Opinion: Let’s make this the Housing General Election

Last month,  2,300 people descended on Westminster for the Homes for Britain rally calling for all political parties to end the housing crisis in a generation, and publish a plan within a year of office setting out how they would do this. It was an inspirational moment, and one of the biggest campaign rallies I have ever seen. Many people from took part in the relay leading up to it – walking, running, cycling from all over the country. There was even a bus, Betsy, who journeyed up from Land’s End, visiting towns and cities along the way taking the message about the housing crisis to the people.

So why is it so important? Well we are in the midst of a terrible crisis. For over 30 years no Government of any political party has built anywhere near enough homes. We need 245,000 homes a year now, yet we only built around half that figure last year. As a result for young people in many parts of the country owning a home is something they can only dream of. There are still 1.6 million families on waiting lists for affordable housing. And we lack suitable housing options for older people despite the massive demographic changes coming our way. Of course this crisis looks different in different housing markets, for example in some parts of the country the challenge is about regenerating communities and replacing decrepit homes, but one thing is clear – our housing system is dysfunctional and fails almost everyone.

The good news from the Lib Dem position is that we have recognised the enormity of the challenge. Lib Dem Conference adopted the Decent Homes for All policy paper, calling for a range of measures to solve the housing crisis and build 300,000 homes a year. We followed that up with a commitment to 10 new garden cities, and in Liverpool this month we adopted a manifesto commitment to end the housing crisis in a generation.

However there is still some way to go before we can truly make this the housing General Election. We need our campaigners out there selling the message of more homes and a better housing future for all. We need to root out NIMBYism from our campaigns, or we will never achieve our ambitious target. Let’s see every Lib Dem candidate sign up to back the ‘Homes for Britain’ campaign, which is aiming to change the debate on housing nationally, and do our part to make this the housing election.

Meanwhile the ‘Yes to Homes’ campaign seeks to change the housing debate at a grassroots level by giving voice to those who want to see new homes built. So far, despite many individual Councillors signing up, none of the ten councils backing the campaign is Lib Dem-run. We need to see that change and for Lib Dem-run councils formally back the ‘Yes to Homes’ campaign.

Of course we need infrastructure with new homes, and of course there are some places or developments which are not suitable. But the excuses must end – we must provide the homes for the next generation so that we can build a stronger economy and a fairer society, in which everyone has the opportunity to get on in life.

* Patrick Murray is a Liberal Democrat member in London who works in housing policy.

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  • mick stevens 3rd Apr '15 - 11:52am

    Just a shame that local politicians of all parties, assisted by very vocal residents, campaign against almost every planning application that comes forward

  • ” Let’s see every Lib Dem candidate sign up to back the ‘Homes for Britain’ campaign”

    I doubt Cheadle MP Mark Hunter will sign it. Recently he led a thankfuly unsuccessful campaign to stop nearly a thousand houses being built on an ideal site (a former aerodrome) in Stockport. Heaven forbid that it should be more important to build much-needed new homes than preserve the values of a few millionaire mansions in Woodford.

  • Mark Seaman 3rd Apr '15 - 12:36pm

    It is not unreasonable for people to baulk at the local effects of building so many houses nationally. The Homes for Britain campaign seem to be suggesting that means be given to ignore the views of those who oppose some new building developments, which seems extremely un-democratic.

  • Helen Dudden 3rd Apr '15 - 12:39pm

    This has been one of the issues with producing homes of a good quality.

    Poor housing is not housing deserved by those who need homes and can’t afford to buy.

    I call on the next government to make decent homes a key issue, a roof and four walls is not a home, nor is the addition of mould and damp and high energy bills.

  • Tim thank you for this article and pointing out that we will deliver 300,000 new homes a year and end the housing crisis in 20 years (a generation?) both of which I was not aware of. This of course means that if a member who is interested in our policy has missed this then there is no likelihood that the public will have heard of it.

