BLOG : A Tory plan for nimby heaven

27 Mar 2009



I’m a little worried about what the industry is going to get from a Conservative government next year.


Given that the country is looking for someone to blame for this recession and that Sir Fred won’t be standing for election, then the Tories will be in next June. Besides, Labour has had 12 years so it’s the British way to give the other team a go.


Which means Grant Shapps will be housing minister. Seems a nice guy, Grant – he spoke at our Policy conference a few days ago and came over quite well. I think he also made a few hearts flutter in our events team which will add to his allure.


Grant bounced around the stage, speaking with no notes of course – all Tories have to do this after the media was stunned by the fact that David Cameron could remember a few words unprompted at the party conference in 2007. Shapps was confident and engaging.


But what he said was a cause for concern for housebuilders.


His initial point was well made. He said that fewer homes a year had been delivered under this Labour administration than were delivered under the Tories between 1979 and 1992.


But he said that the cause of this slowdown was the Labour government’s centralised approach to housing – the more centralised the approach, he said, the fewer houses developers can build. Instead, the Conservatives would take a local approach – local communities would be engaged in the development process in a way that would benefit local areas.


Oh,oh.  Nimby heaven.


But Shapps said not. He argued that the key was to engage with local communities, get them on the side of development by offering financial incentives or ensuring local facilities such as hospitals, post offices etc would stay open because of the increase in local population. Shapps painted a picture of a world in which local communities would welcome housing developers “with open arms”.


This seems almost delusional.


I am sure that Mr Shapps has, like most of us close to this sector, spoken to many people about their attitudes to new development. Nothing will make them welcome loads of new homes nearby. Even housebuilders oppose new development near their own homes– it’s in the blood.


Every survey or poll suggests nimbyism is rife and growing in Britain. No-one wants housing near them...or power stations...or roads...or new airport runways.



That’s why we have governments. To overcome this for the greater good of the population and the economy.


Shapps says he will be judged on whether more new homes are built on his watch – perhaps he will have rethought his policy before next year. Otherwise, let us hope for a sharp change in the opinion polls by then.



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Ben Roskrow's previous blogs

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