So yesterday we’ve heard the Government’s latest ‘plan‘ to stimulate growth in our economy, with David Cameron unveiling a one-year relaxation on planning regulations for people wanting to extend their homes, along with a change in the rules for housing developers that would remove the requirement for them to provide affordable and social housing.
The Government may argue that they are removing unnecessary costs and delays for homeowners but I am concerned that the result will be an increase in extensions that are badly planned, less safe and less sustainable. Furthermore, it won’t help local communities when neighbours start falling out over extensions up to 8 metres long, or when people find traffic has suddenly increased in their area because a local business has expanded by 100m2 without their having any say. More importantly, there’s no evidence that any of this will actually help our economy.
David Cameron seems to think that building new homes will help to “kick-start the economy” – but it certainly won’t if no one can afford to buy those homes. Cameron wants us to believe that it’s bureaucracy and ‘the planners on our backs’ that are holding our economy back, when the reality is that it is the Coalition’s cuts that are damaging our economy. Reducing the regulation that is there to protect us will only lead to worse conditions for everyone.
According to the Local Government Association, developers already have planning permission to build 400,000 new homes, but haven’t done so because there just isn’t the demand for them. Likewise, families who are already feeling squeezed by a VAT hike, cuts in tax credits and job losses are unlikely to be thinking about extending their homes. Once again Cameron and his friends are proving they are out of touch by failing to understand what it is that ordinary people want and need.
With the OECD downgrading their growth forecasts for the UK today, it is clear that merely tinkering with planning rules is not going to help the British economy. Rather than quick-fix solutions, we need long-term investment that will promote growth by offering people long-term employment prospects. The Government should be looking to encourage, and invest in, schemes that will actually promote jobs, like the one I visited inLeicester today. The Greenacres site at the Great Central Railway is currently providing training for young railway industry apprentices. This is not only providing jobs for young people at a time when youth unemployment is at 21.5%, but also giving those young people skills and training that offer genuine, long-term career prospects.