I see that the Sunday Times has taken another emotive pop at developers (“Builders use loophole to flood villages with concrete”, ST 3/11/13). They are always excellent headings, but not necessarily accurate (in all senses).
Apparently, ‘villages in beauty spots are under attack from property speculators’. I was envisaging a Jam and Jerusalem meets Rourkes Drift occurrence, with a baying mob of rabid developers flying over hedgerows and kissing gates armed with spears and bows and arrows. The local vicar barricading the entrance to the church, whilst the PTA of the local primary school catapult Rocky Road and scones at the passing infidels. It would make a great eight-part daytime drama. Alan Rickman as Thorgan Smeltz (property baron). Joanna Lumley as Petuna Golightly (renowned local watercolour artist).
In reality, a few people are upset that developers have had the temerity to put their heads up above the parapet and have promoted residential schemes where local authorities have not got round to adopting an up to date development plan. It’s hardly incendiary, and certainly not deserving of accusations of flooding of, if not quite biblical, but man-made proportions.
So why haven’t these councils adopted a development plan? No doubt pressure on resources, the impact of changes to the planning system and speed of hand have played a part. It may also be that officers and councillors know that if they lead on a plan, they will have to acknowledge the need for housing in the very areas that developers are considering. Who wants that kind of flack?
This is the carrot and stick of Localism. If local communities are not engaged, and compelled to see the value of leading on their own growth strategies, developers will fill the void. You can hardly blame developers for that; they are in business, and it’s not as if we don’t need the blessed houses. But local communities lose out, and so do developers, as there is less control for the former, and adversarial applications are always more expensive; there is no certainty that utility companies in particular will acknowledge their responsibility to accommodate growth (which comes with a development plan), and planning appeals cost a lot of money.
I’m looking forward to next week’s follow-up article: “Developers Steal Cornwall”.