There’s an answer here you know

Today such criminality is rarer. Instead, we have a concerning culture of cronyism that, while not illegal, suggests a lack of accountability. From the housing minister down to the local councillor, elected politicians now routinely rub shoulders with property developers, house builders and commercial lobbyists. This is no accident. Politicians’ decisions have an impact on companies’ ambitions, whether they are reviewing planning applications, setting affordable housing targets or “regenerating” whole areas. Bluntly, companies want these decisions to go their way. Develop connections with the decision-maker and you can “strip out risk”, in the words of one lobbying firm.

The politicisation of planning has come with the growth of the regeneration industry. While once planning officers in local government made recommendations that elected members of planning committees generally followed, today lobbyists are able to exert far greater influence.

Blow up the Town and Country Planning Act and there would be no point in such bribery or schmoozing, would there?

As PJ O’Rourke remarked, when legislators decide what can be bought and sold the first thing to be bought and sold is legislators.

23 comments on “There’s an answer here you know

  1. And it’s no coincidence that the world’s largest lobby companies have their biggest offices in Brussels and DC.

    (I can’t find the original source of the anecdote, but I’ll bet it can’t be refuted)

  2. “The politicisation of planning has come with the growth of the regeneration industry.”

    I really don’t think do. If developers and the “regeneration industry” had the influence you claim, our planning laws wouldn’t work so impressively to prevent the planning permissions we need.

  3. Does she think monstrosities like the Grenfell Tower grew up from the organic earth, untouched and untainted by Man?

  4. As soon as something becomes ‘planned’ it is in fact ‘controlled’. The control permits exclusion of competing interests and creates the opportunity for graft. It’s inevitable.

  5. elected politicians now routinely rub shoulders with property developers, house builders and commercial lobbyists.

    No mention of NGOs, ‘non-profit’ groups or international lobbying ‘charities’ though. Weird.

  6. > elected politicians now routinely rub shoulders with property developers

    That’s a suitably vague accusation, “to rub shoulders with”. Do they have planning meetings together? Yes. Do they exchange briefcases full of cash on the golf course on a Saturday morning? No. But the ambiguity is deliberate.

  7. “That’s a suitably vague accusation, “to rub shoulders with”. Do they have planning meetings together?”

    In my experience developers rarely want to meet with the elected councillors. They want to speak to the people with real power, the council officials. Any large development scheme will not be the result of elected councillors making decisions, it will the the result of the planners making decisions and the elected members rubber stamping them. The only time the elected members meet with developers is when there’s good news to be announced to the press and they want their faces all over the local rag.

  8. I’m sure I remember reading that, back in the good old days when councillor was a part time unpaid position, councillors and property developers (or builders, as they were then known) were the same people. It’s the involvement of professional politicians that’s the new thing.

  9. @Rue Le Jour

    …. and Schedule 1 of the Housing Act was created specifically to address that corruption.

    After a tower block disaster showed how damaging such conflicts of interest were

  10. Power corrupts. – Lord Acton

    Lobbying is a symptom, not a cause. Government power is the cause.

    ‘Blow up the Town and Country Planning Act and there would be no point in such bribery or schmoozing, would there?’

    Exactly.

  11. So left-wing nutjob makes vague and unsubstantiated allegations about the planning process in the UK…and this would justify the abolition of the T&CP Act? That’s a jump of Dicky Tater proportions!

  12. I do believe that front-row forwards rub shoulders with the front-row forwards of the opposing team.
    [Admittedly, I stand open to correction as a complete inpert – the only thing I still remember from my sole experience of playing prop is that the hooker weighed 20% more than I did.]

  13. Repeal the 1948 Town and Country Planning Act and the housing shortage would disappear in two, or perhaps three, years.
    The Greens should support this – the distance commuted would shrink dramatically and more of us could walk to work.

  14. @ Roue le Jour
    Not in my town: we had one estate agent who sought to become a town councillor by joining the Conservative Party and applying to become a candidate [he may just possibly have been genuine, his daughter was, but most of us thought that he was self-interested] – the local party allocated him a ward that we didn’t manage to win in 1959 (we did quite well that year) and I don’t think that we had won since WWII.
    A bit earlier, when I was still in short trousers so not allowed to attend meetings, let alone speak, one of the local builders (undoubtedly a Conservative, long-standing paid-up member, worked up from a brickie to running his own company) wanted to be a Councillor and they gave him the strongest Labour Ward to contest – he reckoned that his workforce would persuade the locals to vote for him (he couldn’t canvass personally because his 1950s prosthetic legs weren’t good enough to spend three hours a night on them): maybe they did as he got more than 10% of the vote.
    In a small community, guys get to know who is in it for themselves and who is there because they feel they have a responsibility to help their neighbours.
    My father was invited to stand for the local council by our dentist, while sitting in the dentist’s chair…

  15. john77,

    > the distance commuted would shrink dramatically and more of us could walk to work

    Not unless you also get rid of stamp duty.

  16. Theophrastus: it’s not one Grauniad article that justifies scrapping the 1947 Act. It’s the fact it’s one of the most dreadful pieces of legislation ever enacted. I don’t know about the subsequent ones (1971, 1976, 1990 etc) but I assume they’re pretty dire too.

  17. BiCR
    Doubtless, UK planning legislation could be improved. But the abolition of all planning legislation would be an utter disaster, particularly in a country as densely populated as the UK. Landscapes and townscapes would be lost, historically and scientifically important sites destroyed, and there would endless disputes between neighbours and neighbourhoods which would corrode our social bonds.

  18. john77: Ah, the old “I want to be elected, give me a ward I will win” line. I’ve always turned around and said “*You* find a ward that *you* want to work to build up a vote, and we’ll endorse your ticket”. Yes, and that was my line ten years before I got deslected in a round of “ooo, he’s made that into a safe seat, I want it”, and it’s still my line now.

  19. @ jgh
    The guys didn’t do that line because they knew less about it than I did (although I can claim no credit since no-one listened to me until I was 17).
    My claim to fame is that I was part of the team that gained a ward from Labour in the local elections in 1964, one of fifty-odd in the whole country, after my little sister decided that she needed a break (it is now called a “gap year”) and she delegated that to me – Fredk had lived in the ward since before I was born: so virtually everyone knew him; the four of us (Fredk, my sister’s reserve boyfriend, the daughter I mentioned above, and I) canvassed every house; on polling day we needed some help from the local association but that was marginal.
    We knew who was genuine and who was not./

  20. @ Andrew M
    If house prices slump to a reasonable level, stamp duty will be zero or negigible

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