Farron: Tories are “nimby” over garden cities

From today’s Telegraph:

A secret Whitehall report recommending that two new cities are built in southern England to combat the housing shortage is being suppressed by David Cameron, The Telegraph can disclose.

The document was drawn up after the Prime Minister gave a speech supporting the idea nearly two years ago. It was described this week by Nick Clegg, his deputy, as a “prospectus” for future developments.

Party President Tim Farron has some fairly robust quotes:

Tim Farron, the Lib Dems’ party president, told the Telegraph: “It is time to break the log jam. This report needs to come out now and come out quickly. The Tories are displaying a Nimby attitude towards garden cities.

“We need to grasp this nettle and turn all these warm words about housing into action. For a growing number of people, the aspiration of home ownership, with all the security it brings, has become a distant dream. We need to do much more to help people realise their dreams. Garden cities offer a real chance for us to help tackle this problem and boost the economy.”

But this isn’t just Tim going off on one. Nick’s office is getting in on the act:

A source close to Mr Clegg said that the row over the document was purely political.

“The issue here is not policy work – it is political disagreement. Unless you get agreement at the top it is not going to happen,” the source said.

“We consistently raise it with the Conservatives on a number of different levels and will continue to do so because we remain supporters of garden cities.”

We seem to be seeing more of these inter-government spats being played out in public now. Liberal Democrats want people to know that they are pushing for more housing. Nick Clegg talked at length about the need for garden cities in his press conference on Monday and was very open about the fact that he was “beating his head against a brick wall” trying to get the Tories to agree:

So things are moving in the right direction, but I wish we could go further, and that’s why, I’ve said earlier – I mean, I’ve expressed my frustration, that despite the obvious logic in not just allowing infill and urban sprawl for further housing developments, which can often be very controversial locally, but instead taking big decisions about where you create new settled communities with the right schools, the right shops, the right infrastructure; namely garden cities.  I think that’s something that we do need to – that’s a bullet we need to bite, but frankly I’ve – I’ve – it’s been a bit like, you know, beating my head against a brick wall trying to persuade the Conservatives that this is something we now need to do if we want to give young families the homes, the gardens, the schools and the local amenities which they deserve.

It’ll be interesting to see if this pressure actually results in the document being published.

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  • Peter Davies 11th Jan '14 - 1:27pm

    They’ve done a pretty good job of suppressing it. Does anyone know whose back yards they are suggesting?

  • I would have thought former US military bases would be possible sites.

  • Peter Davies 11th Jan '14 - 1:52pm

    RAF Upper Heyford and DSDA Kineton?

  • Can anyone remind me how many USA military bases there are in England? I remember a speech by William Wallace in Liverpool in 2008; I think he spoke about more than 40. He also said that they should have reverted to UK ownership.

    Alan Jelfs 11th Jan ’14 – 1:34pm
    I would have thought former US military bases would be possible sites.

    So is the story being suppressed because Uncle Sam might be unhappy ?

  • Simon McGrath 11th Jan '14 - 2:19pm

    Thanks goodness we have no NIMBYs in the Lib Dems.

  • Peter Davies 11th Jan '14 - 2:45pm

    There are currently 5 US bases here but many more like Upper Heyford have already reverted and are largely idle now.

  • Eddie Sammon 11th Jan '14 - 8:35pm

    It’s not NIMBY to care about the earth.

  • We have to stop being NIMBYs and accept that economic growth demands a growing population. Every new arrival is a consumer of products and services, and therefore boosts GDP considerably.

    The ONS figures show that net migration is about 180,000 per annum, which assuming on average two people per house, implies around 90,000 new houses per year just for these new arrivals. There is also a serious backlog of housing demand, so we really should be urgently at least twice this number. It seems that Labour are suggesting 200,000 houses per year.

    Every house built does boost GDP, and so if we are to catch up with demand in a timely way then we should build say 300, 000 or ramp it up to 400,000 per annum. Then we can have even more people welcomed in to boost the economy even more.

    A lot of agricultural land is not used much anyway, with ‘set aside’, so there should be no problem. Of course for NIMBYs their view may be spoiled, it is a small price to pay for prosperity.

  • Simon, I am sorry to see that the York Lib Dems are opposing the green belt being built on. There are Lib Dem controlled councils in other areas where this is happening already. We risk being labeled as political opportunist hypocrites if we are not careful.

  • Garden cities sound very, very nice in the abstract. And some of the existing ones actually are very, very nice. The problem comes in deciding where to put them.

    I cannot think of anywhere much in the South-East where a garden city could be built without causing huge environmental and cultural damage. Much of the South-East has ancient landscapes littered with 17th century farmhouses, Iron Age hedges, patches of semi-natrual ancient woodland, unimproved heaths, etc, etc.

    If we shift out focus to other parts of the country, however, these issues are less acute. Cambridgeshire, for instance, is characterised by large nucleated villages separated by huge tracts of featureless prairies that have few ancient hedges and little woodland. New villages could be fitted into this landscape without much trouble. Similarly, Thetford Warren is a vast tract of 20th century conifer plantations that are of little commercial and zero ecological value. One could build a whole city there, even an international airport, without harming anything.

    As other posters have pointed out, there are still deserted and under-utilised airfields in this country. How about Woodbridge, anyone? There is also a lot of old military land which the newly slimmed down Army is unlikely to need.

  • I don’t understand why we need all this extra housing. Can someone explain where all the extra people are coming from?

  • Hi Theresa,

    Three main areas:

    – Net migration. We’ve had 100,000+ more people coming in than leaving every year for years

    – Many more people living on their own due to divorce and lifestyle changes than in the past so existing housing is being underutilised

    – People living longer means total population is rising. Our birth rate is around 1.95 too, much higher than lots of the EU (Germany’s is 1.35 for example)

  • Peter Davies 11th Jan ’14 – 2:45pm
    There are currently 5 US bases here but many more like Upper Heyford have already reverted and are largely idle now.

    Do you have a link or other source for this info ? Are those USA bases that have “reverted” now ceased to be considered sovereign US territory ?

    I would really appreciate any info on the present position.

  • http://www.caab.org.uk/the-american-bases

    According to this website there would appear to be 10 USA military bases in this country and a lot more that are classed as RAF but are substantially US.
    The website would appear to source their info from published US Government Reports.

  • Maurice Leeke 12th Jan '14 - 6:10pm

    Cambridgeshire has been mentioned as a possible site for more housing – though not for a Garden City as far as I am aware. Cambridgeshire is certainly playing its part – it is the fastest-growing county in the country – and I support housing development here, including in my own village. We must be very careful it is sited though. There is a lot of land in Cambridgeshire that is below the 5 metre contour – and I vigorously oppose housing development so close to sea level. I hope that you would all support me in this. It is not fair to subject future generations to the devastation of having their home flooded that we have witnessed over the last few weeks.

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