03 May 2018

From NIMBY to YIMBY – why our planning system needs to change

From NIMBY to YIMBY – why our planning system needs to change

Create Streets has published a comprehensive paper, From NIMBY to YIMBY: How to win votes by building more homes. In the paper, Nicholas Boys Smith Founding Director of Create Streets, puts forward a thoroughly well-researched argument about why our planning system needs to change to a more rules-defined model.

Co-written by Kieran Toms, Researcher and Urban Designer at Create Streets, the paper examines our planning system in comparison to other countries that are building enough homes, focusing on the reasons behind why people oppose new housing. It examines what makes people oppose local development, and how we can engage with them to turn them from Not In My Back Yard to Yes In My Back Yard.

The paper links a lack of a rules-based system as being a serious element that contributes to planning risk, which acts as a barrier to growth in general, but especially for the niche areas of Custom and Self-build and the small-to-medium-enterprise developers. It also significantly lowers public support for development by decreasing certainty about what will be built.

“…self-build can work in the UK and it is on the rise. But it is not well suited to a system of top-down master plans, very high land values and full planning permissions, by large firms who are spending millions securing consent.
“We need to extend the framework of pre-approved house types from the niche to the normal,” writes Boys Smith.

Crucially, the authors state that we need to have greater clarity in our system about what can be built, more along the lines of planning systems in Europe. These rules would more easily define what is permissible, and what not, whether it was based on zoning or a design code model, which is frequently employed on Custom Build sites.

Specifically in connection to Self-build and Custom Build, this would create an environment that would promote the growth of these homes.

“It is not ‘how do we encourage self-build by subsidising it’, but how do we re-cast planning risk so that development is fundamentally easier for small builders and self-builders (both of whom are being driven from the market by the complexity of the current system).”

Editor’s comment

The paper is an insightful one, not least for the fact that we rarely examine why people object to new housing locally. That is what are the perceived risks for them, and what can be done to allay these concerns? From NIMBY to YIMBY is the first in a series of planned work from Create Streets, and I’ll be eagerly looking out for the next installment. Check out my Editor’s Blog for my take on the paper.


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