Charles Moore writes an eloquent article in today’s Daily Telegraph which contradicts the paper’s campaign to stop the Government’s policy to make it easier for developers to build houses. The Coalition’s Draft National Planning Policy Framework is, in my view, a good policy. It will shake up the current failed planning regulations, reducing thousands of pages of planning policy to fewer than 60 and also enact in planning law “presumption in favour of sustainable development”. As expected, the nimbys and other vested interets such as the National Trust have swung their influence and money into action to ramp up a campaign to oppose the Government’s plans.
Now, I am sure it is lovely if you are a baby boomer recently retired to a cottage overlooking miles of countryside with not one other house in sight but it’s not so great for their children stuck in densely populated expensive rented accommodation in the towns and cities without a hope of getting a foot on the property ladder. The banks won’t give them a mortgage and there are not enough properties on the market because during the last Labour Government we had the lowest number of houses being built since before the Queen was born (these two factors are very much intertwined). This is patently not fair on the current working generation and their children.
This is where the Government are doing the right thing for the future of this country. We need housing growth or we are condemning millions of people to a life of poverty in retirement in 30 years time. The UK economy, like it or not, is built on a housing market. A Government state pension, even when combined with a private sector pension (let’s leave the lucky public sector pensioners out of this one for today), will only give you enough to eat and drink and pay the bills: it won’t pay for mortgage payments. It is expected that you will have paid off the cost of your home before you retire. But this is not going to happen if you haven’t been able to buy a house in your 20s, which a whole generation might not be able to do unless many many more houses are built and soon. I am lucky in that I do have a mortgage on my house but if I was to move to another part of the country it might not be so easy to buy another house due to the massive difference in house prices across the country brought about because housing supply is no where close to demand. Fluidity of market is very important to ensure economic growth but if workers cannot move because of a lack of homes, high rent and mortgage payments this is another obstruction to economic recovery.
The new policy still has to go through a couple of Commons committees first before Government consultation on the new planning framework completes at the end of October. The legislation will then continue its passage through parliament, especially the Lords, so I don’t expect the policy to become law until next year.
One of the chief nimby representatives, Tim Yeo MP, heads up the all-party parliamentary housing and planning group. He said in yesterday’s Daily Telegraph many voters were worried about the proposals saying “I fully understand the reasons for concern. It’s a highly sensitive area. If it means uncontrolled development, I would be very concerned about that.” Now, Mr Yeo represents the very rural South Suffolk and this coupled with his zealous environmental credentials it is hardly surprising he has made such comments. But what he and the other nimbys need to realise is they are acting in an incredibly selfish manner if they try and get in the way of their children being able to own a home for themselves.
The baby boomer generation, many of which are now represented by Tim Yeo, have been the luckiest generation ever to live in terms of economic good fortune. The damage they have done to the economy by the decisions they made when in Government (Bliar and Brown) and when in charge of our banks has almost bankrupted their children’s future.
By standing in the way of new house building just so they can enjoy a beautiful view almost borders on criminality.
Both the new Ipswich MPs are my age. I, therefore, expect them to represent my generation in parliament. I fear Central Suffolk and North Ipswich’s Dr Dan Poulter is on a collision course with the Government based on his recent comments on the ongoing Northern Fringe development proposal, which would be affected by the new planning framework. He says in the
Morning Evening Star: “I still believe there is a need to use the brownfield sites nearer the town centre, and for smaller scale developments in other communities, before you start to look at developing the northern fringe.
“Given the current state of the economy… I would be surprised if anything happened there in the next ten years.”
I hope Ipswich’s Ben Gummer stands up for his constituents in their 20s and 30s a bit better than Dr Poulter.
We will be watching.