Colin Wiles: Reasons to be cheerful?
Greg Clark is a good choice to replace Eric Pickles at DCLG. The Falstaffian Mr. Pickles was good for a knockabout quote but he didn’t much care for local government and he didn’t seem very interested in housing either.
By contrast, Clark has a more committed pedigree. I saw him speak at the RIBA when the NPPF was being launched and I thought he was impressive. He also came under fierce attack from the countryside lobby when the draft NPPF was out for consultation and he stood fairly firm.
Here are a few selected Clark quotes that give me some cause for cheer.
“During the last decade – starting long before the financial crisis – we built fewer homes than in any peacetime decade for 100 years. The average age of the first-time buyer is approaching 40, and rising rents mean that families have to spend more and more on housing, and less and less on themselves and their children. We can’t allow this to go on. To do so would be to deny our responsibility to young families – to tell them that the property-owning democracy was for our generation but not for yours.”
Ministerial Statement 27 March 2012
“We need to be clear-sighted about the need for growth. We need more houses: for young people; for families; and for older people living – thankfully – longer than they ever have before. It may be convenient to imagine that our population is stable or shrinking, but this is just plain wrong – the fact is that our population is growing. And yet, under the last Government, the number of new homes built fell to a lower level than in any year in our peacetime history since 1924 – when our population was only three-quarters of what it is now. To fail to provide the houses we need is to condemn today’s young people and their children to overcrowding, homelessness and poverty driven by soaring rents and house prices. No progressive should have any truck with a course of such cynical selfishness.”
He went on:
“To be against new buildings and new infrastructure is to be against growth, which is in turn to be in favour of people becoming poorer than they are today – something that should be unconscionable to anyone with a concern for the wellbeing of their fellow man.”
Speech 6 august 2011
In the same speech he also said: “Most people who have worked with me during the last year would, I think, recognise that I am someone who listens carefully to constructive comments.”
Clark has also faced criticism from his own party and from The Daily Telegraph, which ran (and is still running as far as I can tell) its nasty ‘Hands off our Land’ campaign. So it would be wrong to imagine that the Conservative Party is a monolithic bloc of nimby sympathizers who oppose all house building. Like every party it has a range of opinions and Clark, comparatively speaking is on the right side (i.e. the left side), believing that growth, including housing growth, is critical to the success of the UK economy.
Over the coming weeks there will be a growing debate within the sector about co-operation or opposition. Of course, some reforms such as RTB 2 will need to be opposed, but in other areas there will be room for a more constructive dialogue.
It is likely that we will see an escalation of grassroots’ campaigns on housing and the pressures on ministers to address the “national emergency” of housing (The Times today) can only grow.
Our delicate task will be to jump aboard that growing tide of public concern and seek to influence and steer the debate towards a more constructive housing settlement and away from some of the less constructive ideas that have been floated by some of the right-leaning think tanks.
Courtesy of: Published by Jon Land for