Pay outs won’t reduce opposition to new housing, study finds

A new report which looks at the possibility of reducing local opposition to new housing through financial payments found that 84% of households would not be influenced by direct financial payments.

The study was commissioned to help inform the government’s approach to piloting Development Benefits (DB), and focusses on whether direct financial payments to individuals who are likely to oppose housebuilding might reduce local opposition.

Key findings include:

  • A limited proportion of those interviewed (10%) felt that a direct financial payment would or might reduce their opposition to housing development; 6% said it would, 4% said maybe. The large majority (84%) felt that the payment would not influence their views on housing development or their likelihood to engage in some form of direct or indirect opposition to it.
  • Those whose attitudes or behaviour might be influenced by a direct payment tended to be at the weaker end of the opposition spectrum.
  • There was strong principled resistance to the idea of a financial payment amongst many households. Financial payments were associated with ‘bribes’ by 46% of respondents. There were also concerns by households that such payments could lead to a reduced developer contribution, especially as pressure on infrastructure and services was often the main reason for opposition to housing development.
  • Views on opposition to new housebuilding were mainly about the scale of development and its impact on local infrastructure and services. Over one third of respondents said that they might be less opposed to new development if they could have more of a say over development, or if there was extra resource for infrastructure and services (especially schools and health care).
  • There were mixed views on the perceived ability of residents to influence development. 74% of those interviewed felt that individual residents had a limited ability to influence development.

Complementary interviews were undertaken with three to five ‘key professionals’, including local authority officers, elected members, developers and other stakeholders. Key findings from these interviews include:

  • There was no significant support for direct financial payments from any of the key professionals interviewed. At best, it was felt that such payments would have a marginal impact, perhaps easing the progress of some proposals a little in some cases.
  • It was felt that potential benefits of financial payments would be outweighed by the other, negative, effects. The main concern was that payments might undermine trust in local planning processes.
  • There was a feeling that payments could be divisive and weaken community cohesion. There were particular concerns that payments could undermine work undertaken by Local Planning Authorities to build consensus and certainty around planning for new housebuilding.
  • Local authority officers and members emphasized that opposition was an important part of the planning system and that it could be handled effectively through existing frameworks. They also felt that the National Planning Policy Framework has made it more difficult for planning applications to be prevented or slowed down by opposition within local authorities or amongst local residents when they are in conformity with local and national planning policy.
  • Overall, household views were very consistent with those of the key professionals. The main differences are that households were more critical of financial payments from an ethical perspective and less likely to identify unintended wider consequences.
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