Talk about Newsnight

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Friday, 6 June, 2008

  • Newsnight
  • 6 Jun 08, 05:19 PM

Eco Towns:
flint203.jpgTomorrow night the village of Ford, in Sussex will hold a protest meeting to fight the imposition of an eco town on its doorstep. The government is planning ten such developments around the country, which they believe offer a sustainable strategy to solve a lack of housing. It's not just the celebrity dads who are up in arms - although the presence of Tim Henman's father has pushed the cause into new leagues of visibility. The award winning architect Richard Rogers says they would be 'one of the biggest mistakes the government could make'. And even the Green Brigade say that, of course, the truly eco solution is not to build them at all. We'll be talking to the Housing Minister Caroline Flint. Is this all Nimbyism? And is anything actually wrong with Nimbyism if it is?

Race and Gender:
The New Hampshire heckler who confronted Hillary Clinton with the banner saying 'iron my shirt' raised early questions about how much misogyny she would encounter on the campaign trail. It is hard to imagine how a hypothetical Obama heckler with a sign saying 'polish my shoes' would have been let off so lightly by either the media or indeed the law. Was the Democratic nomination lost to Hillary because of sexism? Probably not. Is race now less of an issue in America than gender? Again, probably not. But tonight, we hammer out the issue that has been ever present on this extraordinary and unprecedented campaign with feminist novelist and Clinton supporter - Erica Jong, and Jamal Simmons, Democrat strategist, Obama campaigner and yes, black man.

Assassination Plots:
bobby203.jpgIt may seem a rather inopportune moment to re-examine the circumstances surrounding the death of a man who'd just won the Democratic presidential primary. But bear with us. Bobby Kennedy was shot dead in 1968, at the Ambassador Hotel, Los Angeles. That moment has been revisited and reinterpreted ad nauseam. Two years ago, the documentary film-maker Shane O'Sullivan made the case on Newsnight that CIA agents were present at the shooting. It turns out the story is rather different......

Join us for that, and more, at 10.30 on BBC 2



  • Comment number 1.


    Some little known words to "Ole Man River":

    Iron my shirt
    Clean my shoes
    Get a little prejudiced
    But not against Jew-ews.

  • Comment number 2.

    Surely that ellipsis is only supposed to be three dots?

    Why does the PM have to appoint such irritating and seemingly inept people... not to name names, but the above passage has triggered me to say this, and I am also thinking about another in particular, whose surname isn't dissimilar from the former PM's!

  • Comment number 3.

    Why the focus in the democratic nominee process has revolved around stereotypical views of both people of colour and women, is one question that makes me feel that politics or the media's reporting of it has been dumbed down to such an extent, that content and policies are secondary to; which sterotype has been disproved and by whom. If the most powerful nation in the world elects a leader based on race or gender, rather than a meeting of ideals with the people that make up america ( the voters). it cannot be seen as a credible force, to be reckoned with, merely a fad to be waited out!
    In my opinion both the candidates; Mr Obama and Mrs Clinton have credentials that far outweigh them as candidates being narrowed down to being ;- A black man, and a white woman. McCain has not once made a dent in the headlines because of his age surely that should be more relevant than either gender or race!

  • Comment number 4.

    Not sure how this will sit with the Gender debate but I wonder what Caroline Flint will be wearing.. ;-P

  • Comment number 5.


    What a disgraceful question! She is a respected politician, through and though. She will be wearing an impenetrable mask - as always.

  • Comment number 6.


    Cover the eyes with a piece of paper and read the eyes . . .

  • Comment number 7.

    There is nothing 'Eco' about building on any green field let alone green belt!

    Not one development using ANY green field should be permitted.

    ECO towns are only possible by building inside existing towns. Up or denser any way. Providing housing next to work. The most ECO thing you can do is build out the need to commute.

    There is NO excuse whatever to build on any land that is usable for agriculture, or wild life.

    No new roads, runways, houses factories or shops on green fields at all. We have apparently lower housing density than the continent, despite their bigger land mass available. No excuses. End the greed for quick easy profits.

    Do not pander to demand manage it. Reduce it, end immigration to start with. Millions causing demand.

  • Comment number 8.

    1) This Conservative money story sounds like scrapping the bottom of the barrel for a story to me (10 years ago ?).
    I was waiting for some concrete evidence that never came , personally all I heard was "They have not disproved a negative from 10 years ago yet ?". Maybe you should have waited until the story had matured more before headlining it .

    2) The Eco housing report looked promising , but -

    How are the devolved nations in the Union handling this ?
    Do they not have a shortage of affordable homes too ?
    Please give us some policy comparisons when informing us of a Gov policy that looks shaky and is devolved in other parts of the UK !

    3) The democratic primaries in the US , Race and Gender:?
    I feel you are doing a great disservice to Obama by constantly highlighting his skin tone, it should be about his policies and political skill to be able to implement them , if he is elected .

    It's just my personal view !

  • Comment number 9.

    Oil prices at record highs, Israel promising to attack Iran, unemployment and recession in the air in the US and UK.... maybe it is possible that out of necessity, US voters will look beyond the colour of Mr Obama's skin and rid the world of the worst US administration in living memory.

  • Comment number 10.

    So what happened to the film about RFK's assasination, as advertised to be shown tonite?

  • Comment number 11.

    barriesingleton #5 Mr. Speaker

    I refer my right honorable friend to the reply I gave some moments ago.

    Now if there is a dumber more meaningless way to answer a question, I haven't heard it.

    Perhaps if they called it a euro instead of an eco the left would go for it.

    Today the US Senate blew away the global warming treaty. I think it was killed in committee. Some group in Paris said today that cutting global CO2 emissions by 50% would cost 45 trillion dollars. Personally, I think that is a conservative number.

  • Comment number 12.

