Monday, 12 May 2014

Conservationist Homeys

From Paul Cheshire at the LSE

One might argue that among the culprits, the conservation groups themselves have inadvertently played a leading role in getting us in to this mess. We desperately need land for housing. Thanks in large part to the misguided campaigns of conservation groups our planning system has been systematically not providing such land for two generations, pushing house prices and rents beyond the reach of young people.

Why does this mean that conservation groups share in the blame? Because not only have they been the most vocal and influential lobbyists against relaxing the planning restrictions on land release by one iota, but they have enthusiastically supported ‘building on brownfields’. Apart from being no solution to the housing land crisis, brownfield land is very frequently amenity-rich. The tragic irony is that the nightingales chose to breed on ex-MoD land (the Lodge Hill site on Medway’s HooPeninsula). So it is exactly the type of land the National Trusts and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) favour for development.
The homies don't want any building anywhere, which is why they keep screaming "brownfield sites". They know the remaining brownfield won't be built on because it's not viable, but by pretending there's lots of it available can also preserve the greenbelt land.


ThomasBHall said...

Do you think the objection to all building is a conscious one? Or is it just NIMBYism- where “brownfield” is just a lazy substitute for “anywhere but near me”. Most NIMBYs will happily share your concerns about the need for housing generally, but will simply find all sorts of reasons why near their own house is simply not the right place…

Mark Wadsworth said...

As per usual, I'd query whether there really is a physical housing shortage, the main issue is that it is very badly allocated; a mixture of crass under-use/under-occupation of some sites and crass overcrowding on others.

Crassest of all is a devout NIMBY friend of mine who gleefully opposes all development within ten miles of his village; but…

… at the same time he bemoans that his grown up kids can't afford anything and to top it all, he inherited some land near a village somewhere else and complained bitterly that although it would be ideal for building some housing on, the bloody local council turned down his planning application.

The Stigler said...


I think that NIMBYs are more about "not near me", but those in Faux Bucolic Rural Idylls are probably more about general building in the countryside, that if the policy changes towards more building that they're likely to see the damage.


Sure, but building more houses still creates more supply.

That said, I agree with you - huge parts of the country have lots of empty houses and there's no reason that lots of South East businesses can't be in Liverpool or Manchester (which LVT would help to solve).

Bayard said...

"We desperately need land for housing"

No, we don't. Nearly all the demand for "housing" is for owner-occupied housing, therefore it's not generated by people simply looking for somewhere to live, it's generated by people looking to cash in on the land price bubble.

"not providing such land for two generations, pushing house prices and rents beyond the reach of young people"

No it hasn't. Building more houses does not bring down prices, reducing the availability and increasing the cost of credit does.

"Apart from being no solution to the housing land crisis, brownfield land is very frequently amenity-rich"

No it isn't. Giving one example doesn't make it so. "Brownfield sites" are most frequently ex-industial or office sites in the centres of towns and cities and, while they may be usefully close to amenities, like transport links or parks, they rarely contain those amenities. Even the example given, Lodge Hill, is only causing a fuss because the developer is planning to include "greenfield" elements (i.e. areas that are not currently built on) within the area of the "brownfield" site.

There may or may not be any viable brownfield sites left (although Lodge Hill looks as if it would have been very viable, if either the MOD or the developer or both hadn't been greedy), but that is not the point the article is making.

Mark Wadsworth said...

B, by physical area, most "brownfield" is indeed in "the countryside" and is not "amenity rich".

But by value, most of it is in towns and cities, for example, most of where the Olympic site is used to be semi-derelict or chronically under-used (my thoughts go out to the few viable businesses who were chucked out), and now all of a sudden there are 20,000 flats, a giant shopping centre, a gigantic public park plus swimming pool etc on it.

All ideal for development.

LVT will sort them out.

DBC Reed said...

A Nimby recanted in a Northampton local paper ( I wish I'd kept the letter.)
Having opposed the development practically to the death, he found that building loads of houses in his village : revived the school which was going to merge; filled the pub; expanded the local shop to sell new and unusual lines and, much to his immense satisfaction, revived the football team and started a cricket team which they'd never had before.

Bayard said...

DBCR, Luke 15:7 Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.

lovedots said...

@DBC Reed

Maybe the value of his house rose too, not fallen as he perhaps expected?

Mark Wadsworth said...

LD, of course his house rose in value!

The value of land depends on how many other people are in the vicinity*. Which is why land in the centre of large towns is worth more than land in the centre of small villages, and more than land at the edge of large towns.

* "Vicinity" relates to travelling time as much as travelling distance, but let's gloss over that.