CPRE, the countryside charity, has given a decidedly hostile response to the prime minister’s post-coronavirus recovery plan in which he promised to “build, build, build”.
Boris Johnson’s announcement of a ‘new deal’, delivered in Dudley yesterday (Tuesday, June 30), pledged £5 billion to build homes and infrastructure and vowed to speed up and intensify plans set out in the Tory election manifesto.
The UK economy has reportedly shrunk faster between January and March this year than at any time since 1979 and the government proposals are intended to halt that decline.
Key features of Johnson’s ‘new deal’, some of which had already been announced, include:
- £100 million for 29 road projects
- £12 billion to help build 180,000 new affordable homes for ownership and rent over the next eight years
- £1.5 billion for hospitals, the removal of mental-health dormitories and improving A&E capacity
- More than £1 billion for new school buildings
Tom Fyans, campaigns and policy director at CPRE, made a blistering attack on the prime minister’s scheme:
“With road-building at its heart, the PM’s ‘new deal’ makes a mockery of the government’s so-called green recovery.
“At this historic moment, the government must show real ambition and build back better, not worse, and in doing so balance our health and well-being, nature and countryside and the economic recovery.
“The government cannot continue to ignore the surge in appreciation for green spaces and the public appetite to reduce our carbon emissions.
“We must not even begin down this path with plans for £27 billion spending on roads. That money could be much better spent connecting towns and villages with low-carbon public transport, shoring up rural economies and businesses hard hit by the coronavirus and investing in genuinely affordable and well-designed housing.
“Furthermore, the PM has pledged to ‘build at the pace that this moment requires’, which strikes fear in the hearts of those who understand the benefits of a plan-led system.
“Rushing through potentially poor-quality development is the very antithesis of building back better. We already know, from painful experience, a rush for development trades off quality homes and infrastructure for quick and easy economic growth.
“This trade-off isn’t necessary. It’s already far too easy to build poor-quality homes and therefore any plans to deregulate our democratic, locally accountable planning system will take decision-making powers from communities and local councils and hand it to short-sighted developers.
“The government can only seriously claim to be pursuing the levelling-up agenda after scrapping planned spend on roads and refocusing planning reforms to deliver for people rather than developers.
“Until then, it’s the same old deal.”
Wednesday, July 1, 2020