    Is it not enough that we have to listen to that poor excuse of a Prime Minister witter on about the last century (accepted he is still stuck in it)?

    Now we get what seems on the face of it a highly questionable story about what an MP did ten years ago. Even more she was told at the time to stop doing it and she did!

    Utterly pointless insidious gutter vulturistic journalism. Clearly all those involved in it have nothing useful to do.

    So I have a suggestion - rather than waste the licence fee on such drivel give those involved the least redundancy allowable under law and then we don't have to continue to suffer the insult of having to pay quite so much for this rubbish!

    I also note that whilst the BBC headline this story they neither refer to it here or have put it on their 'Have Your Say' page. Of course the 'Liberal Elite' (sic) have never been known for their individual or collective courage.

    Utterly disgusting politicking from the BBC!

  • Comment number 13.

    She should have asked Jeremy Paxman for the link to Romanian agency far better caibre of nannies it would appear!

  • Comment number 14.

    The BBC is clearly pursuing an agenda against the Conservative Party by running these stories about expenses at the top of newsnight, on all the news bulletins both TV and radio, and on the website. Other media organisations give a far more proportionate coverage. It is hard to imagine why the Spelman "allegations", which took place ten years ago, were considered so important, given the recent revelations about many other politicians' expenses claims for last year which were far more indefensible. As for Newsnight, it was made worse by having to listen to this nonsense from two of its worst presenters in Emily Maitland and Michael Crick.

  • Comment number 15.

    I'm stating the obvious, but surely childcare for a working parent MP is more 'directly relevant' to the performance of the job of an MP as a new kitchen or garden landscaping. Crick's unthinking sexism is at work here. If we want more women MPs this type of approach is hardly going to help, is it?

  • Comment number 16.


    The code (Parliament website) has a number of rules with a distinctly monetary flavour, but as Labour have so beautifully demonstrated with 'Cash for Honours', IT'S THE LOOPHOLES STUPID. What the code makes light of, if it is mentioned at all, is INTEGRITY. This is predictable, as the problem with that attribute is, by definition, it is loophole-free. We had the dire, pompous Johnnie Major on 'Today', this morning, declaring (as well he might) that the PERSON is not to be inspected. But we poor punters can all see that Wesminster is full of the poor-in-spirit; and we are far from blessed with their antics.

  • Comment number 17.

    I think the Caroline Spelman story was not earth shattering. But it was pertinent to scrutinise the posture of Cameron against reality. He knows that if he looks set to become PM the scrutiny is going to be far more intense.

    If Newsnight had run a story on the state of the Labour funding inquiry and what is going on with the General Secretary recruitment position (as I wanted) nobody would have complained - Labour know they are doomed anyhow.

    It was good to remind all MPs that their expenses are a matter of legitimate public interest.

    I don't know why I dislike Caroline Flint (Eco towns) so much. I think it is because she always presents herself with the air of somebody who resents having to talk to the public and anybody who asks questions that challenge her is despicable. My conclusion is that the towns are ridiculous, cosmetic and typical Labour posturing.

  • Comment number 18.


    theganophone's final paragraph is pertinent to my point above. Politics, in spite of all the protestations of disingenuous politicians, is NOT fundamentally about policies and ethos, it IS about provision of an honorable management service on behalf or 60 million physically and psychologically, sentient beings. Those 60 million should not be screwed around with hypocrisy and party-deceit, in the interests of the dodgy processes going on in the heads of 600-odd (the emphasis on "odd") Westminsterers. It is for this reason alone, that we should highlight pomposity (Major) testyness (Flint) arrogance (Clegg) vacuousness (Blears) verbosity (Hoon) and obsessiveness (me, it would appear, so I'll stop).

  • Comment number 19.


    theganophone's final paragraph is pertinent to my point above. Politics, in spite of all the protestations of disingenuous politicians, is NOT fundamentally about policies and ethos, it IS about provision of an honourable management service on behalf or 60 million physically and psychologically, sentient beings. Those 60 million should not be screwed around with hypocrisy and party-deceit, in the interests of the dodgy processes going on in the heads of 600-odd (the emphasis on "odd") Westminsterers. It is for this reason alone, that we should highlight pomposity (Major) testiness (Flint) arrogance (Clegg) vacuousness (Blears) verbosity (Hoon) and obsessiveness (me, it would appear, so I'll stop listing) in any office-holder showing such traits. The Westminster ethos elevated Blair.
    Study the dysfunction of Blair and it tells much of the dysfunction of our politics.

  • Comment number 20.

    Caroline Spelman story is clear cheap stunt for a story. It is way out of date and the evident glee of BBC bias is clear to all.

    No coincidence, such stories may become more common as the BBC closes down more message boards like the Today programme one a few days ago, on where they can not dictate the political bias/in house culture, as easily.

    The public funded national media organisation and it refuses to maintain a quality open news and political message board. Frankly not good enough.

  • Comment number 21.


    theganophone's final paragraph is pertinent to my point above. Politics, in spite of all the protestations of disingenuous politicians, is NOT fundamentally about policies and ethos, it IS about provision of an honourable management service on behalf or 60 million physically and psychologically, sentient beings. Those 60 million should not be screwed around with hypocrisy and party-deceit, in the interests of the dodgy processes going on in the heads of 600-odd (the emphasis on "odd") Westminsterers.
    The Westminster ethos elevated Blair.
    Study the dysfunction of Blair and it tells much of the dysfunction of our politics.

  • Comment number 22.

    RE: eco-towns

    Seeing the brief clip from Newsnight - i make the following comments:

    1. Please know the planning system before you complain about it!

    What does Victoria Newman mean bypassing the planning process?? The eco-towns is an initiative, a working prototype if you will. It is not even in the planning process! It is not a planning application nor is it yet planning policy in regional, county and regional plans.

