From The Guardian:
Middle England is at war and the enemy is housing. Scores of campaigns against new housing developments have sprung up over the past two years and this surge of activism has been unleashed by a fatal contradiction in government policy.
In the red corner is the National Planning Policy Framework that requires councils to provide new homes to meet housing demand. In the blue corner is the coalition’s localism agenda, which promised to make the planning system more democratic and introduced neighbourhood plans to allow communities a say in where new houses and businesses should go.
Localism sounds fine in principle but the reality is that the well-off and the well-housed are using it to resist, rather than promote, the development of new homes.
The Cambridge plan proposes 14,000 new homes, of which just 3% are due to be built on the green belt. This has caused a frenzy of opposition from campaign groups who were heavily represented at the meeting. They used every possible argument to protect their views and their house prices, even proposing that a city centre flood-plain site occupied by a bowls club should have houses built upon it instead.
A recent study by Turley of neighbourhood plans paints the same story. It found that, of 75 published neighbourhood plans, 55% of plans were designed solely to resist development, rising to 63% in rural areas. It also found 73% were in areas with Conservative councils, and just 9% in Labour areas. Three-quarters of plans were in the south of England, where the need for housing is greatest and only nine of the published plans were in areas described as “most deprived”.
The well-off are not only protecting their areas from new homes, they are also pushing undesirable developments into poorer neighbourhoods.
We need to build 250,000 homes a year in England and a good proportion will have to be built on greenfield sites. Last year in England we built only 107,000 homes yet many local authorities have tried to reduce the numbers of planned homes in response to protest campaigns.
Local plans are now taking four months longer to put in place, and further delaying the development of new homes, mainly because of these battles over housing numbers.
In the national debate about housing, the voices of the homeless and badly housed are not being heard. There is a democratic deficit in our planning system the voices of those who need homes need to be heard too.
Colin Wiles is an independent housing consultant