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Times Article: "if We Are To Build New Homes, We Must Give Nimbys A Financial Incentive."

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One of the best articles of the year. (Is Mr. Pennington a HPCer?! :unsure: )

Loosen your green belt. Become a Bimby

Mark Pennington (Reader in Public Policy at Queen Mary, University of London)

Last updated July 2 2011 12:01AM

Only then will they say: ‘Build in my backyard’

The greener, leafier and more Conservative parts of England will be feeling twitchier this weekend. They will be scanning the horizons for invading bulldozers and cement mixers. Yesterday, The Times revealed new, unpublished government planning guidelines that are intended to make it easier for developers to build new housing estates or retail parks. The burden of proof will be shifted from developers having to justify their projects to one where the local authority planners must justify rejecting them.

Restrictive planning regulations keep economic growth low and house prices absurdly high. Fewer houses are being built than at any time since the 1920s. In the 1960s an average 15,000 hectares of land switched to urban use each year; by the 1970s this had fallen to 10,000, by the 1980s it was 5,000 and is now 3,000. Margaret Thatcher didn’t deregulate town planning in the 1980s — supposedly the era of Barratt and the property-owning democracy. In fact, the area designated as green belt quadrupled under her watch. And both the Major and Blair/Brown governments presided over an increase in restrictions fuelled by the obsession with “sustainability”.

The truth, however, is that these changes to the National Planning Policy Framework will do little to undermine the pervasive Nimbyism at the heart of our planning system. These rules are simply returning to the “presumption in favour of development” that existed from the founding of the system in 1947 to the early 1990s — a system under which the green belt expanded substantially.

No one wants scenic landscapes lost to urban sprawl, but with 90 per cent of the land area of the UK currently open space, we can afford a more liberal attitude to new development. What is needed is a better balance between justifiable demands for environmental protection and the need to provide people with cheaper and better homes. This balance is lacking because incentives built into the planning system guarantee that Nimbys triumph almost every time.

Nimbys are not unduly selfish people. No one would want to lose a treasured view or see the value of their home collapse because a new housing estate springs up on a neighbouring plot of land. To add insult to injury, most new houses or office blocks are painfully devoid of architectural merit. The chronic shortage of land available for building means that if a developer gets planning permission, any old box can be put up and find a grateful buyer. The shortage of properties ensures that there is little competition to spur developers on to build more attractive or smartly designed properties.

Local planners and politicians, meanwhile, have every reason not to raise the ire of Nimby troops. After all, the only people who can vote are local residents; the votes of the people who would move into the area given the chance can never be tallied.

If we want a more balanced planning regime we need to change incentives. So how do we turn Nimbys — Not in my backyarders — into Bimbys: Build in my backyarders?

The key is money or, to be more precise, local government finance. Local councils get most of their money from Whitehall. If local councils had to raise more money to fund local services themselves, rather than rely on grants from central government, then they would have a strong incentive to increase the size of the tax base. New housing would mean more taxpayers to fund local services.

Of course, part of the revenue that local councils receive from Whitehall depends on the size of the population, but a significant part comes from factors such as “relative deprivation” and other hazy “special factors” that make the link between new homes and more money tenuous. Residents, too, would have reason to temper knee-jerk Nimbyism because saying “no” would have a price attached. If development goes ahead, your council tax might be lowered, but if newbuilds are resisted taxes might be raised.

District and county councils are often very distant from the people they are supposed to serve, so a more radical solution would be to devolve planning powers to parish councils or neighbourhood committees. These could then bargain with builders for compensation in exchange for planning permission. Instead of developers and landowners receiving all the profits, the local people could, in the words of George Osborne, “share in the proceeds of growth”.

But unleashing market forces need not mean more ugly boxes disfiguring the landscape. It could protect the most valuable parts of the countryside and improve the quality of development. The compensation demanded by the residents in, say, the North Downs would probably be so high that few developers would be willing or able to pay the costs; indeed, locals may judge the landscape of such value that compensation does not tempt them. But many parts of the green belt are not particularly attractive — the disused gravel pits near Heathrow spring to mind — so the rate of compensation that could be demanded there would be much lower.

Developers, meanwhile, would have strong incentives to come up with more architecturally worthy or green homes because the better the design the lower the compensation the neighbourhoods would demand.

