LIKE it or not, Theresa May is part of the problem that she’s now trying to solve – the nation’s housing shortage.
By confirming that she has opposed new schemes in her leafy riverside constituency of Maidenhead, the Prime Minister was revealing herself to be a Nimby whose protests, and resistance to new developments, means Britain has a chronic shortage of homes.
Yet, while many will welcome the Tory leader’s commitment to preside over the construction of a new generation of affordable homes, she won’t be able to do so without confronting the fundamental faults at the heart of planning policy. Mrs May says local residents will be put at the heart of her reforms, but then threatens to intervene if democratically-elected local councillors drag their feet.
Her policy needs much firmer foundations. Mrs May accepts that young voters turned against her party at last year’s election because, in part, they were finding it increasingly difficult to buy – or even rent – a property of their own. Yet, despite this, she won’t give local councils the financial powers to build social housing and, in turn, boost the construction industry. Why not?
And then there’s the culture of nimbyism. Though concerns about immigration motivated the Brexit vote, and more extreme political views are taking hold across Europe, this argument is, in fact, more nuanced and down to the fact that the country’s public services, and housebuilding, have not kept pace with population increases. The consequence is that local schools, NHS services and so on can’t cope, hence people taking to the streets when new plans are proposed. The answer is simple Mrs May – a much closer correlation between new developments and investment in key services.