    Last night I heard Ed Miliband say that Labour are promising that by 2020 200,000 new homes will be built a year, but I didn’t hear Nick say we planned to build 300,000 new homes a year in 2016 and every year thereafter!

    Please can you state where the figure of 245,000 new homes being NEEDED a year is worked out?

    I wish you luck in your campaign. However I recall that there was a debate on here about what level of new home building the British building industry could support and if I recall correctly there were huge doubts that more than 200,000 new homes a year could be built.

  • Sorry “Tim” should be Patrick Murray.

  • William Hobhouse.
    It is house building not rocket science.
    In 1944 the then wartime coalition government thought it had an answer.Prefabs.

    Prefabs (prefabricated houses) were a major part of the delivery plan to address the United Kingdom’s post–Second World War housing shortage. They were envisaged by war-time prime minister Winston Churchill in March 1944, and legally outlined in the Housing (Temporary Accommodation) Act 1944.

    Taking the details of the public housing plan from the output of the Burt Committee formed in 1942, the government under Churchill proposed to address the 200,000 shortfall in post-war housing stock, by building 500,000 prefabricated houses, with a planned life of up to 10 years within five years of the end of the Second World War.

    It did not turn out quite like that.

    1.2 million new houses were built from 1945 to 1951.
    Yet only 156,623 prefab houses were constructed.
    Today, a number survive, a testament to the durability of a series of housing designs and construction methods only envisaged to last 10 years.

    The key fact out of all this is that –
    1.2 million new houses were built from 1945 to 1951.

    The only thing that is missing today is the lack of political will.

  • William – in 1959 the World Health Assembly passed a resolution proposing a smallpox eradication programme. At at time smallpox killed around 2 million people a year, it was about 1966-67 before a serious campaign got underway. In 1979 naturally occuring smallpox was eradicated.

    Where there is the political will to make things happen extraordinary things can be acheived. Certainly when politicans say we can’t do that they really mean we don’t want to do that or it’s going to be to hard for me to commit to.

    “If you think it’s going be too hard or you think you’re going to lose, well, God, Jed, I don’t even want to know you.” 🙂

  • Patrick
    You write : ” Of course we need infrastructure with new homes…” almost as if it is an inconsequential afterthought.
    The technicality of building ONE house is dead easy. However, ensuring that its new occupants have,… school places,.. a doctor that can see them in under 2 weeks,… a local authority that can empty their bins with sufficient regularity,… etc..etc etc, is key to supporting that ONE new home. You cannot treat infrastructure so lightly, as if it’s just *assumed to be a given*. It is very likely to be *the key limiting factor* to the 200,000 homes that are needed.

  • Affordable homes for everyone is a utopian ideal that can only be achieved at huge environmental cost, unless there is a high degree of central planning.

    One way forward (and one that has been much promoted on this site) is the relaxation of planning controls. The author’s denunciation of those who seek to prevent environmental degradation as “Nimbyists” suggests that he belongs in that camp. OK, let us take a look at what free market fundamentalism does in terms of housing provision.


    This is New Canaan, Connecticut. Up until the 19th century, most of Connecticut was farmland. This was then replaced by secondary growth woodland as farms were abandoned. Then, from the mid-20th century, when motorways made all of the state accessible to commuters, Connecticut was progressively concreted over. Some of the woodland continues to exist, as state protected reserves and as the back gardens of the suburban sprawl that now covers the state from corner to corner. The green mantle one sees from space melts away as one looks up close. Free market fundamentalists hail this as the fulfillment of the American dream. After all, everyone with enough money has a house in the trees. Environmentalists have other words for it, most of them not polite.

    But wait a moment. Free markets have distortions, and the big distortion in the American housing market is the fact that in the leper colonies where they force the poor to live there is an abundance of brownfield land which no developer will touch. The following is North St Louis:


    The few remaining houses here are worth less than the scrap value. Many of them are foreclosures, and they are impossible to let. So we have the ludicrous situation where brownfield land close to major employment locations and with an existing infrastructure goes to waste (for as long as the council can afford to cut the grass, that is).

