Yesterday The Sunday Telegraph revealed a plan to “exploit the new and highly controversial” National Planning Policy Framework” to build up to 100,000 homes on green belt land in the Midlands.
This development would “obliterate the open countryside … to create Britain’s largest continuous conurbation.” The plan to build this mega-city over the country’s remaining green fields is linked with the (also) “controversial” HS2 high-speed rail project.
‘Gerroff My Land!’ ‘Hands Off Our Land’ campaign has had the government’s planning reforms and HS2 in its sights since September 2011. It’s good the Telegraph papers are trying to simulate interest in planning. But the campaign often seems more about raising the NIMBY fear-level (see Areas at Risk) than provoking a rounded debate about how we plan for growth.
As The Sunday Telegraph article mentions, England will need to add 2 million houses by 2020 to accommodate our rising population. We need a grown-up discussion about this, and related issues like transport, energy and public services.
Last week the government promised that its plans for new housing would learn from garden cities like Letchworth and Welwyn Garden City. Yes, this may be a tactic to sugar the pill of its planning reforms. But only a return to the principles and bold ambitions of the garden city movement will allow the UK to build a better future, acceptable to all.