It’s easy to fall out of the habit of blogging. Eric Pickles has enticed me back to the keyboard.
Communities and Local Government Minister Eric Pickles wants to tackle the menace of multiplying bins on our streets. He has called for new housing developments to include extra storage space for the clutter of wheelie bins that spill across many pavements.
Pickles has a point. These attention-grabbing bright blue, green and brown boxes look terrible: why do bins have to be such a prominent part of the visual environment? Progress is all about hiding rubbish. We got rid of middens, stopped people throwing crap out their windows and pushed water waste into underground sewers. ‘In your face’ wheelie bins are a backwards step.
That said, instead of calling for more room for bins, Pickles should be pushing for more room for people. Britain’s population now grows by 400,000 people a year. But in the twelve months to March, only 101,920 new house builds were started in England. Fast rising prices (and rents) are making large parts of the country – the parts that drive the economy – unaffordable. In London, houses now cost more than twelve times the average income.
In the past, I’ve written about a ‘planning panic‘ that prevents us from having a sensible debate about where we’re all going to live in our increasingly crowded islands. This panic risks turning into paralysis: on housing, transport and energy we seem to be going nowhere.
Planning Minister Nick Boles is doing his bit (and not winning many friends for it). It’s time his colleagues – and the Opposition – took the risk of starting a grown-up conversation about how we can find more room for people.
* some bins enhancing my front yard, yesterday