Thursday, 29 September 2011

Get Orrrf Our Laaaand

A major attack of NIMBYism in the Daily Telegraph

The Planning Officers’ Society (POS) has told ministers their proposals will mean homes are “blighted” by the prospect of new developments in their areas.
The society, which represents senior planning officers and managers for local councils, also said the supposedly pro-growth rules would make it harder for companies to do business and create jobs.
The criticisms are the latest blow to the planning policy framework, which is also under fire from the National Trust and the Campaign to Protect Rural England. The Daily Telegraph’s Hands Off Our Land campaign(1)is calling on ministers to reconsider.
In a formal submission to a government consultation on the draft paper, the planners’ society said the framework should be significantly rewritten. “The basis for planning for housing has not yet been clearly thought through,” it said.
“The consequences are likely to include excessive land releases(2), resulting in blight(3) or sporadic development.(4)"
“Blight” is a legal term indicating a property’s value has been reduced by the prospect of nearby developments.(5)
Mike Holmes, the POS president, said the framework as written would have “detrimental effects” on property prices.
“The risk is you get a big splurge in development in an area – or the prospect of it – and prices go down for properties already there,(6)” he said.
Ministers have said they hope their planning rules will mean more houses are built.
Grant Shapps, the housing minister, has said the Coalition wants “house price stability”, leading to criticism from home owners who benefit from rising prices.(7)
The planners’ society also told ministers that the framework would make it harder for small businesses to grow because land now set aside for such enterprises would increasingly be used for housing instead.(8)
Current rules allow councils to designate some areas as “employment land”, effectively reserved for business premises instead of residential development, which is more lucrative. The POS said the proposed rules would “weaken” protection for employment land.
“A local reservoir of such land is essential to facilitate the growth of small and medium-sized enterprises, to provide … employment and to attract inward investment."
The framework “goes too far in fuelling pressures for land to go to higher-value uses”.(9)
Mr Holmes said the changes on employment land could have dramatic consequences for even large firms.
He said: “Under these rules, Jaguar wouldn’t have expanded in the Midlands because the land it built on would have been used for housing instead.”(10)
The criticism is a significant blow for the Government, which claims that the reforms are vital for economic growth.(11)
The policy is intended to replace more than 1,000 pages of planning rules with fewer than 60, and give more power to local communities over planning decisions. Critics say the framework unfairly favours development.(12)
Mr Holmes said the Coalition’s intention to simplify planning rules was positive but the proposal was flawed.
“Babies should not be thrown out with bathwater,” he said. “There is a danger of unintended consequences here.”(13)
Ministers are consulting on the policy until next month, when they are expected to make substantial changes.
David Cameron last week promised “appropriate protections for our magnificent countryside”. The Department of Communities and Local Government said: “The Government is maintaining strong protections to safeguard the countryside.”(14)
A National Trust spokesman said the number of people supporting a petition calling for a rethink had passed the 100,000 mark after just two months,(20)