    Which brings me on to the alternative approach, which is centralised planning. That is to say, growth will only be allowed in certain regions, but the quality of development within those regions does not have to be high. The 1960s Wilson government tried that approach, and it quickly came unstuck, mainly because it was so inflexible. One of its lasting legacies is Croydon. Another is the vast stock of systems-built public housing, much of which has had to be blown up.

    I would suggest that the solution has to be along the lines of centralised planning, but with the details decided at the local level. There is plenty of brownfield land and low-grade greenfield land available, but it tends to be culturally and environmentally sensitive areas that developers are most likely to target. We have to be able to say to the construction industry that brownfield land and low-grade greenfield land must be developed first. The alternative is unbroken sprawl from London to the coast and garden suburbs crammed with gerry-built flats.

  • Julian Gibb 3rd Apr '15 - 2:10pm

    What are your views on the “right to buy”.?
    The SNP have stopped this in Scotland in order to retain housing stock.

  • Helen Dudden 3rd Apr '15 - 2:27pm

    William Hobhouse. I agree. In the area that we live there are serious housing issues. Some are caused by the stock that does not measure up to set standards.

    Renting, is expensive, why not put suggestions forward on how this could happen?

  • Patrick Murray 3rd Apr '15 - 2:27pm

    Thanks for the comments everyone, good to get a bit of a debate going!

    Tim, that’s a great motion. I’d be very happy to help Liberal Youth in getting Lib Dem councils on board! If we are to solve the crisis and build this number of homes there will have to be some greenbelt building in high value areas in the South East in particular. The key is that this is done sensitively. But in my home town of Oxford the CPRE die in a ditch to save a sewerage works on the edge of the city, whilst hardly any local young person can afford a home (it is the least affordable place in the country now).

    Mark, I do understand where you are coming from and indeed have stated in my last paragraph that not all developments will be right. For what it’s worth Homes for Britain is trying to get all political parties to understand the gravity of the housing crisis and do something about it. There’s no dictating about where those homes go.

    However, I do know from my own experience as a Councillor sitting on a planning committee for 6 years, seeing 100s of applications, that there is a significant problem with NIMBYism on the ground and too many politicians who should know better (from all parties) cave in to it. I saw good developments and bad ones, but the common thread was that there was always someone opposed. Usually these people were wealthy home-owners and the voices of the people who needed homes, such as young people, people trapped in overcrowded, poor quality, unaffordable private sector rented homes, or the homeless were never heard. There are 1.6m households on waiting lists for affordable housing, and over 90,000 children in temporary accommodation. I feel very strongly that we need to be much bolder and braver and make sure we build the homes these people need. On that note that is exactly what the Yes to Homes campaign is seeking to do – give voice to people locked out of local planning debates and encourage them to influence their local councillors.

    Interestingly it seems to be the politicians who are out of step with the public now – the British Social Attitudes Survey last month stated that

    “Opposition to new homes in England has continued to fall substantially between 2010 and 2014. In 2010 46 per cent of respondents said they would oppose new homes being built in their local area compared to 31 per cent in 2013. This fell to only 21 per cent in 2014. Similarly, those supportive of house building in their local area rose from 28 per cent in 2010 and 47 per cent in 2013 to 56 per cent in 2014.” Some hope for the future?

    Michael BG – probably the best source for stats is this publication https://www.housing.org.uk/media/home-truths/ The 245,000 figure is the accepted one produced by the Town and Country Planning Association. You are right though, it will take some time to get there as capacity in the construction industry has collapsed. Still you have to start somewhere and better to aim for what you need than aim too low (like Labour’s 200,000).

    William, I don’t actually think that’s fair. The Decent Homes for All policy paper sets out a range of measures to get there: http://cache.martintod.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/04/104%20-%20Decent%20Homes%20for%20All.pdf

    The problem is that for some reason people are enamoured with talking about the Rent to Buy idea. Good as that is, it is a drop in the ocean to get to 300k a year. But the party has done a lot of thinking on this so the ideas are there if we get back in to Government.

