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Matthew Lesh: The radical neoliberal programme which can revitalise the Conservatives

Matthew Lesh is the Head of Research at the Adam Smith Institute.

As the flus from last week’s Conservative Party Conference slowly fade, it is worth turning our minds back to a conference that we must never forget.

It was the autumn of 1980. The country was facing economic turmoil. Decades of Keynesianism was taking its toll with high inflation and low growth.  But there was a leader, a radical neoliberal, who refused to accept the status quo or allow the doomsters to take her off course.  “You turn if you want to, the lady’s not for turning,” Margaret Thatcher told Conservative Party Conference.

Thatcher unashamedly spoke not just of policy change but creating “a new independence of spirit and zest for achievement”. She called her administration “one of the truly radical ministries of post-war Britain”.

Boris Johnson’s party conference speech last week has been lauded for its political nous: get Brexit done, and fund the NHS and other public services.

This makes a lot of political sense, particularly for the party’s ‘Go Midlands, Go North’ strategy: the plan to win northern Leave working class areas who traditionally voted Labour Party.

But Johnson’s spending is frustrating to many free marketeers, who have traditionally found their home in the Conservative Party. Boris speaks of a “dynamic enterprise culture” and the Conservative Party’s history in pioneering “free markets and privatisation”. But so far there has been little meat on the bone, while the party is giving up its reputation for fiscal conservatism by committing to big-spending plans.

Politically, this approach undermines support from economic liberals in London and the Southeast. This danger is heightened by the likes of Sam Gyimah’s defection, signalling the acceptability of the Liberal Democrats to Tory economic liberals. With the Lib Dems also winning over the likes of Chuka Umunna there’s a danger the two main parties are seen by voters to leave the centre stage to the Liberal Democrats — and leave governing alone to the scrap heap of history.

To get a strong majority, Boris needs to win both Chelsea and Fulham as well as Stoke-on-Trent. He needs to be able to hold up his economic credentials to win back Remain-voting Conservatives voters – not just give them another reason to abandon the party.

But this balancing act is nothing new. Thatcher, despite some reforms to childcare and housing subsidies, oversaw a huge increase in social spending. She declared that the NHS is “safe with us” and bragged about “enormous increases in the amount spent on social welfare to help the less fortunate”. David Cameron similarly declared that the NHS is “safe in my hands,” while cutting taxes, introducing free schools and reforming welfare.

Thatcher and Cameron balanced public spending with undertaking fundamental free market economic reform to boost the economy. To ensure the Conservative Party remains a broad coalition, it is important that Boris’ free market rhetoric is given meaning. There needs to be some meat on the bone. The Conservative Party will be much weaker if it does not have a serious economic policy offering that creates a clear distinction with Labour.

On the political left, while many may disagree with their approach and ideas, there is undeniably a radical reimagining of policy and a clear agenda: a four day work week, shutting down private schools and nationalising industry.

Some on the Right have chosen to respond to the emboldened Left by adopting parts of their agenda in the hope of placating and preventing the worst. But, as Theresa May’s premiership displays being Labour-lite and adopting policies like the energy price gap, or nanny state policies like the sugar tax, simply does not work.

The Neoliberal Manifesto, a joint project between the Adam Smith Institute and 1828 released last week at the Conservative Party Conference, presents a positive vision for Britain’s future. In the past, the word “neoliberalism” has been twisted by those seeking to manufacture a strawman on which to blame every societal ill.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. Neoliberals are champions of freedom. We want government to protect and facilitate your ability to flourish; we believe in the power and ability of each individual; we believe in doing what is most effective; we are optimistic about the future; we support market intervention to address specific issues but reject paternalism; we are cosmopolitan and outward-looking to the world.

The manifesto calls for a liberal, free market approach to trade that encompasses cutting tariffs and pursuing deals based on the principle of mutual recognition. It declares that need to reform Britain’s outdated planning laws to allow for the building of more houses to fix Britain’s housing crisis. The manifesto also calls for a simpler, fairer tax system by getting rid of stamp duty and allowing capital expenditures to be expensed in full immediately.

On migration, it calls for a liberal system that brings the most talented people to our nation. On education, it explains the need for more choice. On innovation and technology, it calls for an optimistic approach defined by permissionless innovation.  It also calls for a liberal approach to drugs and personal choices, a compassionate but cost-effective approach to welfare, and addressing climate change without sinking our economy.

Many of these ideas are radical, and today can be expected to receive a mixed reception. But we think that our politicians should lead from the front, not the back. These policies are not designed with the idea of what may or may not be popular today, but rather setting the agenda for the future.

While not every action she took was immediately popular, Thatcher’s agenda transformed the country for the better and proved a politically successful formula across three general election victories. Cameron similarly won a majority after undertaking difficult decisions.

If the Government does not have an offering for people who want lower taxes and the state to live within its means, they risk unexpected losses.  Johnson can follow in the footsteps of successful leaders with his own liberal, free market agenda.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Nicholas Boys Smith: New homes and places can and should be beautiful

Nicholas Boys Smith is the Director of Create Streets and a Fellow in Urban Design at the University of Buckingham.

Do you remember the old Bob Monkhouse joke? “When I told people, I wanted to be a comedian, everyone laughed – they’re not laughing now.” I feel a bit like that this morning.

Six years ago I chucked in my job to set up the social enterprise Create Streets, to argue on the ground, in councils and in parliament that new homes and places should be more popular, more beautiful and developed in line with the strong evidence of the types of places which people like and where they want to live. Real places with real centres and “gentle density” of terraced homes and mansion blocks benefiting both from the advantages of lower density (more space, cleaner air, less stress) but also from the advantages of greater density (more walking, knowing more of your neighbours, more sustainable energy usage). People are healthier and happier in such places and, if they can afford it, will normally pay more to live there.

But everyone, or nearly everyone, laughed. Those on the right, I was told, only cared about feathering the nests of the big developer friends or in a ‘bonfire of the regulations.’ Those on the left, I was informed, only cared about maximising the number of social homes. Everything else was a middle-class distraction.

