This book is written by a former MEP, a former boss of the Campaign to Protect Rural England and the current Director of the think-tank Green Alliance. Shaun Spiers has been knocking around the policy and political world for a good few years and he’s no fool (no fool at all) and so his views, based on much experience, deserve a good hearing.
Here he tackles a tricky issue and claims to find a way through the rows and disagreements.
We need more houses and they have to be built somewhere – but much of the ‘somewhere’, if we talk about the countryside – is under threat and is according to many measures losing its defining qualities. So should we build more houses on green fields and even on Green Belt land? Or is that a house too far?
Do we need to redefine the Green Belt (in the same way that nature conservationists might like to consider whether we should redefine protected species)? And if so, do we trust the present government or any other government to do this fairly and well? And if not then who should do so? Or is this can of worms best kept tightly shut and left to an even later time?
This seems to me to be a good introduction to the housing crisis (a subject which I have resolutely ignored as being very complicated) and a very good example of approaching a thorny issue in a sensible, measured and rational manner. It deserves to be read by those interested in housing and the planning system. However, I found much of general interest in these pages too – the approach, the ways of thinking and the search for solutions is a good model for many other conflicts and so anyone involved in political advocacy would get something from this case study.
The book ends with a chapter of ‘solutions’ – a good way to end. I read that chapter before I read the rest of the book to see what the punchline was, and the proposed solutions seemed sensible to my, at the time, rather ignorant mindset on this subject. Having now read the preceding chapters, the solutions not only still seem a good basis for progress but I can now see where they all came from. You might agree with Spiers about the solutions but you’ll have to read this short (160 pages) but engaging book to find out what they are.
How to Build Houses and Save the Countryside by Shaun Spiers is published by Policy Press.