December 7, 2022

DEAR SANTA GOVE, CLARK, CLARKE, GOVE…

We’ve been really good this year.

Our planning statements were concise, our community engagement was front-loaded, and our planning arguments were merry and right.

What we really want for Christmas is a properly-funded, fully-functioning planning system.

Please, please, please determine our application on time this year. And please don’t put our condition discharge application to the bottom of the pile (this part really matters for delivering real things on the ground).

As we know from Mary and Joseph’s experience, life doesn’t stand still for administrative processes. People need places to go and somewhere to call home. Babies are born, whether that new hospital is finished or not.

Our big request? Please stop tinkering with things.

Any chance you can rewind the clock 48 hours and reinforce rather than water down housing targets and the role of the Planning Inspectorate? If the conservatives are serious about growth, you and I both know you can’t leave it to Localism. It’s snow joke.

The truth is, change is hard. It’s not easy accepting some harm to our own circumstances for the greater good. But isn’t Christmas about delivering gifts to those in need? How about this: we’ll help you up the ladder onto our roof this Christmas Eve, if you help people get onto the housing ladder with the gift of affordable housing.

Please, please, please can the elves help us to widen our focus and readdress our priorities, Santa Gove?

Because whilst we’re all squabbling about the green field next to our house, sea waters and temperatures are rising. If we think there’s a housing crisis now, the prospect of climate migrants from southern Europe (or Warrington and Bournemouth) should focus our minds. We can’t all move to Lapland to avoid rising sea levels.

Like Bethlehem’s shepherds, our SME housebuilders are just trying to earn an honest Christmas pudding while meeting the needs of the local community. Except it’s not sheep that are expected to drive our economy these days: it’s construction. But SMEs can’t deliver on the government’s agenda when the planning system is full of such uncertainties and there are no elves to actually build things.

And what of our local planning committee members? If you’re visiting them on Christmas Eve, please will you remind them to mistletoe the line and listen to their officers? Design by committee – or the Grinch approach – simply doesn’t work. Their officers are experts and they’ve been working hard to reach a sound recommendation.

And we have one more wish Santa: please can we think more rationally about our Green Belt? If we’re going to make more room at the inn, something’s got to give. Not the Green Belt itself, you understand, but the polarised political debate. Yes, valuable and rich landscapes must be protected, but the message that you go, tell it on the mountain needs to be reframed in the light of the housing crisis, and sprinkled with common sense.

We want to create better places. We think you do too…

If you can find it in your heart to grant us some Christmas magic to get the planning system moving, we’ll promise to be even better next year.

Have a safe journey on Christmas Eve. We’ll leave a mince pie out for you.

Love from the P4 team

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