Today we debate how to get more planning permission through our aged, creaking and unpopular system of planning. The government wrongly thinks that injecting yet another quango into the process, stuffed full of so-called independent experts carefully chosen by Labour Ministers, will do the job. The more their backbenchers disagree, the more the government makes their proposals more complicated, substituting Ministerial decision for quango decision to an increasing extent.
What we need is a rethink. We have to ask ourselves why is housebuilding and the construction of major facilities are so unpopular, and if we can do anything about it.
The main reason most people are NIMBYs â€“ and why many MPs have to be the Chief Nimby in their area â€“ is simple. Large projects and new housing estates do not bring the individuals most affected by them any benefits, but they bring them more traffic congestion, more noise, less amenity and a worse view. No amount of Section 106 money â€“ the bribe to the council to give permission by the developer â€“ can offset this, as it is not money passing to the person who is inconvenienced or loses house value. Indeed, councils often make it an even more unpopular development by spending some of the Section 106 money on a Childrenâ€™s playground which is captured by feral youths in the evening and plonks that down by the houses affected by the new development!
Any system which wishes to make people more enthusiastic about new development has to transfer some of the planning gain windfall to the householders affected by way of compensation. We need to develop systems to reward long suffering householders, who otherwise will carry on opposing everything because there is nothing in it for them. On the odd occasion when a developer has offered neighbours compensation in my area there has been much less opposition to the planning application.