Well done Zac!

Did you see Zac Goldsmith on Newsnight on Tuesday evening?  If not, have a look (about 16 minutes in) because he was very good.

As Jeremy Paxman sat in front of an image of green countryside Allegra Stratton spilled the beans on what the Treasury is thinking on the planning the system (read it here). Allegra (what a pretty name that is – but does it mean she is a fast woman? Surely not?) says that George ‘the Destroyer’ Osborne wants to announce planning stuff in his budget.  And he wants to keep in the dreaded ‘presumption in favour of sustainable development’ clause that is at once so meaningless but so meaningful. Apparently the Treasury is ‘bullish’ about this – that’s in the ‘in a china shop’ sense I presume.

If this happens then watch out for soothing words on protecting the Green Belt, AONBs and National Parks – but they are not really the issue as even George Osborne is probably not so great a philistine as to weaken their protection (although, maybe…) .  It’s the thousand cuts to the countryside that are the issue and which will be hastened by the goverment’s proposals unless they are changed.

Zac Goldsmith, praised in this blog before, and I can envisage doing it again, made his views fairly clear when he said that he hoped that this news was just rumour and that ‘it’s [the planning system] not blocking development’.  He rightly said that the planning system is long-winded and bureaucratic.  I agree – speeding up decisions, not altering their basis, is what is needed and that would help developers more than most other changes whilst retaining protection of landscapes and wildlife.

Zac also said that a definition of sustainable development is needed if this is to mean anything and that brownfield sites should be preferred over greenfield ones.  I’d generally agree with both those sentiments too.  Thank you, Zac, for standing up for the environment and showing that the Tory party could do much better than it is at the moment if only it listened to the wiser heads within the Party.

This is the time to send George Osborne a message on what his budget should say – click here to do that (please do!).

But let’s also wait to see what happens in the budget and who says what.  I assume that the NGOs will not claim victory if there are just a few kind words on green belt included.

For those new to this subject here are some previous blogs on the subject:

July 2011

August 2011

September 2011, and again and again and again

October 2011

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1 Comment

  1. Roderick Leslie

    He probably is (as big a philistine) but he recognises (1) he won't get away with it (2) generally speaking they aren't the places developers want to develop anyway. If I were a responsible developer I'd be very, very concerned about what George is doing - from a general acceptance of the planning system he risks stirring up middle England in the same way forest sales did. Developer want to plant houses where the nice people already live because they are so much more profitable than social housing - and its exactly those people who have the confidence and determination to make the sort of noise that stops Government - especially as they are close to the core Tory vote. The case that there is actually no shortage of land with planning seems as strong as the argument that the problem developers face is noone with the money to buy their houses. Yet again playing to paper thin Daily Mail prejudice has every propsect of quite unforseen consequences - but it really does matter because even if it fails we'll probably lose some ireplaceble natural places in the process.

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