Housing Minister Grant Shapps has outlined his policy to provide incentives for local communities to accept planning permission for new housing developments. The New Homes Bonus will mean that central Government will match the Council Tax for new homes built for the first six years.
Grant Shapps says:
"We will not tell communities how or where to build. But the New Homes Bonus will ensure that those communities that go for growth reap the benefits of development, not just the costs.
"With house building falling to its lowest level since 1924 under the previous government, action is needed now to build the homes the country needs."
"We think this top-down system which pitted communities against developers meant they spent loads of time in court and at planning appeals. We think that's crazy.
"And a better system is to get people actually saying there's something in it for our area – we can have a new swimming pool, or town centre, or something that we want in our area if we allow some
house building to go ahead. That rebalances the argument and we believe they will build more homes".
The scheme is due to come in next year. I will be interested to see the details. Will the matched Council Tax be at the national average (Band D is £1,400) or the level set locally? If the local level then it is perverse that in Wandsworth the incentive would be much lower due to the low Council Tax.
Yet the flexible approach of providing incentives rather than the coercion of Whitehall targets makes sense. It is generally agreed that we need more housing. But we don't want the extra housing situated so close to where we live that it would cause more noise or more traffic or more pressure on parking spaces or more pressure on school places or block out the light or reduce our privacy or cause trees to be cut down or cause more crime or be an ugly modernist structure.
As councillors we are familiar with the NIMBYS when it comes to planning applications. We don't want to lose the NIMBY vote. Also, less cynically, often the concerns they raise are valid. We would all feel the same if a development was proposed in our backyard, wouldn't we?
I think some of these concerns can be overcome. For instance there is nothing inevitable about new homes being of ugly design. New housing could be made conditional that residents will not be granted parking permits. Money isn't everything. The really unwanted schemes will still get turned down and rightly so. But for some places the extra money could well sway opinion. Shapps is seeking to turn the NIMBYs into YIMBYs – Yes In My Backyard.