Well maybe most people do care about the quality of new places after all. Slowly, calmly, rationally and I hope politely we have made the case for creating streets of beauty and popularity not lumpen, over-crammed tower-blocks or sprawling drive-to cul-de-sacs. We have made the case by talking to officials, councillors, MPs and developers. We have made the case by working for neighbourhood groups, councils (of all political colours) and landowners. And we have made the case by asking the big questions that somehow get missed out of too much of the political debate about planning and new homes. Why do people oppose new housing? (Design is not the only issue, but it is one of the big ones. Expectations of new developments are just so low). What are the similarities, and what are the differences, between the English planning system and those in other countries? And what are the discoverable relationships between urban design with happiness, mental health, physical health and crucial attributes of the good life such as knowing your neighbours, breathing clean air or not feeling stressed and overwhelmed as you go about your daily business?

There is a revolution of available information now accessible to urban researchers and we have made use of it gleefully, modelling, for example, every property sale in six British cities in 2016 or exploring human reactions to 19,000 streets and squares. We have probed important issues – such as the “design disconnect” whereby most professional planners and architects have provably different tastes to the wider public. And we have highlighted the fact that too many of the volume housebuilders barely use architects or urban designers at all. Something is going very badly wrong in how we create new places, or rather how we don’t. As one very experienced engineer put it to me yesterday having reviewed a live estate regeneration plan in South London, “I saw this in the 1970s – we’re building the slums of the future again.” Small flats. Long corridors. Over-density. Ugly sheer buildings. Unclear public and private space. We’ve been here before and it did not end well.

It is time for a change. And, step by step, we are making progress. We work with all parties. Liberal Democrat councils have cited our work in their manifestos and asked us to improve their development processes. Labour councils have asked us to review their plans and their engagement with residents. Some councils and housing associations have started, routinely, to seek our guidance on good and popular design or in setting their development framework for land they own. Above all, time after time, almost daily, put upon and harassed neighbourhoods and community groups have approached us. Rich or poor, young or old, north or south, the story is always a variant of the same: someone we do not know from a company we have not heard of is trying to do something horrid to our neighbourhood. We think something better is possible. Can you help? Funds are normally very tight but wherever we possibly can, we do.

Other think tanks and specialist housing charities (from Policy Exchange to Shelter) have picked up elements of our argument and evidence. And earlier this year, in a bold and admirable move, the then Secretary of State for Housing, James Brokenshire in conjunction with the excellent former Housing Minister, Kit Malthouse, formed the Building Better Building Beautiful Commission to investigate how new places could be more beautiful and more popular to ease the undoubted pressures on supply. I co-chair this alongside Sir Roger Scruton who has risked ridicule all his life by daring to think and write about beauty. The Commission’s creation was met with a tsunami of criticism from some professionals. However, rather to their own surprise, our interim report, published in July, was met with wide-spread professional support. The humane case for popular place-making is just too strong for all but the mono-minded to ignore.

Yesterday, in a highly welcome move the Secretary of State for Housing, Robert Jenrick, has announced the Government’s new design guide crammed full of good sense and good guidance on the types of places that people like and in which they flourish. It’s great to see the Commission’s work already being taken forward. For the first time, ever I think, and in the teeth of the perverse, self-defeating and provably false architectural fetish that “what buildings look like doesn’t matter” it has dared to make the case for buildings that actually look, well, nice. (As our book and major statistical study, Of Streets and Squares, shows you can predict what people will like very readily indeed: variety in a pattern, complexity and composure in the façade, a sense of place and some level of symmetry and colour are normally winners with the public. Sheer glass, spreadsheet regularity, over-sized buildings, or chaotic facades are normally losers).

This announcement is particularly timely because if we are going to ease the supply of new homes by making it easier for SMEs, self-builders, market entrants, modular innovators, councils and small landowners to build more homes and affordable homes then we need to remove the regulatory barriers to entry which have led to the most concentrated home-building market in the Western world. This in turn means changing the nature of “planning risk” and moving the democracy forward from the development control process to the Local Plan. What and where you can build, and what and where you cannot, should be more certain so that it is easier for a wider range of providers to create homes. But they should only be freer to do so within a clear carapace of locally acceptable designs and betterment taxes – certainly if they want an easy ride through planning. The best regulatory systems are predictable and consistent. Ours is the opposite of this. Despite the decency and deep honesty of planning officials, the system is just too discretionary at present and is thus most open to those with the deep pockets who can risk millions on working up hundreds of pages of planning applications. As one developer put it to me, “The worst thing that can happen during a planning application is that a development control officer changes.” This is not how it should be.

This is why the most exciting part of the design guide is the bit that has not yet been published. It talks rather coyly of a section which will set a code for local councils and neighbourhoods to adapt to their needs. This is the crucial bit and would get away from subjective and pointless arguments over ‘good design’ (which just feather lawyers’ pockets) and instead set the types of segment, street ratio, façade pattern and material that are acceptable ‘around here.’ This would be a quiet revolution. It would make our approach to planning more similar to that used in, for example, Holland or an increasing number of cities in the US. In such places a clearly visual and numerical framework (sometimes called a form-based code) is set for certain places, defined locally. Within that framework it is very easy to build and the SME, self-build and custom-build markets flourish.

Beyond that framework, it is very hard indeed. This is not a new idea. Many of our Georgian or Victorian streets (certainly those in London) were created under statue that set very clearly what you could build but were very liberal about your right to build it. Indeed, the development patterns of towns and cities have always and always will be regulated. It is part of the irreducible core of what government does. The externalities are just too great for it to be otherwise. (Do you want a tannery next to you? Or a thatched roof come to that?)

So this is very welcome news and the government is to be warmly congratulated in facing down the siren voices. And it is great news for Create Streets – though I don’t think we’ll be out of a job any times soon. So much of what is currently being built is just so inhumane in its conception and design.

What should the government do next? It should more firmly bed popular design into the National Planning Policy Framework. It should dare to turn down a few developments because they are just too hideous. And it should follow through with the next stage of their design guide so that what you can build is more firmly and visually defined locally in a process agreed with local citizens. Create homes and places, streets and squares of beauty and walkability. Sometimes the answer, or part of the answer, has been staring us in the face all along.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

John Myers: We do not need to give up on places that have fallen behind

John Myers is co-founder of YIMBY Alliance and London YIMBY, campaigns to end the housing crisis with the support of local people.

Stacking supermarket shelves is about as close as Anthony normally gets to new construction. A hard-working 25-year-old in a former industrial town, he has moved twice to London to work for an internet company. Each time, endless months in an expensive, overcrowded and mouldy shared flat pushed him home again, to lower pay.

