6 thoughts on “Abolish all green belts and ignore the nimbys”

  1. Posted 27/11/2013 at 16:02 | Permalink

    That is one of the most depressing and mindless things I have ever read.

  2. Posted 27/11/2013 at 16:38 | Permalink

    You ain’t seen nothing yet, Ashley. Stick around for a bit, there’s more to come.

  3. Posted 28/11/2013 at 12:17 | Permalink

    Kristian Niemietz’s analysis is short but admirably sharp.

    The growth of urban settlements was characterized throughout history by a process of accretion. That is, until the absurd notion of the Green Belt hobbled and blighted it.

    Many Nimbys gaze over their adored prospects from houses that once blighted the doubtless still more pleasant prospects from earlier houses. Yet now most are determined to deny this process to others (O lente, lente, curite noctis equi). Their demands for ‘preservation’* bring to mind the old lady glutton in C. S. Lewis’s Screwtape Letters. Her gluttony had ‘querulousness, impatience, uncharitableness and self-concern’: these same vices are now more handsomely dressed-up as a love of nature; dedication to heritage; sustainability etc. The old woman’s seemingly modest ‘insatiable demands’ merely detracted from the pleasure and equanimity of those who served her. Although her material wants were abstemious and never excessive in quantity, they entailed the undue servitude and misery of others. So it is with Nimbys: their (truly) exquisite demands must triumph over others’ lowly and mundane needs. In their world, the Divine Right of Grass trumps the need for shelter; the contemplation of aesthetic pleasures vanquishes children playing in sunny gardens – let them have brownfield apartments!

    There is a certain irony in the widespread bourgeois support for the destruction of property rights that has attended the process of ‘Town and Country Planning’ – but then again perhaps not, since these restrictions greatly enhance the value of existing property by restricting supply in the presence of high demand and allow some to use the power of the State to protect their interests. But a deeper causes may be our habituation to these impositions, especially when there is a pervasive blindness to economic thinking.

    “Thus custom becomes the first reason for voluntary servitude. Men are like handsome race horses who first bite the bit and later like it, and rearing under the saddle a while soon learn to enjoy displaying their harness and prance proudly beneath their trappings. Similarly men will grow accustomed to the idea that they have always been in subjection, that their fathers lived in the same way; they will think they are obliged to suffer this evil, and will persuade themselves by example and imitation of others, finally investing those who order them around with proprietary rights, based on the idea that it has always been that way.”

    Étienne de La Boétie. The Discourse of Voluntary Servitude.

    * The CPRE (Campaign to Protect Rural England) was originally the Council of the Preservation of Rural England.

  4. Posted 28/11/2013 at 16:53 | Permalink

    “The CPRE (Campaign to Protect Rural England) was originally the Council of the Preservation of Rural England.”

    It would be more accurately named the Campaign to Protect Residential Equity.

  5. Posted 16/12/2013 at 01:30 | Permalink

    Typical free-market fundamentalist dogma.

    Typically, does bother to stop and ask why we need planning regulations in the first place.

    Land has a value but no costs of production = the purest form of monopoly there is.

    If you allow the value of that monopoly to be capitalised, by not asking landowners to pay the full 100% for their privileges ie regulation through taxation, you get all sorts of nasty side effects.

    Firstly you get a huge transfer of wealth. Never mind about that.

    Secondly you get inefficiency and mis-allocation. Which should be obvious to free-marketeers(EU butter mountains, remember those?). Landowners are in effect receiving a £200bn per year subsidy. Subsidies skew the market.

    In this case we get empty/underutilised business and residential property, vacant plots with planning permission, and under productive businesses taking up productive sites.

    Apart from the fact this land inefficiency causes a huge deadweight loss on our economy, it means development in cities is less dense and less responsive than it should be. If landowners are getting an on going freebe, there is no market pressure for them to be productive. It’s a monopoly doh!

    So in lieu of the fact we don’t have taxation to properly regulate the land monopoly, in order to prevent one of its symptoms, urban sprawl, we regulate via planning.

    Urban sprawl is not necessary but it has malign affects, both economically and socially (never mind about the welfare loss from losing “undeveloped” land).

    If London had the same population density as Dallas Tx, it would have to be nine times larger.

    Studies in America have shown that children brought up in the outskirts of sprawling cities fair worse than those of a similar socio-economic back ground to those in city centres.

    We also know that sprawl cost more in terms of infrastructure and pollution(more and longer car journeys). It’s also ugly. In America where they experience this, sprawl has become a problem to be tackled, not celebrated.

    Our politicians, over 70 years ago, had the foresight to see these potential problems. It is a shame they also prevented more building upward too, as this has made the pressure outwards worse.

    We have also been here before in de-regulating our land monopoly. Parker Morris minimum room sizes were scrapped in 1980. The results are inevitable. Regulations on buildings are like tax, the incidence falling on the value of land. So room sizes got smaller, land values went up.

    Brainless, but here we go again, about to make the same mistake.

    If we de-regulate planning, at the margins, we will see prices fall. Temporarily.

    In London and the SE we will merely be added extra capacity. More agglomeration = higher gdp =higher demand=even higher house prices.

    We will be back where we started, house price wise, only with a permanent loss of welfare from sprawl.

    More agglomeration is a good thing, and we should not be holding back a larger population in the SE.

    The best why to do this is for landowners to pay the full cost of their monopoly privileges. We’d get full use of what we’ve already got. As land values would fall(to zero theoretically) those who can best make use of it can afford to buy in without a massive debt first.

    We cannot have a full function housing market without a level playing field in land(good pun that;)). Get that first, then de-regulate planning after. De-regulate first will be disastrous.

    Economists that have written papers on planning and the effect on house prices, make some pretty extreme and unrealistic assumptions in order to prove their point. ie all green space can(and should) be built on. The unit cost of adding an extra floor to an existing building is the same as the unit cost of 100 new. etc, etc.

    If a three bedroom detached house costs £100,000 to build, if we scrap planning am I going to be able to buy that house any where in the UK for that price? Chelsea for example, or Mayfair?

    If not, why not?

    When supply constraints meets increased demand=higher monopoly rents.

  6. Posted 23/05/2014 at 16:24 | Permalink

    In his article for the Guardian (21/5/14) Simon Jenkins says ‘Councils should be set free to develop and manage their low-cost estates.’ Actually Simon, Councils don’t do that any more – ever heard of housing associations?

    So what about a proper Green Belt and Affordable Housing Tsar! The appointment of a respected impartial academic might allow the issues to be considered objectively.

    There just happens to be an e-petition at http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/65441 which just needs 99,999 signatures in order to change the course of planning history.

Comments are closed.