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New-build vote to boost economy

Wednesday 23 August 2017

Residents should be allowed to vote on planning applications in their local areas, a think-tank has suggested.

In a new report, Yes In My Back Yard, John Myers of London YIMBY and the Adam Smith Institute have proposed allowing the development of ugly or low amenity sections of green belt sites, and devolving some planning laws to the new city-region mayors, with a view to boosting the economy and putting an end to the UK's current housing crisis.

It also raises the point that by allowing individual streets to vote on giving themselves permitted development rights to extend or replace existing buildings over an extended period, an additional five million homes could be created in London alone.

Large swathes of London are covered with low-rise, often unexceptional, 20th century houses, with half of London’s homes in buildings of just one or two floors. The report proposes a system which would allow properties to be extended or replaced with more attractive buildings, creating many more homes, provided it receives community support. 

House builders have long come up against opposition from local residents when it comes to new developments, with NIMBY's (Not In My Back Yard) opposing development plans. The challenge, the report says, is not how to fix the housing crisis but how to win more votes by doing it.

Current planning laws have made it difficult for small builders and self-build projects to compete in the housing market, leaving mainly large developers with often unappealing schemes, released over long periods.

By restoring power to small communities, it could put an end to the NIMBY cartel by allowing communities to choose to allow further development if they want it, provided that their concerns surrounding good design, congestion, infrastructure, services, shadows, etc are met.

Yes in My Back Yard also suggests that by giving communities the right to develop and 'green' their green belt, they can be rid of “ugly” or “dead” farmland, and to add protection to areas of outstanding beauty.

John Myers, co-founder of London YIMBY, said:

“A new generation of young people is demanding change to avoid being worse off than their parents. There are vote-winning ways to make decent homes truly affordable with the support of existing homeowners, if only we seize them.”

Ben Southwood, head of research at the Adam Smith Institute, said:

“The planning system is a mess. We all know we need more homes and infrastructure in the places people actually want them – but it isn’t delivering. Locals cannot be blamed for blocking development that blight their views with ugly designs and detract from their living standards.”

“So we are proposing a raft of measures that may bring homeowners around the country on side. If new housing benefits people already living there, then we may finally be able to build enough to stop rents taking half of people’s pay packets.”