Economic growth and the Nimby tendency

There is something of the Nimby in all of us. As an MP I am very conscious that in many cases I am expected to be chief Nimby, to come to the aid of those who want to save a view, protect a greenfield, avoid the eorision of green gaps and Green Belts.

All the time we have a system of planning that requires a national framework and a local plan it will fall to elected and unelected officials to come to a judgement about where things can be built and how much can be built. It requires us all to avoid ducking the quesiton of where building can take place, if we take the Nimby route in many popular places.

This is becoming a big issue in many areas like Wokingham, now that more power is being transferred to Councils for local decisions. Wokingham has been one of the fastest growing parts of the country in the last twenty years, with large new housing developments going in alongside substantial industrial estates and big new food stores.

The good news is that even in a crowded place like Wokingham where opinion is on the whole very concerned about continuing with the same pace of growth, there is plenty of scope to build for growth in appropriate places. The area contains the second largest Segro industrial estate in the UK at Winnersh triangle. The Council and local opinion is happy to see substantial new and redevelopment on this park, greatly adding to the available area of property, with improved road links to the motorway network. This is now underway. The Council and others are also likely to look favourably on proposals to modernise and extend the space available on the Molly Millars estate in Wokingham itself.

For those wanting to build shops there are substantial oppotunities in Wokingham Town Centre, where there are large redevelopment sites and a Council wishing to see more space completed. The Wokingham sites would also accommodate extra urban residential accommodation where permission is likely to be forthcoming.

The question of more housebuilding is the most contentious, but even here there is one large possible opportunity. The area contains the Arborfield Garrison. There are plans to move all the soldiers to Wales, freeing many acres where the brownfields could be redeveloped with a major new housing area. The final Arborfield decisions will be made as part of the Defence Review.

Sometimes it is possible to be both a realistic Nimby and to find land for the building a growing economy needs. This search for sensible answers and compromises needs to be undertaken throughout the country as we move to more local planning.


  1. simon
    August 30, 2010

    Glad I am not a soldier.

  2. JimF
    August 30, 2010

    Good post-we have to find ways of meeting demand for housing, decreasing prices and (somehow) decreasing congestion in the south-east. Can suitable employment be found as well as housing on Arborfield Garrison? Can suitable public transport links be organised? Perhaps the new localism can include lower and fewer car journeys to work and school.

  3. G Valentine
    August 30, 2010

    "That was a Party Political Broadcast on behalf of the Conservative Party."
    All very well and good. Maybe local planning will be improved- maybe not. Still plenty of opportunity for vested interests and mutual back scratching in councils.

  4. Alan Wheatley
    August 30, 2010

    "Nimby" rolls easily off the tongue, and has become a short hand term by which to summarily dismiss the other persons argument without the inconvenience of have to make your own, better argument. We really need a counter term of repost. The best I have managed to come up with is "Syiok" (stuff you I am OK), which falls well short of being the killer counter-punch, and I hope someone else can do better.

    It is many years since I lived in Arborfield, worked in Bracknell (a town of change if ever there was one) and shopped in Wokingham. So to take a more nationally recognisable example of the Nimby/Syiok confrontation consider the proposed high-speed rail link between London and Birmingham. The Nimbys think the best use of the Chilterns is as a means of shaving the journey time between two cities, where as the Syioks think the Chilterns should not be despoiled for a National benefit that is dubious at best, and certainly of no benefit at all to those effected.

    1. nonny mouse
      August 31, 2010

      >>The Nimbys think the best use of the Chilterns is as a means of shaving the journey time between two cities

      For years Syiok used a similar argument to prevent the Winchester bypass. Meanwhile every year millions were wasted in traffic jams and many deaths and injuries occured because the road did not meet the needs of the people. All that to protect a pretty hill with some wildlife that nobody got to enjoy anyway.

      At the end of the day there is a cost/benefit decision to be made about all new developments. Maybe the high speed rail link is not worth digging up the Chilterns, but maybe it is. What we need is an honest planning process that takes all of the issues into account rather than always seeming to emphasise the concerns of local voters or the vocal minority over the national good.

      On the same line of thought, can we get the M27 extended down to the Bournemouth/Poole/Christchurch conurbation. I too love the New Forest but upgrading and widening the road between the end of the M27 and, say, Ringwood would not make much difference and would help join a major population center to the rest of the motorway network..

