Britain’s Failure To Build is Throttling Its Economy
In isolation, each part of the planning system may seem unobjectionable. But the whole thing is a disaster. Britain’s failure to build enough is most pronounced when it comes to housing. England has 434 homes per 1,000 people, whereas France has 590. Its most dynamic cities can barely expand outwards, and are frequently prevented from shooting skywards as well. But the problems extend well beyond housing. Britain has not built a reservoir since 1991 or finished a new nuclear-power station since 1995. hs2, a high-speed railway, is the first new line connecting large British cities since the 19th century. Even modest projects, such as widening the a66 road across northern England, take over a decade. The result is frustration and slower economic growth. A truly bold government could transform the planning system. A proper land-value tax would weaken the perverse incentives to keep city centres underdeveloped and encourage landlords to build or sell up. Scrapping or shrinking the green belt is a no-brainer. A rules-based system, with local authorities declaring loose zones of development and letting developers build within them, would be preferable to a discretionary system that leaves each decision in the hands of capricious politicians.
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