    Although with Ford, the broad location of Ford is earmarked as a new settlement in the County Structure Plan. And in fact it is the preferred location for a new settlement in Arun DC's work-in-progress core-strategy. So what does the Communities Against Ford Eco Town complaining about. It evidently demonstrates NIMBYism.

    2. Concerns for the sustainability of proposals are valid. But oppositions are ahead of themselves and complaining about something that is not there - simply in their imagination.

    Once firm proposals are presented, then they can rightfully scrutinise the proposals. But keeping in mind that there will be stringent criteria which govern the planning and development of these eco-towns, and the Minister has made it clear that the short-list is not a definite short-list for development, and can be refused permission if not up to standard.

    3. The eco-towns initiative is a proactive action addressing housing shortages in the respective areas, and Shelter is right to express the middle-class hypocrisy in those opposing the proposals. If eco-towns are not built, something has to be built. Inaction is definitely not an option.

    So conclusion, what is everyone complaining about? And it just goes to show the selfishness of the British individuals.

  • Comment number 23.

    By the way -

    Having a Conservative MP opposing the eco-towns, is, I am afraid to say, politically driven opposition and not planning-based.

    The Conservative are against everything and anything the Government proposes, so who should be surprised they are also against the eco-towns initiative.

    They should be fighting the process through which eco-towns will be delivered, and assist in their successful delivery rather than making slogans like 'this is not eco-town, this is eco-con'.

  • Comment number 24.

    One more comment if I may -

    Communities in opposition should get their planning facts straight before confronting planners.

    They would have more credibility if they just admit they dont want eco-towns right next to where they live - because after all this is legitimate and valid. Then planners can balance out these costs with potential benefits.

    They could do with a lot more passion and common sense to argue for their own way of middle-class countryside living lifestyle than dipping their toes in somewhere they dont belong.

    For them to go beyond their capability to start becoming planner-wanna-bes, they have lost any of my sympathy completely.

  • Comment number 25.

    As ever the BBC's anti-tory bias blatantly shone through with the story about Caroline Spelman. I thought it was the BBC's job to report news, not to make it! To sniff around looking for a non-story from 11 years ago is frankly not the job of BBC journalists. It would be unthinkable for Newsnight to do the same to a labour politician. Hopefully Cameron will have his revenge on the BBC when he's PM and shut done the whole liberal elite BBC organisation. Shame on you Newsnight!!!!

  • Comment number 26.

    # 22 -23 -24

    If the community wanted this new build , the Conservative MP would be mad to fight against it .


    If the community did not want this new build (as it seemed), for whatever reason, the Conservative MP should be voicing his voters concerns , as their political representative.

    Is this not political representation ?

    I find the use of the term "Eco" and the actions of concreting over a large number of green fields (not brown field) quite a contradiction.

  • Comment number 27.

    There is no need to argue over the title of this kind of new development. It can be called something else and still garner the same reaction Steve- London.

    Opposition are missing the point - sure the boundary of the proposal includes green field sites - but most planners would know that the development wouldnt be 100% coverage at all. If you care to have a look at the background to eco-towns in the Prospectus, you would know it will include green open spaces, schools, community facilities, as well as housing. The final result - a truly sustainable settlement that will not only serve community and society needs but also be more beneficial in environmental terms than pure greenfield sites, which were earmarked and supported by ARUN DC communities for development.

    Not to mention that the fact that the slackness of Ford communities to be involved and not knowing what they were consulted on when the location of Ford was voted by the public in Arun DC's core strategy consultation to be the most preferred option for a new settlement.

    Now are you going to continue to support the lie that the communities dont want and need this kind of development to solve the area's housing problems??

  • Comment number 28.

    22. At 3:21 pm on 07 Jun 2008, mcha164 wrote:

    ///So conclusion, what is everyone complaining about? And it just goes to show the selfishness of the British individuals.///

    Everyone knows all planning and inquiries are fixed, they always let some version go ahead. They are arranged in secret. The fix is in way before it gets public.

    No one cares what the process is as it is fixed before hand!

    The plain truth of the matter is there is no possible excuse to build any development on ANY green field, or wildlife area at all. Be they in my back yard or anyone else's. Seen the food growing shortages now finally become clear to all? It was always going to happen. So how criminal has it been to have built houses on the fertile land?

    If planners behave like idiots, you bet anyone will know they can do better!
    It is not even difficult at the moral level that planners fail at. Never build on green fields. See, easy. Demand does not matter a jot above such basic morals.

    Ecologically all new housing should be made only by increasing current built density. Close to workplaces, and other facilities, or public transport. If a new house needs a car as the only reasonable way to get to work it should not be built. Applications only accepted in that area. Job done.

    NIMBYism you bet it is, do not build on my planet's green areas! For ALL our sakes long term. Forget cheap profits, and easy political surrender to 'demand'.

  • Comment number 29.

    "Everyone knows all planning and inquiries are fixed, they always let some version go ahead. They are arranged in secret. The fix is in way before it gets public."

    I dont understand your point and planning and inquiries are certainly not fixed - but if the recent Inquiry undertaken by ARUN DC is to compared - then yes it could be fixed. But bottom line - if you are aware of the extent of public participation in the planning process, you certainly cannot say that is is fixed.

    You could come to a conclusion that while the planning system is certain, communities are not so certain. They change their stories to suit the situation of the time - as in Arun as I have explained with evidence.

    These eco-towns wont be built in the middle of no where - if you say yes they are and will be unsustainable, then certainly the people currently living in these areas are leading unsustainable lives. But at least the development of eco-towns will be conscious of these issus, thats why there will be stringent criteria to make sure they are and will be more sustainable than the status quo.

    How can you argue against that? So existing communities can commute by cars but new communities in the same area which will consciously plan for better transport shouldnt be allowed? hmmm

    Re-think your argument again, im afraid.

  • Comment number 30.