Britain has an antiquated, dysfunctional planning system that has achieved the most expensive and ugliest development anywhere in the Western world. A new system that recognises the basic economic truth that “incentives matter” would lead to better and cheaper homes without sacrificing our best countryside. Now, who could possibly object to that?

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One of the best articles of the year. (Is Mr. Pennington a HPCer?! :unsure: )

This has been proposed for years (I remember reading an editorial in the Economist about 15 years ago) but no one has really demonstrated a method of transferring from builders to Nimbys apart from local government finance changes - which is admittedly a good start. In fact the government is currently in the process of allowing councils to charge up to seven years of double council tax for new developments, which could give a massive incentive for some councils to build.

However if you're a NIMBY it's still not going to matter, as the loss in the value of your house will vastly overshadow any cuts in the council tax or increases in bin collections. However a local political party that was aggressively pro-development could offer better services and lower council taxes than the NIMBY backed parties.

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A bit of a different thing, but IMO every house should have some sort of burden rating.

For example, you live close to a nuclear power plant, that's work x points. A dump another x points.

Government policy should be to equalise the number of points, so build new stuff that people think is nasty in areas of low points.

Of course some areas will be designated areas of outstanding beauty. So these areas can pay a special tax in return for not having all the stuff built near them.

I reckon this sort of approach would be cheaper than endless planning commitees/national enquiries.

At the end of the day people need to accept we live in an overcrowded island and a practical solution has to be found to the problem of where to site stuff, not endless wrangling.

Either that or get rid of a load of the population.

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At the end of the day people need to accept we live in an overcrowded island and a practical solution has to be found to the problem of where to site stuff, not endless wrangling.

Either that or get rid of a load of the population.

It's not overcrowded. Only 10% of it is built on. It only seems overcrowded because the small bits we're allowed to live in are overcrowded.

Edited by RentingForever

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This has been proposed for years (I remember reading an editorial in the Economist about 15 years ago) but no one has really demonstrated a method of transferring from builders to Nimbys apart from local government finance changes - which is admittedly a good start. In fact the government is currently in the process of allowing councils to charge up to seven years of double council tax for new developments, which could give a massive incentive for some councils to build.

However if you're a NIMBY it's still not going to matter, as the loss in the value of your house will vastly overshadow any cuts in the council tax or increases in bin collections. However a local political party that was aggressively pro-development could offer better services and lower council taxes than the NIMBY backed parties.

Yes, I agree, the idea of converging interests is old, and the incentives to near-by NIMBYs are not strong enough to compensate for their losses. (I said it was "one of the best articles of the year", I didn't say it was perfect. ;) )

.

Edited by Tired of Waiting

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It's not overcrowded. Only 10% of it is built on. It only seems overcrowded because the small bits we're allowed to live in are overcrowded.

If we have around 100sq.m / residential property in Britain, and they have an average of 2 storey ( = footprint = 50 sq.m.), then homes cover around:

(Note: 1 sq.KM = 1 million sq.m. And Britain has some 243,000 sq.km)

22 million homes x 50 sq.m = 1,100 million sq.m = 1,100 sq.km. Hence, if my maths is right (after 2 beers) = 0.5% of UK surface, or half of 1%.

Jeeez, is this right?? Really?!

About the same for our workplaces? Total = around 1%??? :unsure:

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If we have around 100sq.m / residential property in Britain, and they have an average of 2 storey ( = footprint = 50 sq.m.), then homes cover around:

(Note: 1 sq.KM = 1 million sq.m. And Britain has some 243,000 sq.km)

22 million homes x 50 sq.m = 1,100 million sq.m = 1,100 sq.km. Hence, if my maths is right (after 2 beers) = 0.5% of UK surface, or half of 1%.

Jeeez, is this right?? Really?!

About the same for our workplaces? Total = around 1%??? :unsure:

Plus roads. Shops. Public buildings.

Maybe farmland is also considered built on? I got the 10% from the OP article.

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Plus roads. Shops. Public buildings.

Maybe farmland is also considered built on? I got the 10% from the OP article.

Plus roads, yes, but shops and public buildings are included in "our workplaces".

I really doubt that 10% is really "concreted over". I bet they include all "urban areas", including parks, and even the greenbelt in it. These "protective agenda" is culturally shared by millions, including in government statistic depts.

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If you want stats on housing and land in the UK, may I refer you to the video I made on the subject a while ago...

.. scroll through to the land section @ 5:00.

