Housing scheme approvals surge as Eric Pickles eyes success

Posted on January 23rd, 2014

After reading the latest report in Planning it seems Eric Pickles is on a housing-approval runaway train that refuses to stop anytime soon. It has been found he has personally approved 21 housing schemes between March and December 2013, which is five schemes short of the total number approved in the previous three years.


Recovered appeals and housing applications
Planning decisions taken by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government fall into two categories: those called-in and recovered appeals, with the latter mechanism Pickles is maximising to exert as much clout as possible. Why? With 16 months to go until the General Election, Pickle’s housing approval frenzy is being undertaken with a clear aim to be seen as pro development, pro jobs, pro growth, but with one BIG caveat – it must not be a renewable or a gypsy and traveller scheme as this would appal the very people Pickles relies upon for election success, Conservative voters.
Now this is not to say that housing schemes do not stir-up opposition among locals, rather, these are the lesser of all evils as far as planning schemes go. Shelter is an absolute necessary here and now, creating ‘real’ tangible jobs, whereas a windfarm is erected by renewable fairies and will only help to save the planet when objectors long gone.
To reiterate Pickles’ preferences, Planning’s findings show that Pickles approved more than 80 per cent of the major housing schemes that he decided in 2013, involving 7,500 homes, whereas renewables and gypsy and traveller schemes had an approval rate of 28.6 and 21.1 per cent, respectively.
The situation on the ground
The ‘realpolitik’ is what we’re talking about here. So when Pickles is asked this time next year ‘what have the Conservatives done for us?’ he can bash out the thousands of homes and jobs created, and the gazillions of pounds in investment he has single-handedly been responsible for.
Fanciful notions such as ‘Localism’ and ‘power to the people’ are never going to sit well for any party wanting to retain power, rather these are ideological, wistful ideas of opposition who are trying to garner the votes of middle England before paying lip service to their once ‘core values’. Renewable schemes and the shelter needs of an unrepresented population of no fixed abode are easy pickings for government (irrespective of which party) to demonstrate it has the communities’ concerns at heart, but housing is a different ball game altogether as voters fund, build, buy, and live in houses.
Localism, schmocalism
That said, of all the planning decisions taken in England each year, only 0.01 per cent of these are taken by Pickles, which highlights that the responsibility, some might say burden, of Localism’s application still rests on the shoulders of local authorities. What we have here then is a case of ‘do as I say not as I do’, whereby authorities must fulfil their Localism duties, however, the Secretary of State is applying the principles of local planning as and when it suits him as he’s got his eye firmly fixed upon General Election 2015 success.
What do you think?
Do you think Pickles is taking the right approach to housebuilding? Is now the time to bring forward controversial applications in the hope these will be approved? Please let us know your thoughts in the comments below
And if you have any queries about Localism, or how any particular policy may affect your scheme, please get in touch

Images courtesy of Koyos and Nick Webb, on Wiki commons and Flickr