Letters: So convenient to blame the planners

Phillip Inman exposes the wishful thinking or stupidity of the Institute of Economic Affairs’ magical belief that house prices will fall by 40% if developers are given a free reign (Why the right has planning laws in its sights, 31 December). It is clear, from the millions of unlived-in properties located by the Empty Homes Agency and the 400,000 building plots with planning permission unused by the industry, that all the ingredients are in place to produce the houses, but the will and finance are missing. Of course 5 million people on the waiting lists want new cheap houses and crocodile tears for them are shed liberally. But the banks, with £1tn outstanding in unpaid mortgages and “forbearance” finding its way into the lingo, will not undermine their own security. No Tory government would last a minute if house prices fell by 10%, yet alone 40%.

Inman provides the solution in his call for an annual tax on land. Besides freeing up and reducing the price, this is the only sure way of collecting tax from offshore proprietors with fancy avoidance schemes. But because of this, obnoxious though these devices may be to him, Mr Cameron will never accept a land tax.
Henry Pryor
Hay on Wye, Herefordshire

• Inman falls into the same trap as the government when he blames planners for low rates of housebuilding. Planners make no decisions about the numbers of houses to be built. Those decisions are made by elected members of local authorities who, since the abolition of building targets, have continued to court the votes of existing homeowners – who often oppose new house building – rather than those of the prospective occupants of new homes which are so badly needed across the country. Please refrain from echoing the simplistic refrains of the PM, chancellor and others, who find it easier to blame planners than members of their own party.
Dr John Sturzaker
Planning lecturer, University of Liverpool

• Villages in the countryside have two problems: not enough homes to meet the demands of next-generation local families; and not enough land upon which to build a hovel due to “washover” when lazy urban bureaucrats draw greenbelts around cities and take in many miles of agricultural land, including hundreds of villages. The rural economy is caught in aspic and stops any hope of rural sustainability. As a result, shops and essential services close, post offices and bus services are withdrawn, and innovative developers who try to build near villages have to undergo unworkable hoops of bureaucracy to obtain planning permission.

It is easier to throw money at the banks than tackle the public concern: people will allow modern housing in the greenbelt if building design of our age is considered building design as good as the period buildings found in villages, instead of awful little boxes demanded by planners and weak-kneed architects unprepared to stand up to them.
Cllr Adrian Dobinson
Mendip district council

• I see Tory Modernisation 2.0 wants to kick the town planning system again. At the risk of repeating what many have said, the planning system isn’t the hold-up to building more houses. That the economy is so weak and the banks reluctant to lend to businesses and people are surely the major factors why the housebuilding industry remains in the doldrums.

As a recently retired senior planning officer, I can think of little more that would raise the ire of both local elected politicians and residents than these plans. The Modernisation group is fiddling while Rome burns, and should focus on major economic policy.
Steve Burns

• As prefabricated houses proved so adequate a means of housing the homeless families of London and other cities immediately postwar, why are there no proposals for a repeat of the exercise? The designs would obviously be to a higher standard than before and so the claims of having to live in cramped quarters and ice boxes would not apply.

The erection of such homes could be achieved in days instead of the six months for traditional designs using bricks and blocks.
Jack Hill
St Albans, Hertfordshire

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