1. It's not your land. It's the landowner's land. You'd think that a newspaper that likes to claim it's Conservative would know that.
2. Yes
3. No
4. And the problem with sporadic development is?
5. No, it isn't. According to a leaflet from Lincolnshire County Council, ‘Blight’ is the legal term for the negative effect that proposals for major public works, such as new  road construction projects, can have on private property. Public works, not private. It's not about your house going down in price because of more housing, or linking your FBRI to the nearby town, It's about someone building a tip, airport or a dual-carriageway that adversely affects living in your home, to the point where you can't sell it.
6. Prices going down is a good thing. Same as with computers and cars.
7. Home owners don't benefit from high house prices. Some might win or lose sometimes, but it's a zero-sum game.
8. So, give the businesses some more land. We've got plenty of it.
9. What we want is land to go to the highest-value uses. There's a quite posh village near me with some office units and they're quite cheap, because most people don't want an office in the country. The owner would make far more, and create more happiness in the world by turning them into houses. But he can't. Likewise, there are shops near me that are empty that could be turned into houses. But they have to stay as shops. That's blight - empty shops.
10. Well, if you can make more money from a house then why shouldn't Taylor Woodrow have the land instead of Jaguar? But considering that the plant is in West Bromwich where the semi-detached house price average house price is 100,000, I think it's unlikely. Oh, and there's plenty of land around there. Honda in Swindon has 3,000 staff in an area of 370 acres, so that's about 100 acres for the Jaguar plant, I guess. Hardly going to make a dent in the Midlands.
On top of that, if we have cheaper housing then more people will have more money in their pocket to go and buy more Jaguar cars. Throw in some LVT that will benefit employers in places like the Midlands and the North where they'll pay little tax and you'll do far more to help the car industry.
11. They are vital to economic growth.
12. Anyone critical of development can move to Mongolia.
13. OK, let's do it and see what "unintended consequences" appear, shall we, then change things accordingly.
14. Hopefully Cameron is bullshitting as usual.
15. 100,000 people is about 1/5th of the number of people that saw Take That on their last tour. So, we should ask Take That fans about whether to build more houses.

Someone described these people as rural stalinists, and that's bang on. Once it's about building homes, all that free market stuff goes out of the window in favour of protecting their turf.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Yet another victim of the war on drugs

So, I get a call from the parents-in-law last night. They've been robbed on holiday, running very short of money, very bad situation.

At one time, there was a simple solution to this. You found a branch of Western Union, handed over some money and gave a code and password, and someone collected it at the other end.

Nowadays? Can't do it. Money laundering laws and all that, and basically about drug money. You need to show some ID. Oh, but parents-in-law also had their passports robbed too.

It might be a small cost, but next time someone weighs up the pros and cons of the War on Drugs, it's yet another thing to add on the "cons" side.

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Riots, Crime and Society

Not entirely unpredictably, I see that the Green MP Caroline Lucas is talking some foolishness about the riots:-

Green Party leader Caroline Lucas has said "unrestrained capitalism" created social divisions which were partly to blame for August's riots.
Ms Lucas told her party conference that the government's "repressive crackdown" on those responsible for the disorder would "solve nothing".
Underlying issues such as lack of jobs and wage inequalities must be tackled, activists in Sheffield heard.
What sparked this post was a thought as I started swimming: Had I locked the car*? And you know, I realised that it just didn't matter. Because I honestly can't recall the last time that someone told me that their car stereo had been stolen. Part of the reason for that is the security that's built in (removing the stereo means you need a code), and part of that is that stereos are so cheap that they aren't worth stealing/fencing. Put together, that's a big disincentive to steal car radios.

You can also look at house crimes. Burglary is way down from where it was about a decade ago, and that's mostly down to the fact that DVD players got cheaper. Not Blair fighting the causes of crime, or crime itself, but that DVD players just got dirt cheap, so no-one was going to buy one second hand.

And if you look at the crimes, no-one, despite their value, stole iPhones. That's because they can be locked-out and rendered useless very quickly.

So what I'm trying to say here is that we have already seen that incentives affect criminality. We can see that criminals actually act quite rationally. It's not worth nicking a £50 stereo to get £10 fencing it when you're risking a criminal sentence.

Now, let's assume that the security at those shops during the riots had shotguns. A few carfulls arrive at the scene and they start pointing them at the looters. What happens next? Well, they're going to stop looting, aren't they. And to go one stage further, if people thought about getting some looting going, would they risk going down to JJB to grab some sports gear if they thought people might have shotguns?

But the part of me that doesn't want everyone carrying guns prefers another approach: the Citizen's Income. If people earn an amount of money that just about sustains them, but that doesn't disincentivise working, then they'll work. For quite a few grand they'll have it without tax. And the key thing about this working is that they'll want to keep their noses clean, because a criminal record will discourage people from hiring them.

The more I look at things in the country, the more I realise that things like not having LVT and CI are causing a huge amount of damage in terms of national productivity.