That is not Anthony’s fault. For decade after decade we have built too few homes in places with abundant well-paid jobs like London – or Leeds, or Cambridge, or Bristol – for those who want to live there. That means someone will always be priced out, and the steep downward slope of prices from central London out across the country tells you many people have been.

Ryan Bourne’s recent article for Conservative Home tells us we must help people, not places, but I think we can help both.

Wages in London are higher than in Blackburn because rents are higher in London and people cannot move freely between the two. With plentiful housing in London, competition for workers would raise Blackburn wages for the same skills until they nearly matched London’s – or even exceeded them, because some people will accept slightly lower wages to enjoy more theatres and restaurants.

The Council for the Protection of Rural England and the Town and Country Planning Association do not seem to have realized that banning more homes in high-wage places just pushes down wages in already-struggling places with more workers than jobs.

After the Black Death of 1348-9 killed some two-fifths of England’s population, the shortage of workers increased their bargaining power. The outraged aristocracy persuaded King Edward III to pass the Statute of Labourers, forbidding workers from moving around the country or to different jobs. It was deliberately designed to keep pay down.

We have our own 21st-century Statute of Labourers, but we have done it more cleverly, through a needless shortage of housing near high-wage opportunities.

Building enough homes within reach of the best jobs – while making those places better, through better design and with the support of local communities – could boost growth and wages by one or two percent a year for a decade. It will increase competition for workers and so raise the wages of workers across the country, while boosting growth and generating more tax revenues to invest in local infrastructure in places that need it most.

There is no reason to fear letting people move if they want to, so long as wages are rising everywhere, as they would. Places with rising incomes are good to live in, no matter whether the population may be static or even declining, like the centre of Paris.

Local councils can then spend more on making the place better and a smaller share of their revenues on dealing with problems. The residents can live in bigger houses. Around the world, various communities have become magnets for artists or other creative types, because the cost of living was low. The artists then attract the tech people and others. That is how you truly regenerate a place. Not through forcing people to live there.

The Cotswolds are so pretty and popular now because for centuries the population was not growing and so their glorious heritage was preserved. That is nothing to be feared; quite the reverse.

Bourne is right that preventing workers from moving around has led to much lower average wages. Our failure to build enough homes and other things in the right places is one of the main reasons for Britain’s low productivity.

The same goes for factories and offices. One study found that commercial space in Bristol – not even London – was more expensive than in Amsterdam, Paris, and Singapore. And then we wonder why we have lost manufacturing industry.

The original intent of the planners was to ‘rebalance’ the country by pushing jobs away from London. Sadly, in a complex and interconnected world, preventing a job being created in Cambridge does not move it to Sheffield. That job is far more likely to go to Singapore, or Paris, or not be created at all.

In the 1960s, Birmingham was booming and planners clamped down on new offices and factories in an attempt to push jobs further north. That backfired horribly. Network and what economists call ‘agglomeration’ effects are real costs and benefits. Otherwise every tech company would locate in Preston or Blackpool, where rents and wages are far lower than London or Cambridge.

For too long we have underinvested in commuting infrastructure in regions like the North-West that could form much better jobs clusters if commuting were easier. If we are serious about rebalancing, we could also move the capital from London to Manchester. It would not be the first time it has moved. Strangely, few of the organisations trumpeting rebalancing seem to want that. Perhaps rebalancing is just their excuse not to build homes?

Anthony’s wages are not lower in his home town because we have built too many homes in Cambridge and London. He, and his fellow residents, are poorly paid because we have built far too few homes within reach of higher wages, and he has no better choices.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Transparency on developer contributions is welcome

When Sir Eric Pickles was the Communities and Local Government Secretary there was a change in the approach to accountability in our town halls. The “tyranny of sameness” was eased. We saw the demise of the Audit Commission. Box ticking and data sending were slashed. Instead of councils being agencies of Whitehall, a spirit of “localism” was brought in. Councils were judged on results rather than micro-managed; for instance, the New Homes Bonus offered an incentive and that proved more effective than centralised targets. But accountability did not disappear – it’s just that it came from below rather than from above. Council Taxpayers were given the power to veto excessive increases. Schools were given greater autonomy especially if they chose to convert into academies. There was a shift to “neighbourhood planning”.

Part of this new accountability was greater transparency. Spending on all items over £500 must now be published – empowering “armchair auditors” to spot poor value for money.

Broadly this legacy has remained intact – although in recent years councils have been able to impose inflation-busting Council Tax rises without the bother of securing approval from their residents in referendums. But since Sir Eric’s tenure, radicalism has given way to consolidation. Now there are some signs it might revive. Last week came news of a welcome enhancement in terms of transparency.

The Government announced:

“Local people will be able to see how every pound of property developers’ cash, levied on new buildings, is spent supporting the new homes their community needs, thanks to new rules coming into force.

“Builders already have to pay up for roads, schools, GP surgeries and parkland needed when local communities expand – in 2016 to 2017 alone they paid a whopping £6 billion towards local infrastructure helping create jobs and growth. Yet before today, councils were not required to report on the total amount of funding received – or how it was spent – leaving local residents in the dark.

“New rules will mean councils will be legally required to publish vital deals done with housing developers so residents can see exactly how money will be spent investing in the future of their community.”

Esther McVey, the Housing Minister said:

“The new rules coming into force today will allow residents to know how developers are contributing to the local community when they build new homes – whether that’s contributing to building a brand-new school, roads or a doctor’s surgery that the area needs.”

The rules are designed “to give greater confidence to communities about the benefits new housing can bring to their area.” If the sums provided under Section 106 payments and the Community Infrastructure Levy were spent effectively then I do think it would help make new housing more popular. It is not just a matter of the developers handing over the money. It is also being able to check to see if it has been spent as agreed. The money is not meant to just sit in a ringfenced bank account or to pay for bureaucrats salaries. It is meant to go on specific projects such as planting street trees, or road improvements, or a new playground in the local park. Then when a planning application comes along residents can balance the disruption and extra pressure against the promised benefits that will be delivered.

When I was a councillor in Hammersmith and Fulham I persuaded my Conservatve colleagues to publish a schedule of funds held under Section 106. Alas and alack I am no longer a councillor and Hammersmith Town Hall is now under socialist rule. Labour has not been quite so brazen as to cease publication but it has became more of a struggle to keep the information up to date. The Council still claims:

“We update the transparency schedule every three months.”

The difficulty is that it isn’t true. The latest schedule is from two years ago.

