We all know what's wrong with the British planning system: the British planning system. It won't allow anyone to build housing where people actually want to live and insists that housing can only be paced where no one does wish to be or, alternatively, in the middle of flood plains where they'll get swept away every few years. And this is why, as the man says, more of Surrey is under golf courses than is used for housing:
Cheshire lays into "supporters of urban containment policies who argue that Britain is a small island that we are in danger of concreting over", claiming it is a myth because green belts cover one and a half times as much land as all of England's towns and cities put together. "Moreover, there is little or no public access to green belt land except where there are viable rights of way," Cheshire says. "Green belts are a handsome subsidy to "horseyculture" and golf. Since our planning system prevents housing competing, land for golf courses stays very cheap. More of Surrey is now under golf courses – about 2.65% – than has houses on it."
He calculates that there is enough green belt land within Greater London – 32,500 hectares – to build 1.6m houses at average densities. "The only value of green belts is for those who own houses within them," Cheshire argues. "What green belts really seem to be is a very British form of discriminatory zoning, keeping the urban unwashed out of the home counties – and, of course, helping to turn houses into investment assets instead of places to live."
The answer is, of course, to blow up that planning system. We might, for example, simply say that all golf courses in Surrey now have planning permission for housing on them: that would mean doubling or more the land available for housing without losing even the slightest iota of farmland or wilderness. But a better idea would be to adopt our long written plan here at the ASI, Land Economy. In essence, simply state that low density housing may be plonked where people wish to live.
We're never, ever, going to solve the "housing crisis" without reforming the very thing that causes it, the planning system.