    For some time I have been pushing my view that Westminster isn’t working because:
    1 there is compliant cross-party acceptance of archaic charades.
    2 PARTY politics is mostly ritualised defence, attack and evasion.
    3 the parties pre-select, on peculiar party criteria, those we subordinately may elect.
    4 the MP code of practice (qv) is biased against duty to voters.
    5 the whip system ensures, effectively, a ‘card vote’ for party leaders.
    6 votes-per-seat across parties, show a massive disparity - rarely addressed.
    7 chicanery rules at election-time; every possible stunt is pulled subvert democracy.
    8 the party in power is permitted to manipulate elections by timing and bribery.
    9 our parliamentary turkeys seem to keep voting for EU Christmas like Pavlov dogs.

    I have tried to point out that it is futile to discuss aspects of the lesser function of Westminster when it is, by overall measure, dysfunctional. Is it that to tackle fundamentals, is to spoil the game? Is it best not to tell the deck-chair re-arrangers the bloody ship is sinking, as they will feel deprived of life-meaning? In view of the steady increase in the rate of homeward bound roosters, might Newsnight risk having to side-step to a new game, and do the electorate the massive service of airing 1 to 9 above (and the rest)?

  • Comment number 31.

    29. At 7:24 pm on 07 Jun 2008, mcha164 wrote:

    Absolutely yes, it has to be argued against as it is mad. Obviously existing housing stock may not be ideal, but may have been there centuries! It is not 'ECO' to demolish them! It is sensible not to ADD to the problem, even adding slightly mitigated extras is plan daft.

    Will public objection stand any good chance of stopping any? If not they are fixed rigged.
    You think any airport runway enquiry or road one ever stops the whole thing? Fat chance it is a foregone conclusion. Secret meetings take place between land owners, developers, and council before such developments happen, I know one where it has been going on for years, before being publicly announced for 'objections'. Foregone fix.
    Government 'force' x number must be planned/built. It is fixed out of our hands or influence it is all wrong.

    There is NO excuse for ANY green field development. It is morals, right and wrong, not planning petty laws. Redevelop a built up area to denser numbers, then add in your planners foresight for additional facilities and stuff and there is a moral case for it. Not otherwise.

  • Comment number 32.

    No one is arguing that eco-towns is the ONL way forward. It is part of a portfolio of solutions and not JUST urban intensification.

    And the last time I checked, no one is saying that any of them are going ahead definitely! Remeber they are yet to be tested through the planning system, and arent even in it yet, so I dont know what all the fuss is. This period is just testing the idea based on past best practice.

    Also I dont know why you keep re-iterating that public objection. I already made it clear that for example a new settlement at Ford is currently in current County and Local Plans, meaning has the support of local governments. I can send you the evidence if you want!

    Secondly, those 'secret' meetings you refer to are known as pre-application meetings, and communities can be involved. THese are common for all developments and nothing secret about their existence. If you are lucky enough to own land and have the money to develop your land, what gives others the right to say that they have equal rights to be involved.

    Imagine if you are in the same situation, have land, and have money to develop - dont tell me you would want to go round blowing your trumpet about a probably development few years down the line that may or may not take place. You would want to get all the facts straight before involving endless groups of people such as communities.

    Remember the planning system is made up of a number of actors, Government through councils, land owners, developers, and communities. Dont tell me in there somewhere, amongst the potential hundreds of people involved, it can be fixed. This is not a boxing match you know.

  • Comment number 33.

    Way to go Michael Crick. You've just gone off half-cocked and tarnished your otherwise well deserved reputation. Spelman's ex-nanny has given a full account that backs up Spelman's aacount entirely and which you unprofessionally chose not report by your targeted questions and omissions. You owe Spelman an apology. Plain and simple.

  • Comment number 34.


    Remember Gilligan? First he was sensational. Then he was despicable. And finally believable. We might be at stage two, or we might never know. I intend to wait and watch.

    Did you hear about the MMR and the monkeys?
    First Andrew Wakefield was sensational, then he was despicable . . .

    As Soames Forsyte's dad would say: 'I don't know, I can't tell.'

  • Comment number 35.

    32. At 8:28 pm on 07 Jun 2008, mcha164 wrote:

    To be fair and avoid confusion I am talking of ANY development on ANY green field. Eco versions are possibly, potentially, minusculey, less bad than not Eco, but not if built on any green field land at all, even if some is landscaped to look like a park. Now the Eco brand is just an excuse to get any development on green fields.

    Principal, right and wrong, is the point.

    That you can think of something as being in a county and local plan as approved IS the problem. Support of them is not approval from us. The complete and utter opposite in fact.

    Pre-application meetings, clearly consist of all the greedy and the bureaucrats. Not those the development will be imposed on, whose environment will be altered and spoilt. I saw some years back a news item where obviously one of these pre arrangements got out, objections got going right then and were able to 'spoil' it for the council and gang. Most put out they were! So yes nothing should be pre-planned without warning to the public and their individual right to prevent it all. Your 'others' should have not only rights over the greedy but an absolute veto if green field building is proposed where nothing currently is. They will have to live in the consequences not the greedy land owner, politician, bureaucrat, or developer.

    Your 'actors' list is 95% the greedy and the powerful. They all gain, by imposing their will on other people's environments. Of course it is a fix if the gainers only decide. Financially or politically. That planning permissions are needed at all shows we do not accept the landowner should be able to 'develop' any land they fancy. Unfortunately the controls over that have been taken by petty politicians and bureaucrats. Objections have to be to their rules of acceptance to start with! Unbelievable.

    How often is a multi house development after pre-planning, get prevented by local people's objection to the despoliation? Not the few that find some legal technical wheeze, but just because the people do not want it. The ones not gaining money but losing their ambiance?

  • Comment number 36.