There is a case that these developer contributions are an unjustifed obstruction to getting the new homes we need. If the population increases then so will tax revenue. More children means more funding for schools as the money follows the pupil. New homes means new Council Tax. So what is the logic in giving the councils an extra bung? Better for the property developers to focus on coming up with a good scheme. Regular readers will know my view that beautiful, traditional design is the key. That is why the mission of the Building Better Building Beautiful Commission, chaired by Sr Roger Scruton and Nicholas Boys Smith, is so important.

If we are going to have these billions of pounds of developer contributions sloshing around, then giving us some chance to keep track of where it is all going is welcome.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Parent hacks: Here are 3 timesaving tools for parents in NoVA

September is synonymous with back to school—and a return to scheduling chaos. These
three local companies are devoted to saving you time in the never-ending parent marathon. Read on and reclaim your time!

This post originally appeared in our September 2019 print issueFor more family content sent directly to your inbox, subscribe to our e-newsletter today. 

Westlake Legal Group clothing Parent hacks: Here are 3 timesaving tools for parents in NoVA time savers scheduling preparation Planning parents parenting life saving hacks kids Family Features Family entrepreneur Culture back to school autumn
Design by Mike Ramm

Time Saver: Back-to-School Shopping
Kids grow like weeds—and keeping them in clothes that fit can be a challenge. That was definitely the case for Sarah and Caleb Ballard, who both have busy government day jobs. Says Sarah, “One morning I walked into my daughter’s room and thought ‘Oh, she has nothing in 6-month sizes.’ We can’t be the only ones with this problem.” So, the Great Falls-based parents of two launched Isaac & Isabel (named after their children), a subscription shopping service that solves this common problem. Sign up, and the mom-and-dad duo will send you a brand-new box of seasonal basics every three months from size newborn to 4T. Each box contains five shirts and bottoms, a set of PJs, a seasonal warmer top, five pairs of socks and even five pairs of underwear (infants get bibs and extra onesies). “The goal is to get you through the workweek,” says Sarah. “The clothes are solid colors, basics. The idea is Grandma is going to buy the special things. We don’t want to get into the business. We’re the backup, we’re the filler.” The service also comes with a pay-it-forward component: Each order comes with a prepaid shipping label for you to mail gently worn clothes in your shipment’s box to a designated charity that helps children in need. // $99 per quarter

Westlake Legal Group Untitled-313 Parent hacks: Here are 3 timesaving tools for parents in NoVA time savers scheduling preparation Planning parents parenting life saving hacks kids Family Features Family entrepreneur Culture back to school autumn
Photo courtesy of Kidsmart Carnivals

Time Saver: Birthday Party Planning
Birthdays are a big deal when you’re a kid—and, let’s be honest, a big stress when you’re the parent tasked with planning it. Yvonne Brandon, a mom to an elementary school-aged son, launched Kidsmart Carnivals two years ago with that in mind. The up-and-coming company offers turn-key birthday parties with options like carnival booths, water play toys for warmer weather and oversized lawn games, including Connect Four, Jenga and Kerplunk. The former Fairfax County teacher used to volunteer to coordinate fairs and fundraisers at her son’s school. But, when bounce houses were prohibited due to safety concerns, she had to come up with an alternative. “I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, that’s our wow factor. What are we going to do?’” She rented some carnival games and “they showed up dirty and broken. It was so unacceptable,” she recalls. “I was so angry and I thought ‘I can do better than this. I have things nicer than this.’” And Kidsmart Carnivals was born. Brandon’s rentals include handcrafted and custom-made carnival booths and games. “I know as a parent, it’s so hard,” she says of planning a successful birthday party. “There aren’t enough venues. It’s very expensive. I can’t offer a venue, but I wanted to offer something that could be really cool—your own fun fair.” Kidsmart offers party packages that range from $400 for a full carnival to stand-alone lawn games (the trio of games rents for about $130). And, in a nod to her school-carnival roots, the company also offers rentals to schools and churches (“If you’re the volunteer for those events, it’s an unbelievable amount of work,” she says.). Brandon is booking parties about two months in advance and hopes to expand her offerings this fall. “Basically,” she says. “I wanted to be the rental company I wished I could find.” // prices vary

Westlake Legal Group Untitled-59 Parent hacks: Here are 3 timesaving tools for parents in NoVA time savers scheduling preparation Planning parents parenting life saving hacks kids Family Features Family entrepreneur Culture back to school autumn
Photo courtesy of Gallery Foods

Time Saver: Family Meal Time
That elusive end-of-day family dinner can feel like an impossible task (The menu planning! The prep! The cooking!), but a DC-based company is making weeknights much easier with kid-friendly, ready-to-eat meals delivered to your door. The chefs at Galley Foods cook up healthy meals in a commercial kitchen in DC’s NoMA neighborhood every morning and deliver that night—all you have to do is heat and eat. “There’s no chopping, no shopping, no prep, no cooking, no cleaning,” says the company’s marketing director, Alexandra Lawrence. “That, in and of itself every night, is probably an hour worth of time saved that you can get back to be with your family.” Founded by two former LivingSocial employees, entrepreneurs Alan Clifford and Ian Costello got the idea when they were working long hours and in need of healthy meal options. Galley doesn’t only cater to families, but they do offer options including kids meals (think sloppy Joes and chicken quesadillas) and family meals that serve four. Sweetgreen, the company with DC roots that turned eating salad cool, acquired the company earlier this year—so expect to see healthy, locally sourced ingredients remain center stage. Bonus: Galley offers “Give Back Weeks” that allow customers to turn meal delivery into a fundraiser. Sign your school up and 20% of related orders are donated back to the school. // Kids meals, $7-$9, family meals from $32; same-day delivery available in parts of NoVA, 24-hour notice required in others

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Mark Hook: One size does not fit all when it comes to planning

Cllr Mark Hook is the Leader of Gosport Borough Council.

Let me congratulate our newly elected leader, Boris Johnson, with his energetic style of management, along with the many new faces in the cabinet looking to bring in additional successful measures beyond what have achieved to date.

From a local Government perspective, there are many things I and my colleagues would like to see happen. We are told the times of austerity are over, yet the shackles and financial burdens we find ourselves under make it difficult day by day to deliver the ever-increasing demands placed on us by central Government and to meet the expectations of the public. Much has already been said and written, issues such as care of the elderly, education, education, education, combating crime and disorder, employing 20,000 new police officers, the work carried out by the NHS and its funding streams. Yet there are many other topics which need careful consideration.

