Paul Arnott writes a letter to the Times

His is the first of three, but the others are also worth a read.

Government plans to scrap housing targets

Sir, My authority spends thousands of officer and councillor hours per year trying to ensure that planning permission is granted to quality schemes (“Housing targets scrapped”, Apr 8). Yet the arbitrary housing need number — about 900 homes a year in east Devon — makes this impossible to achieve. Our real problems are not nimbyesque. They concern unfit-for-purpose sewage and drainage infrastructure, the lack of GPs, places in education, transport and local jobs.

When major schemes are approved, experience has shown many to be poorly built, with gardens, at best, the size of a cricket wicket. Meanwhile, any landowner able to ensure their grassy patch is designated as developable will make millions for nothing more than assigning rights.

If councils try to build social homes, there is no effective way to protect from the right to buy, and affordable homes, at, say, 80 per cent of local market rent, are anything but. The country needs an urgent, cross-party commission on homes, with no powers off the table. And please shelve the term “nimby”; it is about as helpful as the term “Remoaner”.
Paul Arnott
Leader, East Devon district council

Sir, The assertion that nimbys are only interested in preserving the value of their houses is wide of the mark. I have long been engaged in community reaction to development proposals in London. Rarely do I experience outright opposition to development and that usually revolves around the loss of green space. The majority of large schemes are for tall, dense, poorly designed blocks of tiny flats, many of which will be occupied by footloose buy-to-let tenants. So it should be no surprise that residents in settled suburban communities of low-rise family houses are roused to fury. Proposals for, say, streets of small terraced houses would rarely experience opposition.
Gordon Massey
Chairman, Federation of Residents’ Associations in Barnet

Sir, In my 16 years as a county councillor and 21 as a district councillor the vast majority of people did not object to new housing. They did object to longer traffic jams, longer GP waiting times, children being bussed to schools miles away from their homes, more flooding and sewage in local rivers — in other words to a lack of infrastructure. Developers promise all sorts of infrastructure improvements to get planning approval then do all they can to renege on those promises. It would be better to build the infrastructure first with government-backed loans. Then, as each house is built, a percentage of the sale price pays back the loan. All the time infrastructure is meant to follow the houses there will be objections. Not because of nimbys but because no one believes, and experience shows correctly, that adequate infrastructure will ever be built.
David Simpson
Darby Green, Hants

2 thoughts on “Paul Arnott writes a letter to the Times

  1. Spot on! Persecuting landlords is also not helpful. The stat that 1/3 of rental homes has been lost recently is shocking. Years ago when the Treasury was a client and I was already a buy to let landlord as my pension fund, I realised they hadn’t a scooby about housing. All recent PhDs with no knowledge of anything but the theory peddled by their masters. Not an original thinker among them.


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