Planning in the media

Sometimes there are stories that just run and run. The government's proposals to cap housing benefit sparked such controversy that commentators used up Amazonian supplies of paper detailing their reservations.

The Guardian reported that ministers had been warned that their plans will backfire by driving up welfare bills, with London boroughs claiming that "low-income families will be driven out of richer neighbourhoods to the suburban fringes and parts of the deprived inner city".

The paper commented: "The problem is shortage of supply - from this single source the high rents, the long waits and the fear of moving all flow.

Rethinking planning rules must be part of any solution, but a government that has made the public deficit its sole priority is unable to recognise that public investment must be an element too."

The Independent also concluded that a lack of social and general private housing has "helped to drive up house prices in general and in turn inflated rents". It urged the government to do more to increase the supply of social housing, arguing that "the coalition's claim that it can build 150,000 social homes over the next four years while halving the social housing budget in real terms deserves rigorous scrutiny".

The Times reported that private landlords had warned that "mass evictions would not be avoided because they would be unlikely to lower rents to the required new levels".

The paper cited the claim by London Councils, which represents the capital's 32 boroughs, that 82,000 families may be forced to leave their homes, unable to pay the difference between the cap and their rent.

The Observer cited a University of Cambridge study which found that rents on two-bedroom properties in London would be more expensive than the new cap. It also claimed that "people would be forced to move out of their homes, not only in part of central London but in many of the capital's suburbs".

Meanwhile, the blog Left Foot Forward warned that the reforms would hit families across the country. Using Department for Work and Pensions data, it said the worst hit areas include Leeds with 15,610, Bradford with 10,470, Liverpool with 12,620, Brighton and Hove with 12,550 and Manchester with 10,210.

Elsewhere, The Independent reported that hundreds of local revolts against onshore wind farms have "jeopardised" the plan to use them to generate more than a quarter of the country's electricity. Planning approvals are at an all-time low, with only one in three applications getting the go-ahead from councils in the face of organised opposition from local people.

The paper's columnist Terence Blacker said: "The reason why fewer planning applications are now being granted is simply that most of the suitable sites - as well as many that are unsuitable - have already been developed.

"It has been up to local people, planning officers and committees to examine the specifics rather than listen to generalised propaganda. Far from being a block to progress, they have often proved to be heroes of down-to-earth common sense and humanity."


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