Edited by Darkman

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I dont think that it is the impact on the values of their own homes that causes the objection from most nimbys. Most realise that an estate of barrats shitboxes is not going to compare in value to their well built houses with good sized plots when it comes to sell.

What puts people off is the fact that x% will be used as social housing and that there is never any investment in the rest of the infrastructure.

The village that I live in has been earmarked for a lot of development. I rent and want cheaper house but I dont want what they are planning either. The first phase is about 100 family homes, I dont see how the village school or surgery can cope with an addition of that many people - not without a considerable loss in quality of service. The village roads certainly wont cope with the additional traffic, especially by the few shops which is already a total nightmare.

Then there is the social housing aspect, not just the possibility of undesirable entities being introduced to the area but the fact that the taxpayer will be picking up the bill for people who couldnt afford to live in the area to be there and help keep rents and prices high. No one that objects to high levels of housing benefit should be in support of large estates being built with a set % having to be sold to ha's or used as council houses.

There is plenty of land where new estates/villages could be built sensibly without negatively impacting the lives of people already living in a small village or area.

Let the flames begin :D

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Plus roads, yes, but shops and public buildings are included in "our workplaces".

I really doubt that 10% is really "concreted over". I bet they include all "urban areas", including parks, and even the greenbelt in it. These "protective agenda" is culturally shared by millions, including in government statistic depts.

I found a source a while ago (from the CPRE), which stated we are only losing 21sq miles of greenbelt per year... bugger all in the scheme of things...

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We need individuals to be given priority in terms of planning permission, not the estates full of slave boxes. There are thousands of people itching to build their own homes and would put a great deal of care and consideration to making their houses in keeping with existing buildings and environment. At least lots of them would be different. Issue planning permission for large plots with gardens as this is where most of our wildlife now live, not necessarily on farmland.

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If you want stats on housing and land in the UK, may I refer you to the video I made on the subject a while ago...

.. scroll through to the land section @ 5:00.

Thanks Darkman, that was very good.

Small details: Do you know if those 1.3% for residential properties include gardens? I think it does. What was the source for it? And for the total 10%?

Cheers,

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We need individuals to be given priority in terms of planning permission, not the estates full of slave boxes. There are thousands of people itching to build their own homes and would put a great deal of care and consideration to making their houses in keeping with existing buildings and environment. At least lots of them would be different. Issue planning permission for large plots with gardens as this is where most of our wildlife now live, not necessarily on farmland.

I agree. I would love to be allowed to build my own home. Though I think we would probably also need developers. But with a larger supply they would have to build better.

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I agree. I would love to be allowed to build my own home. Though I think we would probably also need developers. But with a larger supply they would have to build better.

Why don't you then?

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It's not overcrowded. Only 10% of it is built on. It only seems overcrowded because the small bits we're allowed to live in are overcrowded.

10% is a lot. It seems overcrowded because no matter where you go it doesn't take long to run into more people and another town or village. If that 10% was evenly spread over the entire country there wouldn't be anywhere that you could really call rural. Population growth needs to end now; having to deal with it is damaging to the country and hence quality of life. A 50% reduction would be ideal but there's no ethical way of achieving that that I can see. The downside of development wouldn't be as severe if most of what was built wasn't crap, mind.

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This is upside down; the NIMBY should be paying us so that we don't build near them. If they want to monopolise the view and the services, then they should pay for the privilege.

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There are thousands of people itching to build their own homes and would put a great deal of care and consideration to making their houses in keeping with existing buildings and environment.

I have to disagree with this. Coming from the US, if you give people a free reign with planning, then in 95% of cases they will build homes that are not sympathetic to their environment.

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It not surprising that people object to extra housing as the local services never expand with the extra people. The only bone the developers throw is S106 money, which is either used in mysterious ways, like £10K per metre cycle lanes, or like my town its sat in a council bank account waiting for some pipe dream project that will never happen.

If developers wish to build they the first brick placed should he doctors surgery, or the industrial units, not row upon row of cattle pens with vague promises of things to come.

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This is upside down; the NIMBY should be paying us so that we don't build near them. If they want to monopolise the view and the services, then they should pay for the privilege.

Let me get this straight - you want to barge in to where other people live, change their place around and make it a bit more crowded and a bit less attractive, so overall a little worse to live in, and you think you should be compensated if they're not happy about it? If anyone should be paying compensation it's those responsible for increasing the population and therefore driving the requirement to degrade the place (unless it's building on some tatty brownfield waste ground).

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