      1. Alan Wheatley
        September 4, 2010

        I agree in the wisdom of a cost/benefit analysis of new development. While the logic for the Winchester bypass could be applied to a M27 extension, I think the London/Birmingham rail link is quite a different matter. For a start, rail is harking back to a form of transport that was superseded nearly a hundred years ago by road. The future lies in high-speed broadband, where by the need to travel at all is reduced.

        If the answer to transport difficulties is to build more transport facilities between population centers, then we will end up with a county that is only populations centers and transport links between them. And ever growing population makes the matter progressively worse, for ever.

  5. A.Sedgwick
    August 30, 2010

    One of the top planning requirements is a level playing field – an article in the DT about an eco house says it all about the little guy.

  6. Mike Stallard
    August 30, 2010

    Here in Wisbech we have the donut tendency of USA. The middle is, quite literally, falling down, yet it is preserved with relish. The unused buildings are unsafe – or owned by the Council which (Cons) is determined to keep hold of them. Outside is the donut – industrial estates where no man has ever gone before…….. Then come the "villages" – suburbs with inefficient services.

  7. simon_555
    August 30, 2010

    WIth our population set to hit 80 million the NIMBY's must be ignored. I don't want to see the countryside bulldozed but people can't live in cramped highrise housing , thats asking for trouble.

    Until we get away from this notion that the economy has to grow forever there is no hope for the British countryside in the long run as urban sprawl from population growth will destroy it. It's countryside versus economy and I'm afraid the economy will always come out on top until it's too late to do anything about it.

    1. APL
      August 31, 2010

      Simon_555: "WIth our population set to hit 80 million the NIMBY's must be ignored."

      How about we stop the unlimited immigration from both the EU and former colonies in Asia.

      'The NIMBY's must be ignored', what a nice fascistic attitude. Private property doesn't matter it must be subordinated for the good of the collective.

      Simon_555: "economy has to grow forever"

      If the population is growning, then in order for everyone to maintain their standard of living or even, god forbid actually improve their standard of living the economy has to expand.

      1. simon_555
        August 31, 2010

        "How about we stop the unlimited immigration from both the EU and former colonies in Asia."

        — Agree, I think that a population of 80m+ is highly undesireable.

        "Private property doesn't matter it must be subordinated for the good of the collective. "

        –I think you miss my point which is that there is no hope for the countryside if we pursue population growth and endless economic growth. If we do we need to build houses, even if it means less countryside, I said I don't want to see this happen but it will.

        "If the population is growning, then in order for everyone to maintain their standard of living or even, god forbid actually improve their standard of living the economy has to expand."

        –Thats correct. I'm not arguing otherwise, I argue that the population doesn't have to rise so much, it is unsustainable for obvious reasons.

    2. Alan Wheatley
      August 31, 2010

      We do not need 80 million, we don't have to have them and I don't want them!

  8. Bob Webster
    August 31, 2010

    The population of Britain is only "set" to hit 80 million if current patterns of immigration and rising birthrates continue for the next 60 years. Any responsible government can and should act to slow population growth by drastically curbing immigration and reducing state subsidies to large families.
    Instead of villifying Nimby's we should recognise the value of the countryside they fight to protect. It's not just about house prices and a selfish desire to keep a lovely view. The countryside is where we produce our food. In the mid 1970's Britain was 90% self sufficient. Now we import almost half of what we eat and global food prices are rising rapidly. Future planning decisions will need to take this into account.

    1. simon_555
      August 31, 2010

      Totally agree, unfortunately I don't believe they will do anything about it because the economy will always take precendence until it's too late.

  9. John Moss
    September 1, 2010

    More local planning must mean better planning for the supporting infrastructure necessary for development.

    Councils must be empowered to set out what is needed in terms of transport, health, education and afordable stock and to demand that developers factor the cost of this in to their projects. This can be by way of a tarrif they pay to Councils, or legal commitment to provide those things at their cost.

    For too long, landowners have walked away with huge profits from obtaining residential planning consents, yet the school places did not materialise, the health centre was never built and the affordable housing was only provided becasue the government stumped up a grant for the Housing Association to subsidiese the difference between the developer's price and the return they could make at welfare rental levels.

    Change that and you will find people happy to see development happen and the infrastructure being provided in support of it.

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