But a month during a pandemic could be very much longer?
Boris Johnson’s “smash the system” approach to public policy was poised to reach every street, town, village and field in the country soon, very soon. That is until the Covid-19 Virus hit the UK – It has hit the Prime Minister, the Secretary of State for Health – and even Dominic Cummings the PM’s Special Adviser.
However, be warned, the Government is preparing to dynamite development controls and unleash market forces on our physical world, moving power from councils to developers and inflicting great harm on the built and natural environments.
Remember these names: Dominic Cummings; Andrew Sabinsky and Jack Airey – all of whom may have a lasting impact on our lives, when our present virus contagian is over.
Or maybe, just maybe, we will all take stock of how we do things in future?
Jack Airey is leading the charge to stip local councils of meaningful control over local developent. He spells it out in 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 countryside is being gobbled up for ugly sprawling, car depedent, amenity-free housing developments in areas like Waverley where the infrastrucutre is either poor or non-existent.
You only have to look out of your car window to reveal how much of our countryside is being gobbled up by identikit, soulless, mediocre housing designed around cars. Earlier this month, the housing minister, Kit Malthouse, predicted that many of the boxes being thrown up on the outskirts of towns would soon be ripped down and bulldozed as unsuitable.
Poorly planned building is exacerbating the menace of floods. Too few new buildings minimise their carbon footprint and developers constantly dodge their obligations to build social housing.
Let’s face it we have numerous examples of that here in ‘Your Waverley,’ and no doubt when life gets back to normal, if it ever gets back to normal, developers will be bleating to our planners that their sites are not viable if they are forced to provide the social housing they promised. Some developers are already flogging off their un-sold properties to the borough council.
There are too few homes. 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. Neither is the answer to allow Government Inspectors to overthrow local democracy with gay abandon, often for the most spurious of reasons.
But as councils have repeatedly demonstrated, it is developers who are holding back housebuilding, rather than the planning system. Figures released by the Local Government Association earlier this year revealed that 2.6m units have been granted planning permission by councils since 2009-10 – but only 1.5m have been completed. Even allowing for the inevitable lag between permission and building, that is a poor hit rate.
The number of planning permissions granted for new homes has almost doubled since 2012-13, with councils approving 9 in 10 applications.
As the LGA says, councils need powers to step in where sites are left dormant, while they have an essential role to play as builders of affordable, sustainable high quslity homes.