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In Full . . .

Another fine mess

Posted on September 19 2012 at 11:06:56

As our we embark on our own Neighbourhood Planning process with a vision of achieving sound and suitable future development for our area, I’m alarmed at yet another “Eton Mess”, a suite of ideas our coalition boys have cooked up.

Surely this one must rate as one of the most surreal and bizarre policy notions of recent times. The self-conviction that the economy, which has stubbornly resisted billions of pounds of quantitative easing, might suddenly be revived, or “kick-started” to use a coalition favourite, by a rush of people sticking extra-large kitchens and lean-tos on to the back of their houses.

That’s what our boys, David Cameron, George Osborne and their “Big Society chum”  Eric Pickles are serving up now as they call for “planners to get off their backs” as part of their plan to ride to prosperity on a wave of plasterboard and PVC windows.

The proposal is to double the size of extensions that can be built in back gardens without planning permission with a use-by date of 12 months. Perhaps it is to be expected of a Government whose new Health Secretary thinks that hugely diluted remedies can cure disease, practically a “homeopathy for heart attacks”.

One of the questions raised is; if our problem is that banks won’t lend, why should they lend for such an extension boom? Some savings might be unlocked, but hardly enough to fund all that kick-starting nonsense.

Has anyone really noticed planners being obstructive when it comes to approving extensions that are not in conservation areas? I haven’t. Existing policies don’t give them much power to refuse, and most “good extensions” are approved.

Isn’t it very strange of the boys, after exalting their initial abolition of “back garden grabbing”, they are now reversing the process by allowing this expectorant, “a flood of extensions” which will also swamp back gardens, albeit in a different way.

It’s not that easing of planning policy should never be considered. What is questionable, however, is our Government’s perpetual ability to come up with barmy ideas, including this one-year time limit on what will most likely be “Good Old Boy” type sheds.

An invitation for rushed and ill-considered building practices sent out, accompanied by a self-deluded idea that conservatories and a little more twiddling of the planning system will do for the British economy what billions of pounds thrown at our failing banks has failed to do.

This is exposure on a grand scale! For three decades, economic policies in Britain, America and parts of Europe have relied on house prices and house building, resulting in this almighty stew we find ourselves embroiled in.

“The built environment helped create this economic crisis,” said the US secretary of housing and urban development, and our coalition’s latest idea is to add yet another piece of straw to this habitual obsession.

To use planning as a short-term economic instrument is very bad planning and very bad economics to boot. Come on boys, stop larking about, one really must try a lot harder!

Adrian Smith
Alvechurch Neighbourhood Plan Steering Group


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