Ahead of a major speech on housing tomorrow, David Cameron has written for today’s Independent on Sunday about a big change in Tory policy on homebuilding:
"We’re reviewing the whole planning system to ensure that local people are more directly involved in shaping the future of their communities; there are clear rewards for welcoming new development; beauty is built into new houses; and house-building plays its part in the broader fight against climate change. Our goal is a Britain in which there are more beautiful, affordable, eco-friendly homes. And I passionately believe that everyone should have the right to own their own home, and have the chance to enhance our own environment. I think you’d have to be bananas to object to that."
At the last election the Tories supported brownfield developments but strongly campaigned against Labour’s plans for housebuilding programmes in rural and suburban Britain. Victories in seats like Guildford owed much to such local campaigning.
Team Cameron apparently now believe that relaxed planning laws could play a major role in spurring economic growth. Remembering Margaret Thatcher’s sale of council homes to their tenants, the Cameroonians also believe that the building of more homes for lower income and first time buyers should be a big part of the party’s new commitment to social justice. They are apparently strongly influenced by a 2004 book by Ferdinand Mount – Mind The Gap. Here’s what Polly Toynbee said of the book’s recommendation to deregulate planning guidelines:
"Mount accepts that setting people free to build will mean more eyesores and landscape blots, as people are allowed to build in ramshackle ways. But if it would transform the lives of all the dispossessed, giving them a real stake, responsibility and a share in wealth, isn’t it worth it? The Campaign to Protect Rural England would say no – but here’s a conservative willing to argue against a landscape frozen in time by the 1947 Town and Country Planning Act."
There is nothing in David Cameron’s IoS article about the demand for housing. Much housing demand is powered by family breakdown and increased immigration. The Sunday Times reports a MigrationWatch report which suggests that "more than 1.5m extra homes will be needed to cope with immigration into Britain" over the next twenty years.