    Finally, absolutely agree with you Helen. My day job is working on health and housing policy so I know too well the effects of poor housing on people’s lives.

  • Jenny Barnes 3rd Apr '15 - 3:34pm

    It’s possible to build up, as well as out. The Economist, not your left wing paper, discusses this in their leader this week, and is strongly in favour of LVT! Locally we have a brownfield site which could take 5,000 homes, but the NIMBY tories don’t want to build anywhere at all; where they do allow building it has to be less than 3 stories high. So it tends to use much more land than it needs to.

  • From my experience, very sensible liberals can go slightly off the rails when it comes to planning. Usually it is from noble intentions – the desire to preserve the environment, and a wish to respect the views of local people. I think it’s worth saying that there are very few ‘perfect’ developments – there will always be problems. That said, this is a national problem that needs a strong national or regional lead. There is a natural desire in local government to look after your ward, rather than the community at large – either in your town, borough, county, or nation.

    I should say, by the way, because Patrick is too modest, that he helped to steer one of the biggest housing developments in Oxford for many years into existence. This development was in his ward, which was distinctly marginal at the time. If the will is there, big things can happen.

  • Steve Comer 3rd Apr '15 - 9:54pm

    Patrick makes a lot of valid points. Sadly everytime there is a proposal to put one brick on top of another you seem to geta protest group set up to oppose it!
    I can still hear the cries of “what about parking?” ringing in my ears every time a new housing develolpment was proposed at planning committee. (the assumption being thatevert 2 bed semi would generate 3 car users).

    Community politicians are then caught between a rock and a hard place, do they back NIMBY residents, or support the greater good and support housing and risk losing votes?

    The hard reality is that Gordon Brown as Chancellor and PM did not take house building seriously, I think this was because he knew a housing shortage would lead to a house price boom, which in turn would lead to equity release and more consumer spending. Few people saw this as a problem at thetime, Vince Cable was a lone voice in explaining the emperor’s clothing deficiency in the financial markets. We need a change in attitude towards homes thst sees them as places for people to live in, not as a sort of pension pot.

  • Patrick Murray 4th Apr '15 - 7:27am

    Sesenco – first time I’ve been categorised as a free-market fundamentalist I think! 🙂 I have to say I disagree with your opening statement about affordable homes for all as being utopian. John Tilley has pointed out that we have done this before, so we can do it again. We need political leadership locally as well as nationally. Does that mean centralised planning? Well it doesn’t have to if people take their responsibility to the whole of their community seriously, especially the vulnerable, rather than the vocal home-owners, whose attitudes are changing anyway as I pointed out earlier.

    Does it mean US-style urban sprawl? No it doesn’t have to. We will need to release some greenbelt land, but we can do this in a way that seeks to balance the environment. So, for example, in Oxford the city is hemmed in completely by the greenbelt, with nowhere else to build. The knock-on effect of that is misery for many poorer residents. In my time as housing portfolio holder I came across families in the most desperate situations where their overcrowded homes were causing serious mental health issues for their children and they were trapped for years on end. So for me the balance is wrong – we are protecting quite low value environmental land at very high social cost, which I don’t think is morally justifiable. So what did we want to do about it? Well we wanted to have a strategic review of the greenbelt, to take some development sites in, whilst protecting the really important environmental sites. There should be no reason you can’t do that in high value areas- remember these boundaries were set 50-60 years ago when cities were very different places. However any time you mention building homes and greenbelt in the same sentence people get into a frenzy. It’s impossible to have a proper, reasoned conversation about this because there is so little political leadership. Does it mean we shouldn’t build on brownfield and low grade green sites first? No of course not. But those alone aren’t enough to house the population adequately, nowhere near. They are also very expensive in many cases to remediate, which is a problem.

