Editorial: Bigger conservatories are no answer

Rather than tinker at the edges of the construction industry, the Government should focus on tackling our acute housing crisis

Share

Eric Pickles did not have an easy task in the Commons yesterday. The Communities Secretary was charged with defending the Government’s planning proposals not only against the Opposition but also against a cadre of Coalition naysayers. In the end, he won the vote – but by a slim margin, and only with the promise of a “revised approach”. Even then, several Tories rebelled.

According to its proponents, a three-year easing of the planning rules for residential extensions will be a boon for “aspirational families”, will lift Britain’s flagging construction sector, and will be a much-needed boost for retailers of carpets, furniture and the like. “Getting the planners off our backs”, as the Prime Minister puts it, might look good on paper. What is being overlooked, though, is that planners are – when it comes to domestic extensions, at least – on our backs for good reason. Loosen the restrictions and the result will be costly and antagonistic neighbourly disputes.

Even more importantly, the plan is tilting at the wrong target. True, the construction industry is suffering. But rather than tinker at the edges with a temporary burst of plus-sized conservatory-building, the Government should focus on tackling our acute housing crisis.

Although Britain needs an extra 250,000 homes every year to meet growing demand, fewer than 100,000 are being built. Why? Because the handful of large private developers have little incentive to do so and investment in social housing is paltry. The result is sky-high prices, both for buying and renting. Yet instead of channelling what money there is into building – to ease the bottleneck and help the economy – the Chancellor is underwriting cheap mortgages and fuelling ever more demand.

Mr Pickles, meanwhile, must make the empty argument that a few more, larger extensions will do the trick. That Coalition rebels have now forced compromise is welcome. But, with no more – so far – than a ministerial promise to go on, it is still too soon to celebrate.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Business Development Manager / Sales

£30 - 40k (£65k Y1 OTE Uncapped): Guru Careers: We are seeking a Business Deve...

Guru Careers: Graduate Media Assistant

Competitive (DOE): Guru Careers: We are looking for an ambitious and adaptable...

Guru Careers: Solutions Consultant

£30 - 40k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Solutions Consultan...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£30 - 35k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

Day In a Page

Read Next
IDF soldiers and vehicles in an image provided by campaign group Breaking the Silence  

'Any person you see – shoot to kill': The IDF doctrine which causes the death of innocent Palestinians

Ron Zaidel
 

If I were Prime Minister: I'd give tax cuts to the rich, keep Trident, and get my football team wrong

Frankie Boyle
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before