‘Preposterous’ was the word that sprang immediately to mind as I listened to Grant Schapps outlining his idea for a Community Right to Build on July 23rd, but by the time I voted in an on-line poll at Planning Blog a few days later, I was among the 26% who were feeling ‘Nice idea; won’t work’. A whopping 67% of respondents thought ‘Bad idea; won’t work’. But then you wouldn’t expect turkeys to vote for Christmas, I suppose!
Won’t work? Well the obstacles look formidable: 80-90% support amongst the local community for starters, and even a modest development – a dozen or so houses, some affordable, maybe a community hall or subsidized business unit or two – will be a big project for any genuine community-led group.
A nice idea? Well, as an Norfolk-born-and-bred architect with a long-standing interest in rural landscape and architecture I think any proposal to break the strangle-hold that the planning system has on villages is worthy of serious contemplation. True, there are some very real issues that have yet to be addressed (more on these later), but the basic idea – small-scale, sympathetic, mixed-use addition to rural settlements, locally conceived and with over-whelming local support – is attractive.
So I’m setting out my stall. I’ve not blogged before, but I have plenty to say on the subject of development in a rural context, so over the next few weeks I’m going to share it with you here. Even if Community Right to Build bites the dust before the Decentralisation and Localism Bill comes to Parliament, I hope some may find this useful.