    There are two other potential answers here as well that will help alleviate the crisis. Firstly, as Jenny Barnes has said, we need to build up as well as out. We don’t need to build huge skyscrapers everywhere but our cities can have a higher footprint, especially London. The second is economic regeneration of areas where population is falling and there is more capacity to grow, either through empty homes or redevelopment of poorly used land. This is a long term project but growing jobs in other areas of the country absolutely needs to be part of the solution. However even in these areas there are still big problems with housing.

    John Dunn – you are right that infrastructure is hugely important. A 500 word limit on posts means I couldn’t explore every angle very deeply, although as you can probably tell I can talk about housing for hours, and probably will do if no-one stops me!

    The question for me though is what is the real blockage to building the numbers of homes we need is. For my part I am pretty certain that if we have the political will we can do it. As James has kindly pointed out I’ve seen it done myself. The question I started from was ‘how can we build the homes that we need’, rather than “how on earth are we going to afford the infrastructure etc” which was what many of my predecessors started with and got nowhere. Of course the delivery of infrastructure was key, but it was also pretty easy to fund the new school, shops, redevelopment of community facilities in the estate for existing residents, once you had decided to build the homes. Where the crisis is most acute in the South and London, land values are sky high. If you own the land and have some vision you can use homes to get a decent return and fund the infrastructure. Too often this is used as an excuse of why not to do something, not as a secondary problem that needs to be solved. Back to John Tilley’s point – it’s the political will we need first and foremost.

    Julian Gibb – ah RTB! Who can possibly argue with the smiling faces of those early RTBers in the 80s who for the first time in their lives owned their own home, something that they thought was never possible? I can genuinely understand why it was so popular. However the impact has been immense. Apologies for using Oxford again, but it’s the example I know best. In 1979 there were 16,000 Council owned homes in the city and a short waiting list. In 2004, by the time I got on the Council, there were about 8,000 homes and 7,500 on the waiting list (with many more excluded from registering). Obviously there were other changes in that time but it’s clear that the policy of selling off half the homes and not allowing anyone to build any more was a social disaster. For us it wasn’t just about the capital receipt to build new homes, it’s also about the land. Even if we did get the money (which we didn’t), where would we build the new homes? The coalition has promised 1 for 1 replacements, which hasn’t happened because the homes are sold at such a discount it’s impossible to build something for that. At best you might be able to replace a 3 bed family home with a 1 bed flat but that’s about it and by no means possible in the majority of cases.

    The real RTB kick in the teeth though was seeing so many former RTB properties rented back to the Council as temporary accommodation at 3 times the cost of the social rents they should have been going for. It was the same families being housed as would have been, but they were getting ripped off and often trapped into a cycle of not being able to afford to work. It’s madness, and in my personal view it’s time to stop it. The are other ways to help social housing tenants into home ownership if they want to (such as shared ownership) without giving massive discounts to sell off community assets which can not be replaced. Good for the SNP for getting rid of this. I’m glad the Lib Dems, thanks to Julian Huppert and Catherine Smart’s amendment, have promised a review of RTB.

  • Stephen Hesketh 4th Apr '15 - 8:07am

    Compulsory purchase of suitable brown field and supermarket competitor-blocking urban land holdings might kill several birds with one stone.

  • I agree with what Stephen Hesketh and Tim Oliver say this morning.

    In addition to brownfield sites we should also compulsory purchase the’Potemkin Villages’ of empty flats in London bought off plan to lie empty so that profiteers can benefit whilst the homeless look on.

  • Patrick Murray wrote:

    “John Tilley has pointed out that we have done this before, so we can do it again.”

    A lot of that affordable housing was of very poor quality. It included, for instance, Drumchapel and Easterhouse, and the Aylesbury Estate, which is currently having to be demolished. And there are plenty more in that category.

    What free market approaches to planning ignore is that developers only want to build homes for the rich. The last thing that developers want to do is build affordable housing, unless it is paid for by the state, in which case the quality will inevitably be poor.

