Sunday opening, fool’s gold?

Sometimes I feel like a second rate Nostradamus, when something I was whinging about weeks or months previously, actually comes to pass. Having accused George Osborne of being a closet Yank, because of his willingness to see a planning free for all used to drive his growth agenda, we now see that he is proposing to relax the Sunday Trading Laws for a trial period. Don’t be surprised to see the trial continue without a break, as all George’s mates in the retailing industry, continue to shamelessly lobby him, for it to become the norm.

As well as regretting this further erosion of what supposedly makes Sunday different from every other day of the week, I would question what the rationale for this change is. Apart from transferring more money from the pockets of hard pressed working people into the bulging bank balances of shareholders, how will this change help the recovery, or offer real growth?

We, the British public are constantly being berated by our politicians for having too much personal debt and told to reduce our reliance on credit to feed our naked consumerism. Yet George Osborne is about to propose something that can only make that debt grow further, as a bored public, credit cards in hand, now spend their Sundays wandering the aisles of department stores stores full of tempting imported consumer goods.

Also, how is increasing retail spending supposed to improve the national debt situation overall? With most of the goods purchased coming from foreign imports and not from home grown manufacturers, how does that help the dire financial situation we currently find ourselves in? No doubt the increase in VAT taken, combined with the increase in tax businesses will have to pay on their takings, will make the Government’s balance sheet look slightly better. However, given that there is every chance that this will be at least equalled by an increase in personal debt, isn’t this just fool’s gold?

Desperation planning policies emerging

From reading an item pitching Eric Pickles as the saviour of the English bowling green! I’ve been reminded of little gem from earlier this year.

Grant Shapps: Communities to be given a right to reclaim land

Published 2 February 2011
Housing Minister Grant Shapps today announced plans to give members of the public the right to reclaim and develop hundreds of acres of unused public sector land and buildings, which are currently trapped in a bureaucratic quagmire. The new Community Right to Reclaim Land will help communities to improve their local area by using disused publicly owned land for new development.
Given all the rhetoric surrounding the NPPF, the housing shortage and now the recent piece of planning policy desperation- house boats – all I can do is repeat my previous observations on this piece of nonsense.
The reason why it is nonsense is two fold. Firstly, a large amount of the land owned by the public sector is remote areas unconnected with existing development and therefore falling outside of the definition of sustainable development. Of course that was the definition of sustainable development that made some sense, as opposed to the abstract one DCLG seems to favour now. The second reason this is nonsense, is because of it’s reference to communities rushing out to scoop up redundant land and develop it as a way of improving their area.
There may well be one or two communities wishing to grab and build, but they will almost certainly be the exception. Of course, if communities were able to acquire redundant land in order to prevent anything being built on it, now that would be a completely different story!

Telegraph writer gets Localism Bill wrong

Saturday’s Telegraph readers of the Property section will need to take a large pinch of salt when reading an article written by the Telegraph’s supposed awarding writer, Ian Cowie.

Mr Cowie suggests that last week’s Budget is on the whole beneficial to home owners.  This may well be true, but what isn’t true ,is what he has to say about the new powers the Localism Bill will give to those home owners.

He claims that, ‘……..the Localism Bill should give residents greater power to decide whether or not more fields and woods are bricked over to build new housing,……’  . 

Now I’m not sure what this chap got his award for, but it wasn’t for demonstrating any expert knowledge of what the government’s ambitions are when it comes to the planning system in this country – ambitions that don’t involve preventing house building!

Ian Cowie appears to have missed the bit in the Budget about the planning system being changed to encourage economic growth.  That encouragement will take the form of, as various government minister have taken pleasure in saying over the last 12 months, simplifying the system so as to make it far easier to build things.

So, whilst localism will give local people a say on the types of development that take place in their area, it will definately not give them any powers to prevent development if it has already been included in the council’s development plan for the area.  Nor will communites be able to stop development, and this is the worrying bit, because it has yet to be defined in any useable way, if it is considered sustainable.

Don’t just take my word for it, read the Royal Town Planning Institute’s (RTPI) response to the budget.  http://www.rtpi.org.uk/item/4477/23/5/3

Eric Pickles finally picks the right target

The link below is to the recent speech made by Eric Pickles to the CBI.

http://planningblog.wordpress.com/2011/03/22/pickles-woos-cbi

I’m actually thankful for small mercies when reading this speech.  It’s the first time I’ve read anything where Pickles appears to blame the system he and his predecessors are responsibility for, rather than the poor bloody foot soldiers (the planners) for the problems he now perceives as the root of all our ills.

He and others might still be wrong with some of their suggested solutions (NHB, community plans, LEP, enterprise zones) , but at least he’s right about some of the causes.