    To say that County and Local plans were/ are approved without support is completely non-sense. I dont know where you get your information from - and certainly I hope you were involved in their preparation to be able to make the judgments you made on their validity. If not, then I think you dont have a right to say anything because you sought not to be involved in the process.

    I think it is unjust, also, for communities, to feel they have a right in a say in someone's possessions. I own the land, someone wants to help me develop it - in fact, I may not be the greedy and powerful, i may just have owned a piece of land and wants to develop it for my benefits - then the local plans would ensure some of the benefits are ploughed back into the community.

    Dont think the communities have a god-given right and hypocrisy to be want to be involved in anything they dont own. Because quite simply they act the same once they are in that position. Councils, developers and landowners are already aware of the needs of the communities. are the communities kind enough to return the favour? By your comments, I dont think so. So who is greedy and selfish now?

  • Comment number 37.

    36. At 12:10 pm on 08 Jun 2008, mcha164

    Of course county plans etc. are done without support. The ordinary person never even hears of them until they are already set. Runway plans, eventually send out do you want this plan or that one, no option even for none.

    // I think you dont have a right to say anything because you sought not to be involved in the process. //

    Gosh how, what, to describe it, establishment, part of the problem attitude.

    Ordinary people never know until too late, then have to perform through arcane hoops of acceptable objections. Let alone having the time to deal with what should be simple easy basic corrections. Like no building at all on green fields, see it is easy. No plans etc. needed.

    Well if the greedy and selfish do not want to need their neighbours consent you would not want any planning restrictions. Anything goes. Then that could be matched by the burning down of developments in the law of the jungle retribution. Fair enough?

    I see you favour the 'owners' over everyone else. Greed is permissible to steal the environment of the less wealthy? People who have spent all they have on a home in a certain environment, can have it taken away, destroyed. Just so others can get rich quick and leave the mess behind them,

    The so called benefit to the 'community' is the corrupt bribery system that so bedevils the system. Widely considered the biggest area of corruption in the land, way more so than any Saudi arms deal.
    Besides it is a sham. Extras are added only for the need generated by the developments! No development no need for the so called 'community back hander'. The original inhabitants only suffer they needed no 'bonus' and their environment is destroyed.

    The very thing you say about people acting like the greedy the moment they get the same chance shows how obviously right it is to control any who are ever in that situation at any time! it is clearly no argument to let current ones ride roughshod over others! Unbelievable.

    Let's start by taxing away ALL the price rise in land value over the agricultural value. That is fair, all that difference is from societal permission to build, nothing done by the owner. Then lets see how many want to sell off for development.

    The selfish and greedy are those building on green fields. Anywhere anytime. No longer acceptable ever.

  • Comment number 38.

    Hello all - its rare that I can be bothered to put fingure to keyboard for BBC blogs, but in light of the utter nonsense JamesSt George has been spouting these past 36 hours I have no choice!

    mcha164 - I'm with you on all your points, you clearly know the planning system - thanks for brining some balance and reason to this debate.

    Jamesstgeorge: two quick questions to begin with:

    * How much of England is developed?

    * Is is more 'eco-friendly'/sustainable to:
    1) Pursue high quality development of 40 houses on 1 acre of greenfield land and open up half an acre of urban brownfield land for recreational use (park/wildlife sanctury) OR

    2) Leave the greenfield land alone, and develop the same 40 housing units half half an acre of urban brownfield land (i.e. twice the density)?

    Now for some facts:

    There is a need for us to develop over greenfield land, and possibly some greenbelt - why?

    By 2026 the UK's population is expected to rise by 7.7% on current estimates; this new demand needs to be accomodated - failure to do so will cause inflation not just in housing/property markets but across the whole economy (when land prices rise, landlords achieve scarcity power, can charge higher rents, which creates inflation across a wide variety of services - i.e. we all suffer, NIMBYs and the rest of us!)

    In terms of housing it is likely therefore that 4.26 million homes need to be built by 2026 to achieve a healthy market.

    How to accomodate this demand though? Ideally, on brownfiled land - I agree with you here. BUT there are some harsh truths about brownfield land that you are wholly ignorant off:

    There is only around 65k hectares of brownfield land about; however due to legacy issues (such as contamination and proximty to industrial land) only 44% of this can realistically be used for housing; thus -on current average housing densities (41-3 units per hectare) - around 1.1 million homes can be built on brownfield land.

    Oh dear, that's a shortfall of 3 million. Jamesstgearge might retort:

    'Its the immigrants - send 'em back and then we'll only need 1 million homes!' or/and 'Build at higher densities'.

    Some more facts:

    Immigrants are not soley to balme; the real cause for higher demand for housing demand is greater prosperity (a good thing to be promoted) and smaller families.

    People don't like high density development; particularly NIMBYs ironically. Love him or hate him Ken Livingstone radically tried to increase densities by supporting a number of tower blocks - look what happened to him!? tower blocks are generally unsightly and therefore unpopoular.

    Some observations:

    Much brownfield is located in bloody awful places. I'm from West Sussex - there may be some fallow brownfield land in Bognor Regis, BUT at somepoint somebody has to ask can I get people to live on that land??!! And will the people who want to live there be able to afford to pay me for developing it? If the answer is no then it will never be developed. This is repeated all over the UK: there are whole terraces of empty houses in the outskirts of Manchester and other northern cities, yes it would be environmentally beneficial if people in need of a house moved there - but they wont beacuse they simply don't want to (i.e. want to live near family, near a good school, near a job that pays them a good wage).

    Also, higher densities create overcrowded urban environments which surprise surprise people don't like to live in. I always marvel at how hypocrisy of CPRE and their cohorts: 'build at higher densities to save the countryside!'... So more people want to move to the countryside... at some point people have to accept that densities can only be pushed so far.

    We need lots more houses, and many are going to need to be built on greenfield land FACT.

