60 Seconds: Something old, and something blue

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60 Seconds: Something old, and something blue

Afternoon,

I think it’s safe to say that Mrs May’s “big” speech on housing only contained little ideas.

As usual, Councils are partly to blame in their failure to grant enough permissions and their reluctance to build.

Mrs. May warned that if local authorities fail to meet housing numbers, their planning powers will be stripped and handed over to MHCLG.

That made me chuckle as I remember Mr. Javid making an extremely similar threat to 15 local authorities last year, and we’re still waiting for a response to that…

But on a more serious note – it is no good blaming and shaming Councils’ snail pace if central Government lacks the teeth to follow through on any threat of punishment. Previous failures to do this means Westminster is as much to blame for the housing shortage.

But enough about local government. Now we turn to Mrs May’s second culprit: “the unscrupulous developers”.

I am no Special Advisor, but if the aim is to build more homes and tackle the housing shortage, surely attacking the only people with the capacity to build homes is not the most effective way to go about it.

Many of us who work in the industry are already aware of the host of reasons why planning permissions take time to convert into homes (some of which were outlined in our 60 Seconds blog two weeks ago: http://curtinandco.com/fake-news).

Nevertheless, the Government used today as another opportunity to perpetuate the “greedy developer” stigma. The idea that house-builders only care about profits.

Yes, house-builders care about profits. There I said it (you were all thinking it). Caring about profits is no crime. It is housebuilders’ profits which enable them to carry on buying land and building more homes.

Surely we shouldn’t need to explain the premise of capitalism to a Conservative Government…?

Not only is this more finger pointing, but perpetuating this stigma acts to undermine community acceptance of more homes. It is one of the main causes of political tensions experienced at a local level. Too often I’ve heard residents say they don’t support new homes because they only serve the needs of the developer.

So… What would I have done if I was in Theresa May’s leopard-print kitten heels?

Well, I would have seized the opportunity to embark on the bold policy that we in the industry are so desperate to hear: sensible reforms to the way Green Belt and green field land is viewed and used.

Just small changes would help local authorities and developers build the number of homes needed.

No one wants to see our Green Belt “torn up”. However, simply reiterating brownfield first and ‘build up not build out’ won’t suffice. It won’t suffice in terms of meeting the 300,000 housing target, and it won’t suffice in building the high-quality, sustainable communities the Government – and well – all of us want to see.

Mrs. May said that she wants to see local people “at the heart of planning”. Well, has anyone told her that most local people don’t want to live in high-rise developments? Higher-density developments simply aren’t suited to many of the popular areas people hope to live but currently can’t.

Unfortunately – as today has proven, there will be no substantive change. Instead Mrs. May’s Government follows suit in producing hot air, not hot policy.

And whilst this hot air might turn up the heat on local authorities and developers – it avoids turning up the heat on itself – the Government.

Oh well. Why change the habit of a lifetime – eh?

Have a good week.

Tom


Curtin&Co specialises in the fields of Community Consultation and Political Engagement, especially around development, and Reputation & Crisis Management.

Curtin&Co has grown rapidly to a team of over 20 highly qualified political, community engagement and reputation management specialists, having been founded by Tom Curtin in 2009.  In 2016, Curtin&Co was delighted to be listed in PR Week’s Top 150 Public Relations consultancies at number 86 and in the Top 10 Public Affairs consultancies at number 8; a recognition of the quality of the service and growth achieved.

To find out more visit www.curtinandco.com or call Helen Barrett on 0207 399 2288