One concern is the National Planning Policy Framework.

The NPPF contains all the matters of Standard Methodology, Affordability Uplift, and the Housing Delivery Test, and is used to determine how many residential dwellings each local authority will have to deliver over a given period to meet the Government’s housing target – currently set at 300,000 dwellings per year. That Standard Methodology is largely based upon household and population projections.

When first devised, these projections generally supported house building approaching the Government’s 300,000 annual target.  However, things have changed following the result of the EU Referendum and those projections have substantially reduced the required number of additional houses needed using the Standard Methodology. Some have suggested the number could even be as low as 159,000 per year. The Government has thus far wanted to stick with the 300,000 target, irrespective of what their own Standard Methodology says.  I believe this has put the Planning Inspectorate in a bit of quandary.  On the one hand they have the Government telling them to allow development, and on the other they are obliged to take account of Local Plans that have the backing of communities through statutory consultation and approved by the Secretary of State.

However, when we look at my district, Gosport, which is currently 72 per cent built on, 12 times the national average, it is unsurprising we have very little available space left. We can help deliver housing numbers through the many brownfield sites left vacant through the reduction in the Armed Forces over the past four decades but what we need is to bring prosperity back into the Borough.

Regarding the remaining areas we have, we need to ensure there is sufficient green open spaces and strategic gaps between settlements. What we do have left, we need for employment as we have a job density of only 0.51, the seventh-lowest in the country. Yet the people of Gosport have a great work ethic with over 20,000 people out commuting daily to work with a struggling road network trying to cope to meet the demand.

With what little space we have available to build on, I would like to see jobs being created and delivered, bringing with it the economic prosperity to our town. People should be able to live, work and play to give them a better quality of life instead of the need to commute, spending hours on the roads adding to congestion, pollution, and poor air quality. People are reliant on the motor car as we don’t have a railway station, although there is heavy investment in public infrastructure through bus transport which helps. You see one size does not fit all.

These problems are not ours alone. Neighbouring authorities are having to look at where they can build houses, even suggesting building in strategic gaps creating urban sprawl, which should be resisted at all costs to ensure we keep the identity and sovereignty of our own communities. However, under the current NPPF it is extremely difficult to meet the demands placed upon us.

So what is it that we would like our Government to do? What is it that we would say to our new energetic leader? We would say please be understanding that some authorities’ needs are different from others. Some authorities are full to capacity and need to deliver improved services for the residents already living there.

In looking for a way through this, we might be able to offer the new Prime Minister with a fragile minority administration a possible way out. The NPPF provision contains, I would contend, unintended consequences. In places like Gosport, and other similar local authorities where there are unique and peculiar circumstances, local considerations are such that the Standard Methodology involving top-down housing targets is counter-productive.  What we therefore need is some flexibility from the Government that will allow local authorities more discretion over housing numbers provided they have a robust case.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Bob Seely: Scrap the automatic Right to Buy. And nine other ideas to make housing sustainable.

Bob Seely is Member of Parliament for the Isle of Wight.

Whoever becomes our next Prime Minister needs to bring fresh thinking to housing. We can’t have more of the same. The current policies are flawed, built on a system which is a failed mix of free market (land banking, a tax regime manipulated for developers’ benefit, unsustainable housing estates) and over-complex planning regulations.

Overall, Britain is moving to a more sustainable economic model. We need to do the same in housing. We need a model which stresses recycling of existing buildings as well as existing brownfield sites. We need to use space more efficiently, and design a tax system to encourage this. We need to increase density in towns, where there are services and communities, rather than using up greenbelt, where there are none. We need to reform the system to allow more of the right houses to be built, in the right areas, in the right styles. We need to give councillors the confidence to demand better from the system.

First, the facts. Britain needs houses. The number of households is projected to grow by 159,000 per year based on current trends. We need between 250,000 and 340,000 additions per year to clear the backlog of over 4.7 million households with housing need across Great Britain.

But it’s not just the right numbers we need, it’s the right type of housing. Both old and young are being squeezed. For the young, house prices have grown seven times faster than family incomes, according to IFS research – meaning many can no longer afford to own their home. In 1995-96, some 65 per cent of 25-34-year-olds with incomes in the middle 20 percent for their age owned their own home. Twenty years later, that figure was just 27 percent.

For older folk, households headed by a pensioner account for 88 percent of the projected growth in households between now and 2041, yet an NPI study found “there is a very limited choice for older person households” moving home.

In addition, housing is being built in the wrong places. According to the CPRE, there are currently 460,000 homes planned on Green Belt land. These developments lack affordable homes, are not near services, are car dependent and require new infrastructure. They are truly unsustainable.

My constituency of the beautiful Isle of Wight reflects this national problem. We are being told to build too many homes, in the wrong places, and they will not be for Islanders.

So how do we build better, whilst treading carefully in our countryside? Below are ten ideas.

First, Stamp Duty is killing the market. It’s too high. Evidence from over two dozen prominent voices including the Adam Smith Institute, IPPR and IFS indicates that Stamp Duty is blocking 45,000 property purchases a year, preventing young and old from moving. We should scrap it or reduce it.

Second, utilise our current property stock better. Some 634,453 dwellings were vacant in England on 1st October 2018. Some of those were properties over shops. A UK-wide flats-over-the-shop capital allowance scheme (Flat Conversion Allowance) was repealed in 2012. We should open it again and simplify the system to encourage investment in town and city centres. Let’s make undeveloped spaces above shops economically attractive to live in, but economically painful to sit on.

Third, introduce a multi-million pound ‘bungalow fund’ to convert bungalows into two or more housing units. This would encourage housing associations and councils to buy up bungalows with assumed planning consent for adding a storey to create two properties. Thus, we gently increase density in towns and villages, where there are already services.

Fourth, we should reduce or scrap VAT on all renovations – and consider adding VAT on green belt and green field development. A study on the effects of reducing VAT for renovation and repair from 20 percent to five percent for the years from 2015-2020 projected a total stimulus effect of more than £15.1 billion and 42,050 extra full-time equivalent construction jobs by the end of 2020. It also found a potential saving of up to 237,128 tonnes of CO2 as homes are improved. This is yet another example where lower tax leads to overall economic gain.

