Glen BramleyandChristine Lambert
Housing is the most important urban land use and accounts for the greater amount of land subject to urban development in most areas and periods (Shepherd and Bibby 1996), even in a mature economy with slow demographic growth like Britain. The evolution of the planning system historically was closely bound up with the evolution of housing policy and provision. For these reasons the way the planning system deals with new housing development provides an important test for propositions about the impact of New Right ideas and policies on planning. Yet much of the literature and debate about changes in planning in the 1980s focuses on other areas, such as urban regeneration and economic development, perhaps because these had a higher profile and provided examples of radical change. In this chapter we argue that housing remains a key arena for the practical application of planning, and that the picture emerging is one which seriously calls into question notions of radical change or the sidelining of planning. This is not to say that there have not been significant changes in certain respects, and we illustrate these through local examples. However, at the same time we point to evidence of both continuity and, in some respects, reassertion of the core regulatory function of planning, despite the rhetoric of the New Right.
We start by asking what a ‘New Right’ philosophy might look like and what its general programme is? A number of strands can be identified, some rooted more in economic ideas and some more in the political realm. What does this set of ideas imply for planning, and how would we expect this to be manifested in planning policies with particular relevance to new housing? In discussing these ideas in general terms it quickly becomes clear that there are some contradictions within the New Right approach, contradictions that are perhaps particularly salient in the case of housing.
We then go on to review what actually happened to planning policies