Boris Johnson’s “smash the system” approach to public policy is about to reach every street, town, village and field in the country including ‘Your Waverley.’
The Government is preparing to dynamite development controls and unleash market forces on us all , moving power from councils to developers and inflicting great harm on the built and natural environments. Just another step on from giving Inspectors’, not local people a say on what goes on around them.
While No 10 advisers like Dominic Cummins grab the headlines, it is Jack Airey who may well have the more lasting impact on our lives. As Johnson’s new adviser on housing and planning, Airey is leading the charge to strip local councils of meaningful control over local development. Just last month, in his role as head of housing at influential right-wing thinktank Policy Exchange, he published his manifesto, Rethinking the planning system for the 21st century.
Airey is undoubtedly right that the planning system is not fit for modern times. Fertile land is being gobbled up for ugly, sprawling, car-dependent, amenity-free housing developments
Poorly planned building on, or close to flood plains, is exacerbating the menace of floods. Sustainable Urban Drainage Schemes have been dubbed as “useless” even by Surrey County Council experts. Too few new buildings minimise their carbon footprint. Developers constantly dodge their obligations to build social housing. Planning decisions can take too long and the rationale can be opaque. But junking democratic accountability and putting developers in charge is not the answer.
Airey claims councils are saddled with too many policy objectives around development, often pulling in different directions. Of course there are conflicts, and it is the role of local and national politicians, accountable to voters, to do their best to resolve them. The outcomes will be inherently imperfect, but still superior to allowing the answers to be determined by those whose primary objective is to maximise profit.