24 Jul 2017
Over the weekend there has been much written and spoken about Ruth Davidson's article on the new blog platform UnHerd. And quite right too - it's interesting and well worth a read, as it presents a view on planning as part of a wider commentary about leadership and the need to reform capitalism.
For those who may not know or remember, Ms Davidson was the one shining light in an otherwise rather poor Conservative Party election campaign. She is the Scottish Conservative Leader and the Member of the Scottish Parliament for Edinburgh Central. UnHerd was launched over the weekend, it being described by the Spectator as a centre-right blog and the brainchild of Tim Montgomerie, the founder the conservative home website.
So what has this rising political star and this new blogging site got to offer, that's caused such a stir?
Ms Davidson's blog is entitled 'Ctrl + Alt + Del. Conservatives must reboot capitalism' and was posted on 22nd July. Her opening gambit is that the world is a richer, healthier, better educated and more equal place because of the developing world's growth and the achievements of capitalism. In order to demonstrate the point she states:
In 1981 42% of the world's population was extremely poor.....By 2013 that proportion had dropped to 10.7%
That seems like good progress indeed.
But her blog then questions how if capitalism has achieved such success why are people, and in particular younger people, losing faith in its ability to make their lives better? And Ms Davidson points to the rise of the populist right and left, in the form of Donald Trump and Jeremy Corbyn, as a direct response to this.
Then comes some hard-hitting stuff when Ms Davidson seeks to present a teenager's perspective of an unequal world. She questions, "Is the route for social advancement a degree, student debt, moving to London to spend more than half their take home pay on a shared flat in Zone 6 and half of what's left commuting to their stagnant-wage job every day every day; knowing there is precisely zero chance of saving enough to ever own their own front door?"
Ms Davidson is adept at picking up the mood of the moment - in the same way that Jeremy Corbyn has done recently - and she makes the contrast between the haves and have-nots even starker by referring to some footballers being bought and sold for more than the entire economy of a third world nation!
But what of the future and where does planning fit within Ms Davidson's view of the world?
She says that boldness of the kind we don't often see from government will be required. That seems highly unlikely from a weakened government focussing most of its efforts and resources on Brexit, but maybe she is writing about the future more generally and over the longer term.
Her blog stresses the need for true leadership to deal with restrictive practices alongside enabling and facilitating investment in genuine productive activities. She refers to investment in technical education doing much more for long term wage growth than putting workers on boards and in order to demonstrate where she thinks the priority for action should lie.
On planning it is interesting to note that this forms a central part of Ms Davidson's thesis, reflecting just how acute the housing crisis has become. After taking a swipe at how planning law privileges those who already have a property, she sets a positive agenda for change. She proposes policies of 'help to build' rather than 'help to buy' and seeking to make increasing housing supply a 'thing of beauty' to build local support for extra construction. There is not really that much new here that hasn't been said by others before, but the underlying tenor of the article is about emphasising the need for bold and positive action.
This is all against the background of Ms Davidson calling for the short term, election cycle nimbyism of prohibitive planning laws needing to stop and the government needing to lead, rather than merely facilitate discussions about where next for Britain.
There is a certain freedom about her writing that is refreshing - but it is also seemingly somewhat naive. Calling for prohibitive planning laws to be lifted, for example, will very quickly lead to questions being asked about the Green Belt; and then discussion is then likely as always to be short-lived, as politicians fear that any hint of relaxation of Green Belt policy will be tantamount to political suicide.
But it might not be naivety on the part of Ms Davidson; maybe she is representing the views of the millennial generation and maybe rising political stars, like her, will be bolder in tackling the more difficult issues facing this generation head-on. Jeremy Corbyn's rise in popularity is clearly fuelled by the younger generation and although Ms Davidson's and his politics are different the issues they are both talking about - and the way they are talking about them with such with deep-rooted belief - are really very similar.
I don't think any major changes, along the lines that Ms Davidson's proposes, will occur any time soon. However the more time and effort that is swallowed up by the Brexit negotiations the louder the voices of the younger generation will probably become. And it's clear that housing and planning will be central to any call for action, whether that's inspired by the politics of the likes of Ruth Davidson or Jeremy Corbyn or any others that follow their lead.
Image credit: UnHerd.com
14 Feb 2017
Today is an historic day for our company as we change our trading name to Lichfields and look forward to exciting times ahead as planning takes centre stage in dealing with the housing crisis and driving economic growth as the nation inches closer to exit from the EU. In choosing Lichfields we have captured our heritage and the name of our founder, and at the same time we have simplified and modernised how we present ourselves to the market. Over the last few years we have expanded into new geographical markets - opening new offices in Bristol, Edinburgh and Thames Valley - and grown many of our services, most notably heritage, infrastructure, environmental impact assessment and daylight and sunlight. Our aim is to provide the fullest range of planning and development consultancy services to help unlock the potential of sites and land, carefully matching our peoples' skills and expertise to each project's needs, whatever the scale and complexity. Alongside our fee earning work we take our wider responsibilities to planning and development very seriously. We want to be at the forefront of shaping change, feeding back and sharing the experiences and perspectives of our clients. This was most evident in the publication of the Housing White Paper last week. Several of our people had, in one way or another, fed into various matters it addressed - most notably Mathew Spry's work as part of the Local Plans Expert Group; and then within hours of its publication we provided what, in my view, stands out head and shoulders above the rest as the most authoritative commentary on its contents. This year Lichfields will enjoy its 55th anniversary, with our Newcastle and Manchester offices celebrating their 25th and 15th anniversaries respectively. Over that time we have worked with our clients to create many great places across the UK - this is at the heart of what we do and why we enjoy it; and it's how we create value for those who commission our services. Our new website showcases many of our clients' successes. As Lichfields we will continue to invest in our business to further strengthen our regional offer and our range of services. Our London office remains one of the largest in the Capital with unparalleled project-coverage across the whole of London. It goes from strength to strength and alongside our client teams we have created Think Tank, a new team that will be spearheading our research and thought-leadership efforts in the future. Over the next few weeks we will be announcing how we are going to strengthen our non-executive leadership team with the addition of an experienced property industry professional. Our brand refresh - including our new name, website and company profile - seeks to embody all the dynamism of our business and the positive way we view the role of planning in delivering the right amount and type of development the UK desperately needs.
It's business as usual at Lichfields and we hope we can be of service to you in the future.