Death knell for Nimbys Housing minister says broken planning system will be scrapped

Is this the death knell for Nimbys? Housing minister says Britain's 'broken' planning system will be 'scrapped'


Britain's 'broken' planning system will be scrapped, the housing and planning minister, insisted yesterday.

Brandon Lewis's attack on the country's supposedly outdated planning laws comes as the Government introduces reforms to allow local people to decide on what type of housing is built in their area.

The new measures are seen as a way of tackling 'Nimbyism' (not in my back yard), where local residents block essential housebuilding in their area. 

The Government is keen to get local people involved in planning decisions as this is seen as a way of unblocking the shortage of affordable housing across the country - a significant contributor to recent house prices rises.

Britain's planning system has been described as 'broken' by housing and planning minister Brandon Lewis

Britain's planning system has been described as 'broken' by housing and planning minister Brandon Lewis

The new, so-called 'neighbourhood plans' mean people can help decide where new homes should be built in their area and what they should look like.

It also means they have input into what local infrastructure is needed. 

Speaking about the second reading of the Housing and Planning Bill, Brandon Lewis said: 'This Government is continuing the huge shift of power from Whitehall to the town hall and to local people. More than eight million people now live in areas that have had or will have their say on planning in their neighbourhood, and more areas are coming forward every day.

'We are scrapping the broken old planning system that pitted neighbours and developers against each other, and cornered people into opposing any development in their back yard.'

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Moves to shake up the planning system are hugely controversial, however. Campaigners warn of the consequences of a renewed building boom, with objections ranging from the spoiling of the countryside to the lack of infrastructure, such as roads, schools, hospitals and railways needed to support more homes.

In a recent investigation, Money Mail met so-called Nimbys objecting to development in Hertfordshire - many of whom voiced such concerns. Baldock resident Stephen Proops, 55, said: 'There just isn’t the infrastructure to support such a dramatic increase in population.

‘There will be twice as many cars on the roads, more people waiting in doctor surgeries and more pressure on oversubscribed local schools.’

Local residents in Baldock, Herts, oppose more than 3,000 new homes - Christine Watson, Stephen Proops and Adrienne Waterfield are among them

Local residents in Baldock, Herts, oppose more than 3,000 new homes - Christine Watson, Stephen Proops and Adrienne Waterfield are among them

Under the new scheme, councils are bound to consider plans drawn up by local people.

Local people can seek Government grants of up to £14,000 to help pay for the expertise required to draw up their development plans. 

Government figures suggest housebuilding has been boosted by more than 10 per cent due to the new approach. New homes insurer NHBC says the number of new homes being registered so far this year is 9 per cent higher than a year ago.

The minister also insisted that so-called 'Generation Rent' - which is unable to buy a home of their own due to a shortage of properties and soaring house prices - would soon become Generation Buy.

The Government has promised an extra 200,000 homes for first-time buyers at a 20 per cent discount.

Lewis explained: 'The 2008 crash devastated the housebuilding industry, leading to the lowest levels of 'starts' for any peacetime year since the 1920s and the loss of a quarter of a million construction jobs. 

'We have got Britain building again, with housing completions at their highest annual level since 2009.

'We know that around 86 per cent of people aspire to own their own home and we want to help turn their dream into a reality. 

'That is why we are supporting the building of all types of homes from starter homes for first-time buyers to opening up planning reforms to make more custom builds a reality.'

Buying agent Henry Pryor welcomed the changes, saying: 'The Government are giving localism one last chance - they are proposing to fast-track house building where locals have identified suitable sites for new homes through their local plan. 

'Rather than centralising planning, appointing a 'housing tsar' who would dictate where new homes would be built the housing minister is handing locals the power to get on and build what they think they want where they need it.'

However, he warned: 'The only problem is will locals vote for more homes? A majority now acknowledge that there is a housing crisis, but will the die-hard Nimbys simply flood local councils and vote that a solution be found elsewhere.

'If the Minister's laudable aspirations to build one million  new homes by 2020 are to succeed then he needs the public to work with him. History suggests that this will be unlikely but he will at least be able to say he tried.

Jonathan Adams, director of London estate agency Napier Watt, said: ‘Outmoded planning laws need tackling when there is such a desperate need for more housing in this country."

However, he added: ‘It is all very well allowing local people to decide what type of housing gets built but presumably this will still need careful monitoring to ensure that what is developed will also appeal to buyers.

'The problem in London, for example, is the number of predominantly flat-based schemes like the Battersea Power Station development. These don’t always appeal to UK buyers who would much rather live in houses if they had the choice. There is a risk that we end up with the entire Thames corridor full of flats owned by overseas buyers, with locals moving out to villages and towns where they are more likely to find the house they prefer.'

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