    But they must be built in a sustainable manner - Eco towns (as mcha164 rightly points out) will incorporate open spaces and new public transport schemes; the buildings will potentially use 50% or perhaps more less energy than existing new homes. Eco-towns for me are incrediably exciting - given a high degree of policy support and subsidy we could achieve outcomes that kick start economies of scale in a number of new contruction processes that will make more innovative and sustainable forms of development more viable for generations to come - whilst also boosting housing supply and easing pressures on first time buyers like me.

  • Comment number 39.

    Flint has got that Heather Mills Mccartney thing going; she looks alright until she opens her mouth and then we all pull back... comments about her been 'a bit of a looker' soon go... then she has a face like a foot...

  • Comment number 40.

    38. At 3:50 pm on 08 Jun 2008, Irvinewashington

    //* How much of England is developed?//

    Too much.

    Twice the density every time, in town. No question.

    Population is the problem, solve the problem. Most of the demand is from immigration simply stop it. It is not acceptable. Accommodating mere demand is a failure to govern.

    Yes I know not all the problem. Single occupancy too is the other problem.

    Density is not a problem, look at Hong Kong. People will have to get used to higher densities. You see no complaints about towers in the Barbican do you?
    Further, old spread out suburbs could be bought up and redeveloped to much higher densities.

    I lived in a 'grotty' London flat for decades, it is not a problem. Other people's gross expectations are. None now willing to go without perfection as a starting home. What happened to living in a run down place with packing case furniture?

    We do not need any green field house building. It should never be permitted.

    We are over populated. Without immigration our population would fall gently. The land can sustain but 30million it is reported. Have you not paid attention to the food problem, world leaders have. I realised it was always coming as a problem, even supported CAP like subsidies to maintain our farming capacity for times that were to come. Out of step with so many. ALL land capable of cultivation must be kept so and never covered in concrete for petty selfish housing. Housing way out of towns where the work is, is not 'Eco'. All travel will have to be curtailed as oil has peaked and more is not being created!

    Your last shows you up. Self interest not the greater national, planetary, good

    //first time buyers like me//

    The future has to be like the pre cheap oil age, live work play, shop, local, as in no further than the local town.

  • Comment number 41.

    Density is another issue for debate - and as usual the 'communities' complain of too much densification which destroys their way of urban living.

    You cant compare communities in Hong Kong or Far Eastern countries to those in the UK for god's sake! It's like comparing apples with pineapples! And you should know better because it is exactly people like you that developers are careful to densify English cities too much. I am sorry you can have both ways - either put up or shut up.

    Far Eastern citizens arent selfish like the British and have a greater sense of collectivism. And I can say from first experience. Most British common people have no idea about the social aspect behind the tall buildings. Why is it that housing estate-type areas in Far Eastern countries garther a sense of community regardless of tenure type while the English ones point to deprivation. So please dont even get me started on this.

    I also concur with Irvine's points on households. People, look at the demographic facts before judging on whether there is a need for some much housing. Immigration is a small part of the housing needs. Mostly of course is down to the English living longer, divorcing into separate families and increasing fertility rates. And that is a fact.

    I totally understand the communities' point of view - but as planning professionals, we have to go beyond emotional opposition to anything development. We have to look at those perhaps not as lucky as you to live in a nice terrace housing or where they want to live. Many have aspirations as you do, and we have to aim to provide for their housing needs, while we balance concerns for others. There will always be losers, but in this case, the greater need to more important than the NIMBYs which look to protect neighbouring agriculture land as a matter of their amenity not as they claim otherwise.

  • Comment number 42.


    Word is that we throw away one third of the food we buy and eat double what we need. By my maths that means we can feed three times as many - as long as it is all loaves and fish.

    I am well on the way to being a burden on the state and my kids. (The only pleasure in that is when I taunt them with the prospect!) If we can have a sensible life strategy that allows anyone who was not consulted at conception, the right to leave on demand (like abortion) then I am prepared to set the fashion in the interest of sanity in these islands.

  • Comment number 43.

    Cookieducker - Caroline Flint is a Housing Minister - pushing to meet the housing needs of the nation. She has important points to present.

    Are you jealous of her looks? Then look away while you listen to her sound direction. Comparing her to Heather Mills means you either arent paying attention to what she saying or simply dont understand what she is saying by comparing with Heather Mills or dont care.

    Either ways - grow up and make constructive criticisms. Would like you to be on TV to be made fun of.

  • Comment number 44.

    Grrrrr! Jamesstgeorge your blinkered righteous mind astounds me!!

    I'll start from the end of your retort to my first comment:

    Having an interest in pursuing a growth agenda for our country is not some cunningly-spun argument to disguise the fact that I am a first-time buyer. Having the ambition to one day own and occupy my own house I feel is not sinister outlook on life, and nor is it for the millions of other young people who are in the same boat as me! Am I 'self-interested'? No - I have an interest, just like you have an interest, because if you didn't you wouldn't have bothered to post any comments on this page. I have an interest to promote prosperity and a high quality of life for all my compatriats; you have an interest to protect and preserve your own well-being regardless of the consequences for my quality of life, your compatriats and indeed the wider performance of the economy.

    //the land can sustain 30m people who live in it//

    Our country could potentially could sustain twice, or indeed thrice that - easily. answer to the first question I posted on my first comment only 13% of England (and this falls for the rest of the UK...) is developed. We are not overpopulated - the land avialable to accomodate our population is however too small. (that's why we need eco-towns and the like!)