Fifth, help smaller councils and housing associations to bid for the £9 billion available to establish a new generation of Council/Starter/Key Worker Housing. This funding should be available to all councils and housing associations, not just some as is currently the case. My council on the Isle of Wight, if it was allowed access to government cash, would build community housing more quickly than developers. The Government should also seek to pass land held by its departments to councils more quickly. It has taken 12 years for Homes England and its predecessor to release land for housing and jobs in East Cowes on the Island; unacceptable!

Sixth, increase community involvement in housing and strengthen local democracy. Give parish and town councils statutory consultee status. Make neighbourhood plans easier to develop. Encourage councils to develop housing strategies for local need rather than just plans which meet government targets. Extend time to oppose planning applications and prevent manipulative developers from gaming the system. Ensure that councils get infrastructure money from developments – known as Section 106 cash – even if they oppose the development. Allow councils – and MPs – to apply to withdraw planning permission.

Seventh, give housing associations greater power to evict anti-social tenants.

Eighth, scrap the automatic Right To Buy and find more cost-effective ways to support home ownership. For example, rent-to-buy schemes. These schemes support homeowning aspirations by allowing young renters to pay below market rates for housing with a chunk of their money going to a house deposit. For one rent-to-buy policy, over a million people could move into home ownership.

Ninth, build beautiful. Local planning should include clear local design and style guidelines. On the Island, we have a beautiful cottage and brickwork style, unique to us. It is painfully ironic that over 100 years ago we were building better housing for the poorest people in our society than we are now.

Finally, give leeway to local councils to chose a different methodology for assessing housing need, and allow councils, provided they behave responsibly, to assess their own housing requirement.

To sum up, let’s introduce a sustainable, recycling model for housing and land use. Get housing right and we deliver lots of social and economic good – and please old and new electoral constituencies. Get it wrong and we alienate our core voters without winning over new ones. It should be an easy choice.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

How can the nation’s beauty be regained?

The Building Better Building Beautiful Commission has published its interim report. Until April, the Commission was chaired by Sir Roger Scruton – who was ousted after being scandalously misrepresented by the New Statesman. The magazine has belatedly apologised. Since then The Commission’s Chairman has been Nicholas Boys Smith, the founder of Create Streets. The most obvious part of its mission is to challenge the defeatist assumption that new buildings must inevitably be ugly. Given the extent of the devastation to so many of our towns and cities since the Second World War that sense of defeatism is understandable. As the report says:

“Self-consciously and deliberately twentieth century planners and architects rejected the traditional town with its clear centre, composed facades, mix of uses and its walkable density. We have encountered in our evidence much consternation at the injuries done to older settlements though much of the twentieth century by buildings’ scale, nature and positioning.”

Despite that strong sense of gloom, it is wrong to despair. The Princes Foundation recently brought out a report with pictures of some wonderful development projects.

However, the Commission makes clear that beautiful buildings are not enough:

“Beauty is not just what buildings look like (though it does include this) but the wider ‘spirit of the place’, our overall settlement patterns and their interaction with nature. This entails both the beauty of our streets and squares, what makes them distinct and also the wider patterns of how we live and the demands we make on our natural environment and the planet.”

“What is civilisation?” asked Kenneth Clark in his 1969 television series Civilisation. “I don’t know… but I think I can recognise it when I see it and I’m looking at it now. ” As he spoke he turned to look at Notre-Dame cathedral. Defining beauty might pose similar difficulties. But what is hard to dispute is that a vast number of the concrete slabs, blocks, and towers constructed in recent decades lack it. Not even the architects responsible for disfiguring our country claim their aim was beauty. For them “brutalism” is not an insult but their life’s work.

Nonetheless to declare that “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” offers a convenient excuse to give up on the cause. But the report argues:

“That beauty might be subjective, purely a ‘matter of taste’ (if that is indeed the case) is a very bad reason to dismiss it. So much in our social, cultural and political lives is subjective. Feeling is what moves most of us more than reason. Public disenchantment with so much of what has been built since the war cannot be adequately captured in facts and numbers; it is a powerful and present feeling of loss. Some argue that to talk of beauty when we are in midst of a housing crisis is a distraction. Such an argument is based on the fallacy that somehow one precludes the other – that quality and quantity are at odds.”

By the way, Sir Roger, who was a professor of aesthetics at Birkbeck College, would not concede that it is subjective. The report acknowledges this case by adding:

“Beauty is not a veneer that is laid on top of utility. It is the most important part of utility, since it is what makes buildings and settlements into fit places to live. This is revealed in the adaptability of beautiful buildings and the disposal nature of ugliness. And this is why there are good philosophical reasons for rejecting the idea that beauty is a matter of subjective opinion, without foundation in human nature or in our desire to live at peace with our neighbours.”

It comes down to how the decisions are made:

“Currently judgements about beauty are being made covertly. Places and buildings look and feel the way they do not by accident but by choice. The problem is that that most people do not have access to the discussion about the choices or don’t feel that their voices and opinions matter.”

It is one thing to agree the planning system is at fault. Quite another to resolve what is the matter with it:

“Some believe the problem is too much planning. Some believe that it is too little. We have to understand the dynamic of different perspectives, and to get beyond them where we can. Our planning process is criticised from nearly all sides as ‘broken’, and those charged with maintaining and implementing it seem often to be de-moralised. But planning for the public good should be a noble and exciting profession. And there is much that is precious in our approach: civic involvement and the trust that this has engendered, to say nothing of the protection of many beautiful landscapes and historic buildings. So this loss of trust is a serious derogation from our inheritance. How do we win trust back whilst building enough beautiful and popular homes in the right places and in the ‘gentle density’ sustainable settlement patterns which we know are better for residents and for the environment?”

One of the Commission’s recommendations is illegal. The proposal is to have zero VAT for the renovation of buildings. Perversely VAT is charged for that but not for new building. The Commission says:

“As awareness of the benefits of a ‘circular economy’ approach to the environment and the economy increases, we should look at ways to incentivise re-use of existing buildings to prevent new build being the default ‘easier’ option. For example, we would like Government to consider the alignment of VAT treatment of repair and maintenance work for existing buildings with construction of new buildings.”

