The new planning and infrastructure Tsar appointed by the Chancellor wants 40 affluent southern towns including Guildford to double in size. Guildford doesn’t hit the national headlines very often, so why Guildford?
These things don’t happen overnight. It must have taken a while for George Osborne to negotiate the deal with Lord Adonis as the planning Tsar. The appointment must have been contemplated before Adonis made his own speech in the House of Lords, which was on 16 September and, of course, it was announced at the Tory conference on a key date for the Chancellor’s speech.
If you wanted to square the shires and tell them that they’d got a good deal with, for example, 693 homes per annum as we are in Guildford according to the final West Surrey SHMA, and lose no Tory votes either nationally or locally, how would you do it?
Well, you might say it could be much worse. Instead of just increasing your town’s housing by only around one quarter, we might double it. Then, when voters are facing ‘only’ 693 homes per annum up to 2033 (like Guildford), your community would, in a bizarre ‘Stockholm syndrome‘, be grateful to our Tory council for only dumping 25% more homes on you with all its infrastructure woes.
Isn’t it odd that the towns mentioned in Lord Adonis’ speech are areas that have environmental/countryside pressure groups like we do (Oxford, Guildford, Norwich, Reading and Stratford-upon-Avon)? They mostly have Tory MPs, and they mostly have Tory councils, who would find the pressure groups irritating (see George Osborne’s conference speech).
All those Tory councils need getting out of a hole with their constituents for following government policy, by planning to ditch the green belt, build on their green fields and keep the Chancellor happy. Ideally, the Tory MPs should get away without blame, since no one wants to trigger by-elections or lose seats next time. The hope must be that if the Chancellor threatens the shires with more homes, then they’ll accept major expansion for fear of finding something worse.
Now, if only you could find a Labour peer that would ‘carry the can’, so the Tory government doesn’t have to take the blame, how much better would that be?