    Not in the mood to have a full blown deabte on the economic and social merits/demerits of farm subsidies - BUT as most informed people know the most efficient way for our Government to cut food inflation is to abandon CAP: then food from foreign economies can compete, prices will accurately reflect the costs of production and marginal sources of food will be developed faster boosting supply and lowering prices (Yes Jamesstgeorge I recognise that involves giving money to the evil immigrants, but also jobs and livelihoods which would be lost if foreign governments decided to turn the screw on the UK be declaring a 'food war' - therefore highly unlikely)

    //We do not need any green field house building. It should never be permitted.//

    In my original comment I made a quite methodical argument proving how such a view is absurd - unless somehow the demand for housing falls rapidly and we only need to build 1m instead of the 4.25m homes we need by 2026.

    You presented no coherent ideas for achieving this.... and mcha164 has thankfully provided a dose of realism on the ludicrous suggestion that we turn urban centres in the UK into minature Hong Kongs. Barbican? People don't complain about it? Why was it voted the UKs most ugliest building in 2003 then? (see: Please recognise that shunting all young people on modest incomes and 'the immigrants' into high-rise cities is not a credible strategy!

    //Other people's gross expectations are. None now willing to go without perfection as a starting home//

    Jamesstgeorge I have no (i.e. not even a gross) expectation of owning my own home in the SE England. So do millions of other people. When you bought you first home what was the ratio of your earnings to the price of the property may I ask? Ws it really 1:8 like now?

    //Accommodating mere demand is a failure to govern//

    This really sums up everything about your outlook. In my outlook failure to manage demand is a failure to Govern. Protectionists (such as yourself) feel that by manipulating the suppply within a market (land or otherwise) is the only way to achieve fair outcomes. Nonsense. What will happen is that the cost of goods (houses etc) will rise causing hardship and a lack of opportunity for the people wishing to access that market.

    Nevertheless, a free for all is not the correct approach; markets can and do create harmful impacts/costs on society and require regulation. In perfectly free market housing densities would fall, traffic levels would rise, and little consideration would be given to the asectic value and longterm benefits of good design, and the impacts on neighbouring communities. That's why we have our planning system, which should ensure that silly/harmful outcomes do not occur - BUT ultimately nonetheless helps facilitate demand, and increase supply. This is quite difficult task, but as mcla164 says:

    "We have to look at those perhaps not as lucky as you to live in a nice terrace housing or where they want to live. Many have aspirations as you do, and we have to aim to provide for their housing needs, while we balance concerns for others."

  • Comment number 45.

    41. At 7:40 pm on 08 Jun 2008, mcha164

    My density Hong Kong comment was as illustrative that higher densities are perfectly possible. I agree we are unlikely to achieve such or need to. However as I understand it most of the continent with more land than us still has higher housing densities.

    Higher density in town built up areas is required, and no particular problem to those living, and certainly more Eco friendly to the world.

    'The greater need' is for the whole planet and environment not people's desires for fancy houses. No human's 'aspiration' for more should come ahead of such basics.

    You are clearly too involved with the bureaucracy and structure to see what is really important. Filling some target, doing governmental bidding, is not the point. Getting a job done is not the object, right and wrong is more important. Building on ANY green field is plain wrong. 'The greater need' is to prevent development in the wrong place, that is any green field. Which leaves in towns, be the professional solve the problem inside the correct parameters.

    Not In My Planet! So lets have NIMPs!

    There are NO excuses for building on green fields here and now. None what so ever.

    It is very simple those are the parameters for expert planners and the like to operate within. Not any others.

  • Comment number 46.

    Precisely that I am involved in the profession that I am able to objectively assess the situation. Remember I never stated that we should build on all greenfield - but in appropriate locations with potential to benefit communities.

    If a small piece of greenfield is located close to a market town - subject to assessments, it may be the most appropriate location for development - end of story. So to say never build on any greenfield is plain non-sense and shows a lack of integrated thinking - well basically selfish.

    I have learnt that in planning - nothing is right or wrong. Everything is right and everything is wrong. And thats precisely why we have the planning system and processes to argue this through - but with reason and emotion - not emotion alone.

    One more thing - greenfield developments - perhaps such as an eco-towns - ok they will have roads, and we cant control residents to have cars - thats fine. Eco-towns were never meant to be self-sufficient but linked to other settlements - which means a need to travel but should promote public transport. I dont know who thought of the idea of eco-towns as isolated hippie settlements. This is one misconception.

    We certainly dont want to take anyway people's need to travel and network with each other.

    Finally - parameters - planners, developers, communities, policy-makers alike do work in parameters of the planning process - what are you talking about? the planning system is quite clear to phase developments and to balance out developments across options in regeneration, to infill, to urban extensions and new growth areas etc. These are the parameters.

    In Ford, Arun, how about if they only built on the 30% brownfields?? will the local communities discontinue their opposition then and begin to see the benefits new settlements like the sustainable eco-towns will bring to the area? I dont think so - and illustrates the hypocrisy once again.

  • Comment number 47.

    44. At 10:22 pm on 08 Jun 2008, Irvinewashington

    Ah a 'growth agenda', plain not sustainable. Raw materials are even now limiting it. That is old past world ways. The problem with housing is the lack of going down lower in size and quality. We need more lower priced starting points that are not merely subsidised full houses. Nothing wrong in a single bedsit sized house/flat.

    There are other things to deal with the problems. They bulldoze houses in the north we hear. There are houses, it is reasons, like work, for living where there is capacity that need changing.

    You clearly do not understand 'sustainable' . 'If the UK had to provide for itself from its own resources, it could support a population of only 17 million'. Optimum Population Trust. Seems 30 was over generous! Mere pandering to the old growth attitude is like being Lemmings. Ok so far, ok so far, Aghhh splat.

    Building on food growing land to pander to mere 'growth' is short sighted and wrong. Of course Politicians with 4 years as their idea of long term do not care about doing the right thing.

    You not seen the recent news reports where nations block food export as they want their food for them selves? You can forget 'economics' of efficiency when food is short. United Nations summit June 4 2008 Campaigners back poor states on food export bans. Example 'China said it will ban all re-export of rice via Hongkong.'