The Government would be breaking EU rules to do so. But if Brexit takes place at some stage, as some of us are hoping, that would be an entirely legal and eminently sensible reform. That is not just about bring homes back into use. There are a lot of empty derelict buildings around that could be adapted for housing even though they were originally built for other reasons. Greater flexibility of the planning rules would also help. As the report says:

“Retail planning used to be divided into ‘convenience’ (essentially food) and ‘comparison’ (non-food). These were divided into ‘bulk’ (weekly supermarket shop/buying a dishwasher) and ‘top up’ (daily or ad hoc). Then there was ‘local’ (small parades and centres of small settlements) and ‘higher order’ (city centres to which people from neighbouring settlements travel). Put simply, internet shopping and delivery has rendered this model obsolete. Landlords are therefore sitting on property held at a book value that the potential rental income no longer supports. However, it is often hard to support change of use to lower rent commercial or other uses due to rates liability. Sometimes change of use is also not permitted. Thus, too many high streets are not evolving as they need to do.” 

But what the new homes look like remains the key controversy. The Commission feels that the public – rather than planners or architects – should decide. That is the way for beauty to win. They make the recommendation sound as dull as possible:

“There is greater scope to encourage the use of deliberative engagement and design processes to facilitate wider community engagement in design solutions at all levels of scale. Consideration needs to be given to how this might be better resourced whether through public / private partnership arrangements or neighbourhood planning; by adopting protocols for community and stakeholder engagement in the production of detailed visual design briefs for important sites; and through the use of ‘enquiry by design’ or similar techniques to assist the master planning of strategic and sensitive sites. There should be much greater weight placed in planning applications on the criteria set out within the Statement of Community Involvement to demonstrate how proposals have evolved as a result of local feedback. The Commission is concerned with the quality and breadth of public engagement with the plan making (as opposed to the development control) process. This needs to be systemically improved and is critical. We need to move the democracy forwards to an earlier point in the process.”

If that was given teeth it would be very powerful. Local design codes reflecting popular wishes would probably mean the end of tower blocks and a huge revival for neo-classicism. There would actually be a great advantage for developers in that there would be greater certainty in what would be approved. The long delay and costs in legal fees would be reduced.

Some imagine that the profit motive explains the failure to provide beauty. But ugly buildings can be more expensive. Anna Mansfield of the public realm consultancy, told the Commission:

“I was working on a PFI project ten years ago, and we were told by the contractor to put in a more expensive material that looked cheaper because there was real sensitivity about anything in the NHS looking expensive.” 

That greater simplicity of design codes would also mean a reduced burden on the planning system. Yet the Royal Town Planning Institute, the planning officers trade union, has had the nerve to demand “more resources” if this approach was adopted. Not a hint of contrition for the harm its members have inflicted on us. Just a demand for more money. It would be naive to imagine that spending more money would do any good. The great majority of planning officers know that the public have a different view. The planning officers are convinced the public is wrong. Just giving planning officers a pay rise will not convert them to the cause of beauty.

The challenge is not money but political will. I am reminded of the failure of Michael Gove to reduce the number of children in care by persuading the social workers to be more favourable towards adoption. The social workers were not to be persuaded as they were ideologically opposed. Nor will the planners or architects by persuaded that neo-classicism is the way forward. For that change to come it would need to be forced through. That can’t be fudged. It is a battle between the planners and the people. The Government has to take sides.

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Stephanos Ioannou: Overdevelopment means the traditional London suburbs are under threat

Cllr Stephanos Ioannou is a councillor for Southgate in Enfield. He is studying Public Policy at Kings College London.

It’s not every day you would hear a young person who has hopes of soon getting on to the property ladder, echoing concerns about overdevelopment in one of the most expensive and sought after capitals in the world. But this statement is slowly creeping into the reality of what is happening in our capital, and overdevelopment is beginning to seriously change the suburban parts of London.

The majority of applications I see coming through Enfield Council’s planning department have the justified intent of elaborating and improving the current situation that families find themselves in. Whether it be a simple loft conversion, rear or back extension, or even the garage conversion, I mostly see these applications as positive contributions to the Southgate area, where more and more families are moving to reap the benefits of great schools and local services. However, where things begin to get complex is with the applications that involve changing the whole character of an area, and therefore setting a blueprint for future developments in the area.

I am talking specifically about an application that was received to build a 17 storey building in the heart of Southgate, that will bring with it 200 new homes for families and professionals. At first glance, I was positive about these proposals but realised that residents in the community, and particularly neighbouring residents would be quite negative towards these proposals. This is because of the skyline effect, and most importantly the impact on local services and local infrastructure for the Southgate area. In taking another case, we have in neighbouring Barnet and Finchley Central the plans outlined by Transport for London and the Mayor of London of a new development that will involve 600 new homes, and a twenty-seven storey building that will change the face of central Finchley for good. Finally, we can bear witness to the ‘Save West Hampstead’ campaign that is focusing on stopping council led over-development by bringing together residents association across the borough to fight against high tower block plans.

With the examples given, it’s clear there is a correlation happening across the London boroughs with overdevelopment. Unlike before, councils with the assistance of developers are more willing to start plans with an extraordinary level of floors attached to tower blocks, essentially going in ‘high and tough’ and slowly but gently reducing the number of floors, still to a level that is mostly unacceptable to most existing residents in the community.

Buildings in cities should not be designed in isolation, but in relation to the places in which they are set, whether these are views to and from world heritage sites or the fabric of adjoining streets. Together with its present and future neighbours, new development should make accessible public spaces that are a pleasure to inhabit – the effects of tall buildings are as important at ground level as they are in the sky. And the larger and more prominently placed a building is, the greater the care that should be taken over its design.

Nobody could go to the places already being shaped by towers – Elephant and Castle, Vauxhall or Stratford High Street, a discus-throw from the Olympic Park – and say that these are great places to linger, or that the tall buildings now rising there enhance the experience. Images of these places in the future, when further skyscrapers will jostle for attention, suggest more of the same. New urban zones are being created with no overall idea of how the parts contribute to the whole, of the places that are being made at their base.

Rather, new London tower design tends to go out of its way to be as assertive and architecturally antisocial as possible. Strata SE1 in Elephant and Castle, with its slashed rooftop, randomised aluminium cladding patterns and bulbous form, seems to be setting out to be as hostile as possible to any future neighbour. In Stratford the fashion is for arbitrary clashing colours – another idea that kills the prospect of making coherent public places.
Nor, when you get close to a building such as St George’s Tower in Vauxhall, would you say that you are in the presence of quality. Its details clash and its cladding looks cheap and plasticky. There is no great reason to believe that these surfaces will age well. Images of proposed future projects, such as the Quill in Bermondsey and 1 Merchant Square in Paddington, suggest little improvement in the future.

