Headlines: June 21st, 2004

People living in the South East of England would prefer sensible debate on future house building to NIMBYism, according to a report today which shows existing residents in high-demand housing areas are not as implacably opposed to new building as has been assumed.The research report, prepared for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, finds that a minority of so-called ‘NIMBYs’ would instinctively reject proposals for more homes but there is no evidence of a blanket objection to land being used for development. The report is based on a survey of more than 1,400 residents in Aylesbury, Maidenhead, Chatham and Gillingham. It argues that a clearer understanding of local people’s preferences can be used to plan new developments that are more acceptable to the public, as well as meeting Government policies to deal with the shortage of affordable homes.The report has been produced by Cambridge Architectural Research Ltd and will be launched in London today at a conference where the speakers include Kate Barker of the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee, whose report for the Treasury on future housing demand was published to coincide with this year’s Budget.

Today’s report shows the survey found residents were more likely to disagree that ‘many more homes should be built than to agree but the proportion who believed the South East must be allowed to go on growing outnumbered those who disagreed by almost two to one. Just over a third of people believed that more homes would mean a poorer quality of life but more than 40 per cent disagreed with them. Similarly 38 per cent of those interviewed rejected the idea that their town and its surroundings should remain as they were, compared with 34 per cent who supported that idea.Questions about six different ways that development might occur over the next 20 years produced no clear preference but options that were slightly more popular were increased housing densities, development on the sides of existing towns and construction of completely new towns.