    Developers are looking to build high-status, high-density homes in back gardens, infill sites and sites created by demolition in already wealthy suburbs. Whole neighbourhoods are destroyed without people on low and middle incomes benefiting one jot. If you relax the Green Belt, developers will build low-density homes for the rich. The only hope for the poor in all this is for the bottom to fall out of the buy-to-let market and the blocks to be flogged off cheaply to housing associations.

    “In my time as housing portfolio holder I came across families in the most desperate situations where their overcrowded homes were causing serious mental health issues for their children and they were trapped for years on end. ”

    Right. So relaxing the Green Belt means that people like this will be rehoused? I beg to differ. All it will mean is you get a glut of low density homes for the rich. Look at the map of Connecticut. How many affordable homes have been built in those forests?

    Near where I live, there are several large brownfield sites which have only recently sprouted cranes. For over a decade, in some cases, they lay idle. Why? Because the land values were too low, and the number of rich people wanting to live there too small, there was not enough of a killing to be made during the downturn years. Yet in the same period, developers were busy ruining the established garden suburbs of West and South-West London, where land values and demand for homes by the rich were high, even in the recession.

    Go down the Thames Estuary, and you will find plenty of brownfield and low-grade greenfield land. Similarly, in East Anglia, which is littered with old airfields. Or how about the featureless landscapes of Cambridgeshire and Lincolnshire? No, developers would much rather turn Surrey into Connecticut, which they nearly succeeded in doing before the Green Belt stopped them in their tracks. Look at Givon’s Grove. With no Green Belt, Givon’s Grove would have spread right the way down the Mole Valley to Dorking and beyond.

    And what is the free market going to do about the cities? In Detroit, 26% of the lots are vacant, and of those homes still standing, 84,000 are boarded up. Here are some of them: http://auctions.buildingdetroit.org/Home. Yet the suburbs continue to expand. This is clearly an extreme market distortion. How would you propose to deal with it? Flogging off a few mansions in Boston-Edison and East English Village is scratching the surface.

    Parts of your thesis make sense, parts are wanting. What makes debate difficult is the nasty labeling of people who want to protect the environment as “Nimbyists”. That is the kind of debating technique one hears from free market fundamentalists – and from leftists who regard environmentalism as “bourgeois eccentricity”. The late Nicholas Ridley accused people who objected to new houses in villages of being “Nimbyists”. But when someone proposed to build new houses in Ridley’s own village, he was the first to complain.

    Which parts of Oxfordshire do you want to develop? Otmoor, Bernwood Forest, Wheatley, Wytham Woods? Surely, it would be more rational to look at the degraded environment around Didcot, and some of the old airfields, first?

  • Steve Comer 4th Apr '15 - 12:55pm

    The NIMBYs I was referring to are those who want to preserve open waste lands in urban areas, the sort of land that is used for little more than fly tipping and as oa handy dog toilet. for those to irresponsible to clear up after their animals!

  • Helen Dudden 4th Apr '15 - 1:07pm

    Yes develop the old factory units, I see many on the way I to London. There should be a time scale on a vacant building. No more selling social housing, it makes little sense with the shortage. Restrict buy to let, second homes often left empty for lon g periods of time. Listed large empty buildings and housing, again, another thought.

    Students are having a lot of accommodation built in Bath, this seems strange as surely it would be better on campus where possible.

    Finally. Be serious about what you wish to achieve, don’t play with the situation.

    The Duchy wanted to build on his own land at Newton St. Lie, Nr. Bath, this caused outrage with the local residents. If we like it or not, if a solar farm get permission, how about housing.

    I feel, a government department should be in place to look at housing, seriously. We need more involvement from the public, rows of empty terraced housing have been left empty for years.

  • Patrick Murray 4th Apr '15 - 3:25pm

    Sesenco, I don’t call environmentalists NIMBYs, I call NIMBYs NIMBYs. I’ve outlined already the pressures local planning committees come under from already well housed people whilst others sleep in homeless shelters. We need to balance the social need with the environmental need, and continue to protect valuable green space. As I’ve already alluded to, quality of homes is massively important, so it’s not just about numbers. But the balance at present is absolutely skewed away from developing any homes at all.