Combined with frantic attempts at individuality is a profound sameness. These projects tend to use the same type of cladding and floor layouts. It is sometimes said that London needs skyscrapers to make an “iconic” statement on the world stage, but these developments make it look less distinctive. And if the city tries to engage in the global race for height, it can only lose. It is outpaced by the likes of Shanghai and Dubai, the height of whose Burj Khalifa is 2.7 times that of the Shard.

Overall, the point here is that tall buildings do not define nor improve an area just by simply being constructed. The traditional semi-detached houses of north London and the leafy suburbs are things you cannot achieve as much as you try with tall tower blocks.

Conservation areas are areas of ‘special architectural or historic interest, the character or appearance of which it is desirable to preserve or enhance’. This imposes a duty on the council, in exercising its planning powers, to pay special attention to the desirability of preserving or enhancing the character or appearance of the area.

However what is said will happen on paper is different from the reality taking place across parts of suburban north London. Take for example the neglect by Tfl over Southgate Tube Station, where the 1930’s structure of Christopher Holden has been left to rust and decay over the years and still no work has taken place to preserve this heritage. Take also the neglect by Enfield Council to preserve existing areas around Southgate Green. I am sure that this is happening across other London boroughs too and I would invite other councillors to explain the situation in their parts- but overall my message is that we should be preserving our areas of heritage and not succumb to the overdevelopment that some parties are trying to push through rigorously.

In preserving heritage, councils can take action by educating local school pupils about points of interest in their areas, or even driving investment in local heritage sites. Research published by Historic England shows that, in 2015, domestic and international heritage-related visits generated £16.4 billion in expenditure in England, contributing £2 billion to the Exchequer in tax revenue. It seems logical therefore that councils should weigh up the impact and consequences of building dense tower block housing, or investing in existing conservation areas thus boosting the local economy.

Slowly we will see changes to the leafy suburban parts of London, being replaced by tall ten-plus storey blocks of flats that will be branded as ‘affordable’ so they say, but in reality are a quick buck for developers and the council who will generate council tax revenue, with no guarantee they will be reinvested back into that specific community.

Here in Enfield, all Section 106 funds that are generated from developments across the borough and being streamlined into the Meridian Water scheme, instead of being reinvested directly back into the communities that have seen these extraordinary developments. With that said, the planning department are trying to reassure us councillors that funds will be requested from the developers further than just for Meridian Water, but this will only be voluntary on their behalf. I am sure that developers would rather retain as much profit as possible, in comparison to giving more funds-especially voluntary ones.

London and its landscape are changing, and with that communities are battling against a change to their once characteristic neighbourhoods. Councils and developers have scant regard for the existing residents, and more so for the conservation areas they are situated in.

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Gareth Lyon: Building out is the way to victory in Rushmoor

Cllr Gareth Lyon is a councillor in Rushmoor and the Chairman of the Aldershot and North Hants Conservative Association.

It has been 80 years since Herbert Morrison allegedly talked about “building the Tories out of London” – and his plan to pile huge amounts of poor quality housing into Conservative constituencies, change the demographics, and cause a backlash against the sitting MPs.

Over recent decades, it has certainly become accepted wisdom that development equals unpopularity. This seems, on the face of it, to have been borne out by some of the recent local election results, including some in our neck of the woods – in Waverley and in Guildford – where opposition parties drummed up opposition to local plans to drive good Conservative administrations out of office.

But it does not have to be like this everywhere…

In Rushmoor Borough Council we too have been going through the local planning process – successfully passing through it a couple of months prior to the election. It was telling that when this was debated at full council, the Labour and Lib Dem opposition were reduced to a search for typos and pagination errors in their desperate search to have something to criticise.

This followed several years in which Rushmoor has been undergoing massive development across both of its towns (Aldershot and Farnborough) and in the surrounding areas, including one of the largest development projects in the South of England – Wellesley, with 4,500 new homes and accompanying infrastructure.

This latter project is a good illustration of many of the key themes of Rushmoor’s local plan which have helped contribute to, rather than mitigate against, our local electoral success as a party.

First the name – a clear reference to Aldershot’s proud and still felt military heritage. Rushmoor is unreservedly proud of its armed forces now and in the past and is determined to weave this heritage into its development. This identity is a major reason why people are proud of living here, is intended to become a significant draw for tourism, and is already helping to attract businesses in related sectors, from aviation to technology, from defence to logistics.

Westlake Legal Group aldershotpic Gareth Lyon: Building out is the way to victory in Rushmoor Rushmoor Planning Local government housing   This pro-business slant to our development is very much embedded throughout Rushmoor. The Leader, Deputy Leader, and Chief Executive are all very pro-business (big and small) and see good development as a means to help attract the skilled workers, which the increasing number of businesses investing in the area are looking for. This also means investing well in the infrastructure which the families of these workers will use (we’ve got a great new school, new centres for health, new country parks and heritage trails, and a big programme of investment in improving roads in the town centres and to employment sites.) The council sees these employers as playing an important role in reviving the town centres, if they can become attractive places for workers to go, have lunch, or spend an evening.

Regenerating the town centres lies at the heart of Rushmoor’s regeneration strategy. The Council is playing a very active role in this, buying many of the key sites itself, ensuring that the quality of housing and retail that is delivered will be genuinely attractive and beneficial to the local community, and introducing a big focus on leisure and cultural facilities.

This local plan and the development which is underway in both towns and in Wellesley did not happen by accident. The council has listened to, learned from, and delivered for residents. This is widely recognised and understood and really has left the other parties with little to work with as they try to manufacture opposition to development.

The main measure of success for the council must be the delivery of good new homes to meet local demand. On this measure there is already considerable grounds for encouragement – with the council already outpacing the level of housing required of it in the local plan.

The secondary measure though – the politics, is, if anything, even more encouraging. Despite vicious rumour-mongering by opposition parties, the Conservatives kept a clear lead in town centre wards in both towns – and saw a massive swing in our favour in the ward which contains Wellesley (which just so happens to be the ward of the recently deposed local Labour leader).

With the right approach, listening to residents, thoughtfully integrating development, building good homes, and focussing on building from our local strengths, Rushmoor really is experiencing positive development.

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