All posts tagged: Savills
Countryside campaigners were delighted when the House of Commons’ Local Government Select Committee released its report on the National Planning Policy Framework late last year. After months of impressive campaigning by the National Trust and other groups, the Committee’s call for a re-write of the draft document was seen as a partial victory for the anti-development lobby.
But one aspect of the committee’s findings made me almost fall off my chair and raises questions about the competence of the Committee to reach an objective view on planning reform.
Paragraph 12 of the report reads: “We received much anecdotal evidence as to whether the planning system is currently an obstacle to growth or whether other factors are more important in slowing the economy and curtailing the level of house building… We found no conclusive research, however, that planning policy or guidance is a particular constraint on economic development.”
Now, either the witnesses who attended on behalf of the housing industry were stunningly poor at getting the economic arguments across, or the Committee is guilty of an egregious level of ignorance about planning, housing and the wider economy. Or both.
Let’s start with Kate Barker’s original report on housing supply from 2004 which contains stacks of evidence to explain that our dysfunctional housing market causes economic instability. Here are just three quotes: 1) “A weak supply of housing contributes to macroeconomic instability and hinders labour market flexibility, constraining economic growth.” 2) “Weak responsiveness of housing supply and the volatile behaviour of our housing market poses risks to economic stability and overall economic welfare.” 3) “Better housing supply could also play a part in reducing economic volatility. Most major cycles in the UK economy over the past 30 years have been associated with instability in the housing market.”
Kate Barker’s follow-up report on the planning system (2006) is even more explicit: “…further action needs to be taken to deliver an efficient planning system, by reducing delays, addressing unnecessary complexity and increasing certainty. Unnecessary delays have a number of hidden economic costs in addition to direct financial costs… In economic terms, 69 per cent of firms are dissatisfied with progress made by local planning authorities in improving their planning system…”
Given that both reports were commissioned by Gordon Brown I find it impossible to believe that the Select Committee was not made aware of their contents.
Then there is the work carried out by the LSE’s Spatial and Economnc Research Centre. Two quotes: 1)“SERC research also shows that planning restrictions increase housing market volatility.” 2) “There is evidence that planning negatively affects productivity”
Or the Centre for Cities: “The UK’s housing problem has become an economic problem (and) prevents our most successful cities from expanding, shuts people out from job opportunities and stifles national economic growth.”
More recently Savills revealed a widening gap between the housing haves and have-nots, with the under 35s owning just 5% of the nation’s housing equity and a growing gulf between the regions. If that is not a recipe for social unrest and economic malaise I don’t know what is.
I could go on. The point is there have been dozens of reports over the past twenty years setting out how our dysfunctional housing market, which is the spawn of a dysfunctional planning system, harms economic and social wellbeing.
If the esteemed members of the Local Government Select committee have been unable to discover or recognise these simple truths, and to join up the dots between the housing market, economic malaise and the planning system then heaven help our parliamentary system.