- Sites suitable for housing, especially in city centres, to be reserved for low cost homes, rather than executive mansions, office blocks or speculation.We believe that a failure to protect land for low cost housing in city centres has resulted in significant social, economic and environmental disruption. Housing is forced onto greenfield sites, far from services and shops, city centres become more and more removed from us, with collapsing retail outlets and the loss of a sense of neighbourhood. An essential component of urban revitalisation is the location of housing land. So far, it seems, commercial considerations have outweighed all others. We would like local authorities to plan in favour of more low cost housing in city centres and fewer unaffordable homes and office blocks. We would like them to put more pressure on developers to release suitable land for housing.
- Planning modifications to allow a limited number of “low impact developments” in the countryside.Low Impact Development is designed to enable a very few, very small housing developments to be established in the agricultural zone without significantly affecting landscape values. It is a means of enabling poorer rural or urban people who desperately want to live in the countryside and, in some cases, work on the land, to do so.Low impact homes vary greatly but are characterized by being very discreet, requiring next to no infrastructure and being built from environmentally friendly materials. At its best, it is development whose foundations would be impossible to find six months after it was demolished.
The advantages are that many of those who want to participate are interested in making a net contribution to the landscape and local distinctiveness, with organic farm conversions, restoration of landscape features and a revival of rural craftsmanship. Such projects bring young people back into areas whose population is ageing.
Most importantly, they reintegrate people into the landscape. Intensive agriculture’s inhospitability to the human presence has done even more to compromise rural values than its inhospitability to wildlife. With one or two such projects in every district – and there are several thousand people in Britain who are keen to participate – low impact development could bring back some of the local involvement now missing from regions whose internal economy has all but died.
Development of this kind, of course, breaks the most basic planning laws. But Section 106 of the Town and Country Planning Act enables planning authorities to establish agreements which could, for example, determine that a small low-cost house will not mushroom into a large expensive one, or that a solar powered development will not, at a later date, be connected to the national grid. Low impact development would be facilitated by a tightening up of S.106’s provisions, to make it clear that a developer is firmly bound by the terms of any agreement, and removing the right of appeal to the Secretary of State.
- Legitimate sites for Gypsies and Travellers, giving them authorised places to live, thereby reducing conflict with other people.At the moment the provision of legitimate sites for Travellers and Gypsies is inadequate. There are simply not enough local authority spaces to go round, and planning permission for private sites is extremely hard to obtain, so many people camp illegally. We feel that a civilised and tolerant society is one in which a wide variety of cultures and communities can live side by side. At the moment, this is almost impossible in many places, as the failure to provide sites forces people into confrontation. We would like to see local authorities either making up the shortfall with their own sites (this, research shows, is cheaper than continued evictions, and very much cheaper than providing housing) or allowing travelling people to establish sites on their own land, in a well-ordered and regulated fashion.