothing more than an endorsement of the present planning system.

  2. 2 D Woods November 19, 2016 at 3:55 pm

    Our village had made a Neighbourhood Plan but the District Council has chosen to ignore it & has given the green light to developers to build where they please! So much for localism & democracy!

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