    Yes people waste much now, they have not adapted to the ever rising prices yet.

    Your personal example as you tell it, can be solved by changing the restriction you place on it. First and obviously 'in the SE England'. Your 'demand' is making your problem. Why a house to start off? Flat, Caravan, narrow boat. Other options.
    I no longer own a property, and never will afford to again, earning less than the minimum wage. That is no reason whatever to espouse the wrong things, for selfishness.

    Can you eat a field of houses? Your way you may have to.

  • Comment number 48.

    at 43
    "Either ways - grow up and make constructive criticisms"

    as requested-
    Constructive criticism:(debatable)

    does this really need to be said again? apparently for some, yes!

    Caroline Flint is a labour hack clone who's brief as housing minister is beyond her abilities but she does possess an air of authority( for some) which carries her through most awkward interviews and keeps her masters happy. She can fool all of the fools all of the time but the rest of us have gone passed that period of wanting to question the likes of Flint or any other member of this useless socialist rabble as this Labour administration has passed even parody and we are now just left watching its slow and painful death, so all we are left with is to poke fun and ridicule, its the newest thing, come and join us.

    "Caroline Flint is a Housing Minister - pushing to meet the housing needs of the nation. She has important points to present. "

    general reply:
    i like that bit "pushing"

    Have you just left university and are about to purchase your first eco shed?
    Please don't tell me you were hanging on to every word she uttered, please don't do that as you will be severely disappointed..

    They've had eleven years by the way. I thought i had better remind you of that fact. E-l-e-v-e-n yeeears.......
    Clearly Some are more tolerant of poor performance than others but if you want to be led by the 'make it up as you go along brigade'.. be my guest.

    Also i am not capable of being jealous of any womans looks, but if i get a sudden urge to wear a frock and slap make-up on my face......
    Do women really get jealous of other womens looks? wow! you learn stuff every day. Its very late and need to finish my strongly worded letter to Jack Straw, i have a multitude of colours from my crayola set to choose from, i think i will use the purple one.

  • Comment number 49.

    Yes Caroline Flint is a Minister - and I dont pre-suppose she is a planning professional. And yes I have just left University in the last few years, but doesnt mean I know next to nothing.

    And yes sometimes her words seem odd in planning language. But she and her Government department has a team of planning experts, common people like you and me. None of us expect her to be a planning expert, and expect her planning experts to be, and that is what they are doing. You want to criticise. then criticise these common people, perhaps someone in your friend and family circle is one. Then see how much or how less you gain from it.

    Planning requires consideration of politics, no doubt about that - but I am not veering the arguements away from the facts at hand of housing and growth.

    yes she is Labour - so what. Would it make a difference if she is a Conservative? I dont think so.

    The fact of the matter is - the uderlyig problems - housing, economy etc still exist, and status quo and doing nothing is no option. Urban communities are thriving but need continuing financial and planning support - and are getting it. Rural communities are suffering and developments like eco-towns can support their prosperity.

    I never disagree that there are problems and concerns and there will always be. But we are looking for ways forward while the opposition wants the status quo and ways of the past.

    We no longer enjoy the level of prosperity and naivety of the past. And must learn from lessons of the past with ideas for the future.

  • Comment number 50.

    Policies are made and are laid out for the electorate to decide and when a political party finds its self in govt it puts into practice the promised agenda- we hope.
    One skill lacking sadly from Labour and certainly within the specific area of housing was that no planning or foresight was forthcoming about the shortage of housing, be it affordable or rented council stock. Considering the burgeoning population our masters should have planned for future provision and are now playing catchup rather badly. Supply and demand regards housing are still out-of-kilter and don't forget a shortage of housing actually benefits the mortgage lenders,; it keeps the house market prices unnaturally high (well until recently). This govt spent 700 hrs on the abolition of fox hunting in the debating chamber....what does that tell you of their priorities when you consider the time spent debating housing stock and the lack of it. The fox it would appear got the better deal from our task masters... truly unbelievable.

  • Comment number 51.

    46. At 11:50 pm on 08 Jun 2008, mcha164

    //If a small piece of greenfield is located close to a market town//

    Then leave it alone! No excuses. No cop out. That is reason not emotion.

    Obviously you think you are objective as you are on the inside of the problem! But you are obeying wrong rules or motivations. You 'succeed' by fitting in with employer agendas, and repeating what you were taught.

    Right and wrong is not about mere compromise planning, planning should be subservient to right and wrong. Building on green fields is wrong. Just work on from there only.

    //nothing is right or wrong// Then you have no morals, only expediency. (In planning)

    //We certainly dont want to take anyway people's need to travel //

    Then you should! That would be good planning.

    //These are the parameters//

    No they are parameters set that are wrong. Morally wrong.

    Morals outweighs any expediency. Building on any green field is wrong. Plain, simple, correct.

    //if they only built on the 30% brownfields?? //
    Well assuming in Arun the brown field is truly so, (a whole other debate at what counts!) ex factories or such like, then it is suitable to build on, recovering it for farming or nature would be too hard probably except in dire extremes. Also assuming no road is added or widened. It may well not stop local objections. Turning places purchased as small into big is not a nice thing to do to anyone. But the main moral objection would end. Clearly there is the whole non ECOness of any housing not next to working sites then requiring commuting by cars, but lets leave that for now. Objection on brown field sites only may well be more suited to planners calculating carbon footprint like stuff to justify the development.

    However any building on any green field will never be acceptable. There is no excuse, no expedient good enough, to permit it.

    Is it Ford Aundel west Sussex? Looking at Google satellite images there are industrial large plots under concrete. Acceptable to build housing on in theory. Though they are clearly in use as commercial operations. However what may be the + laid out runways have clear agriculture current use all round. Which in no circumstances should be built on.

    Times have changed.
    There is no excuse to build on any green field.


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