Planning Regulations Out the Window in U.K.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown has decided that the need for new homes is greater than the need to protect the environment in Britain, and is preparing to sweep away planning regulations across the country that limit building in undeveloped areas.

"Under reforms expected to be unveiled this month, councils will be told to:

-earmark new building sites in every village and hamlet where affordable housing is needed
-use sweeping powers to overrule normal planning curbs in protected areas
-provide incentives for farmers to sell land to developers
-create a generation of new communities on the outskirts of market towns, similar to Poundbury, the Prince of Wales's "model village".

The changes are aimed at helping the government to achieve its target of building 3m new homes by 2020. All the main political parties agree that the extra housing is needed, although the building programme is likely to be delayed by the recession.

About 16,000 small towns, villages and hamlets across England, and dozens of market towns, could be affected by what is being described by ministers as a 'fundamental shake-up' of rural planning policy. "

Full Story: Gordon Brown to bulldoze rural housing curbs

Comments

Comments

Prime Minister Gordon Brown is to be applauded

It would appear that the 60 years of failed British prescriptive urban planning is fortunately coming to an end.

The average size of British housing is just 850 square feet, with the new builds on average just 800 square feet - roughly the same size as the units the East Germans built for their citizens during the Communist era. Since reunification - well in excess of one million of these dreadful slab development units have been vacated.

UK Government estimates for 2009 suggest that less than 100,000 new units will likely be built - the construction industry bodies are of the view that the more likely figure will be about 50,000 units. With the United Kingdom population around 61 million - this latter figure represents a build rate per thousand population of 0.81 - a complete disaster. During the Depression years of the 1930's - the average annual build rate in the United States was 2.00 per 1000 population. If new residential production in the United States fell to projected British levels it would collapse to 247,000 units through 2009.

California (population 37 million) is currently doing its best to emulate the "British disaster" - with likely only around 70,000 units built during 2009 - representing an appalling build rate of 1.89 units per 1000 population.

It will be interesting to observe how long it takes for Americans living in bubble urban markets to follow the British lead and wake up and realize that recovery cannot get underway until their regulatory environments allow affordable housing to be built.

It seems that some just have to learn the hard way.

Hugh Pavletich
Performance Urban Planning
www.performanceurbanplanning.org
Christchurch
New Zealand

"It will be interesting to

"It will be interesting to observe how long it takes for Americans living in bubble urban markets to follow the British lead and wake up and realize that recovery cannot get underway until their regulatory environments allow affordable housing to be built."

Americans want affordable housing, just not next door to them. NIMBY neighbors, neighborhood covenants, and subdivision developers usually do not put market-rate affordable houses next to more expensive homes (or even homes that are slightly above the affordable home's price). You don't need regulatory agencies to restrict this housing typology - most developers are concerned about building huge McMansions and downtown condos as they make the most money that way. The housing market in the US is already saturated with too many houses on it as it is.

I don't know much about British urban planning or its public policy, but the article mentioned "earmark new building sites in every village and hamlet where affordable housing is needed " and "provide incentives for farmers to sell land to developers". I don't consider this ending prescriptive urban planning. It's one thing to lift such restrictions, and another thing entirely to craft policy that goes against the free market grain or could have detrimental effects down the line.

Respons to wshoger

Wshoger - this is a case of language difficulties sometimes encountered when Americans are communicating with New Zealanders, Australians and the British.

When we "non Americans" speak of affordable housing we are referring to housing across the board - in that the price of it (right through the price range) should not exceeed three times annual household income.

To Americans - the term "affordable housing" appears to refer to social housing.

My apologies for not making the point more clearly within my earlier comment.

Hugh Pavletich

I don't know what you mean

I don't know what you mean by "social housing". Socialized housing? I was not referring to section 8 housing specifically in my post (subsidized housing), but rather market-rate affordable housing (across the board affordable housing).

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