    As for your repeated straw man that I want to see US style free market planning you are entirely mistaken, as I have already explained. That’s not possible here anyway – the model of US cities is one of expand to respond to market demands, and decline once that’s gone. We haven’t the space to allow cities to fail and take their residents with them. I’ve already pointed out we need to do more to regenerate cities outside of high demand areas as a critical part of ensuring the housing crisis is fixed.

    Will relaxing the greenbelt help house the families in desperate situations that I met? Yes, yes it will. We had a policy of 50% affordable homes on any new development built in the city. Most areas have at least 35%. Why would developers be exempt from that? The site that James King talked about was a greenfield site in my own ward where the Council has entered into a joint venture with a developer and will be getting hundreds of homes at social rent out of it, as well as the infrastructure. There is simply nowhere else to build at the scale needed to alleviate poverty and suffering in Oxford. Outside the city there are a number of places one could build, starting with Grenoble road, but other places too including the old MOD land you point too. But why do you think that development means giving private developers the power to do whatever they want?

    Ultimately what we have here is the crux of the matter – it is a choice for politicians whether or not to house the population. You clearly believe from your opening statement that we can’t. Not only do I respectfully disagree, but I believe it to an abdication of our moral duty to ignore the massive damage it does to peoples lives and restrictions it places on their health and opportunity.

  • Helen Dudden 4th Apr '15 - 3:40pm

    Totally agree.

  • Matthew Huntbach 6th Apr '15 - 12:32pm


    Go down the Thames Estuary, and you will find plenty of brownfield and low-grade greenfield land. Similarly, in East Anglia, which is littered with old airfields. Or how about the featureless landscapes of Cambridgeshire and Lincolnshire?

    It’s often the case that rather nondescript places, nothing to look at, easily dismissed as “low-grade greenfield land”, are where the rarest species are found. In many cases it’s because a “brown field” site has been left undeveloped that something rare still lives there or grows there, where it has disappeared from more developed agricultural land.

    I grew up in one of the 1.2 million homes built in 1945-51. It was a council house built in a South Downs valley, my mother remembers when it was a rural valley. When I was young I saw further such building take over more South Downs land. That’s now been halted, but it means Brighton has a chronic housing crisis, because squeezed between the Downs and the sea, there’s nowhere left to build houses. Of course, it doesn’t help that the free market system means when houses are built, they don’t go to those who need them, they go to those who can afford to pay the most for them.

    That’s why I don’t go for the easy “build more houses” line, as if it’s the obvious solution and easily implemented. Simply building more without ensuring they go to those in need and stay there will not help those in housing need. It isn’t as easy to find the space to build large numbers of houses as many suppose. In my experience, almost any new development anywhere results in heartfelt opposition from local people. What outsider may see as a scrubby bit of “brownfield” they see as a piece of empty space they value.

    I’m afraid that we really do have to have measures that lead to a more even distribution of housing, what we have and what we can manage to build, since I am not saying no more new build. I appreciate that this is a hard line to push. However, if people do want their green land and empty spaces and trees and things, they are going to have to accept it.

  • James Ridgwell 10th Apr '15 - 9:56pm

    I agree that the key to dealing with the UK’s housing crisis is ultimately building many more homes. I think it is great that as Lib Dems we have committed to building 300,000 new units by 2020 – as noted above, this is way above the targets of the other main parties (policy links: http://www.libdems.org.uk/labour_has_no_right_to_lecture_about_housebuilding, http://www.libdems.org.uk/f21_building_the_affordable_homes_we_need). It is apparent we’ve done a lot of thinking about how to do this sustainably in a controlled way , responsibly and with suitable affordable homes provision. I think this policy is something we can be proud of.

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    I’ve no idea who Mr Cole-Hamilton is. However he must surely have been on the political scene long enough to know that any error he makes, however trivial, ev...