Friday, July 04, 2008

Planning disaster

It's not often I find myself agreeing with someone from the Green Party, but Siân Berry makes some sense regarding the ridiculous "eco-town" idea.

My view is that they would end up being little more than car-heavy satellite suburbs. And, in the months since 15 locations were shortlisted for these developments, I have been pleased to see an impressive range of local campaigns springing up in opposition.

My view is that they will end up as run down slums as happened to Easterhouse in Glasgow.

What is going wrong here? The main problems are embedded in the structure of the eco-town project. First, the choice to let property developers lead the process, instead of consulting local authorities and communities first, was disastrous.

Yep. Quite right.

As Terry Knott, from the No Ford Eco-Town campaign told me: "Asking developers to choose the best spots is what leads to this. Of course they will choose the sites that suit them, not the most appropriate places."

Developers have no long term interest in these projects. They want to buy the land as cheaply as possible, build the slums - sorry, eco-houses - as quickly and as cheaply as possible, then sell them off as quickly and as dearly as possible. After that it's bye-bye eco-town, bring on the next scheme for quick and easy profit.

What is needed is more power for the people to decide where they want their homes. The government should be looking at ways to make it easier for Joe Public to buy plots of land and erect their own homes where they want them, but as this is a socialist government obsessed with "planning" and any future government is likely to be socialist too, then that is never likely to happen.

A funny thing happens when you let the people decide to do things for themselves. They get together and form "communities". They take an active interest in that community and have a genuine concern for it. Before you know it that community has decided they need a church, a pub and a few shops - so they build a church, pub and a few shops. Now you have a village. The village gets bigger. The people decide they need a school and a hospital - so they get together and build a school and a hospital - and this attracts more people and more business to the village.

Then you have a town. A town which people care about and want to be proud of. It's only when the "planners" come along that everything turns ugly.

No comments: