More homes - Is growth just a holy grail?

Currently, we seem to have a political drive for growth but at what cost and who is going to pay?

It takes a brave government to say we only want growth if it is truly sustainable.

Growth that does not impinge adversely on our environment or the opportunity of future generations to live in a balanced sustainable world, both locally and globally. Is there an alternative view?

Currently, planners weigh up the benefits of a local development (usually without adequate infrastructure) against national benefits, such as satisfying the Government’s drive for more housing.

If we insisted that the balance had to be sustainable on a local level, then the benefits and disadvantages to local people can be assessed.

That would mean more houses being built where they are most needed, rather than decanting poorer people to the city outskirts or even to other towns.

Growth in itself does not make us all richer, cities have poor people, too.

It is not size that makes us richer, but the McCawber principle of spending within your means.

More house-building makes us borrow more, spend more and use more or the worlds’ limited resources, which puts up the price, in a never ending spiral of increasing debt.

Isn’t that how we got into this problem in the first place?

Growth through house-building may satisfy some wealthy lobbyists, but is it like the emperor’s new clothes.

Do we really think we can get out of our current national and personal debt by increasing borrowing – by encouraging people who cannot afford it to take on yet more risk and expect to own their own homes?

Building more houses will not flood the market in areas of high demand, since anyone in the world can buy here, and they do.

Doesn’t it seem strange that we prevent some people from living in Britain, but we don’t prevent them from owning it?

As investors buy, the prices go up, so the next buyer may also live abroad, and the property is repeatedly sold over the heads of people who live and work in the area, leaving them with high rents to pay and locked in a downward spiral. Surely some control is needed?

In low-demand areas, cheaper housing is built, but there are very little funds available for the infrastructure, and even less from the public purse or indeed generated in rates and taxes from the economy of those areas.

Hence the quality of life suffers, the public purse empties and many people move out (if they are not in negative equity) or they struggle.

In both cases, so called growth is counter-productive, a poisoned chalice, making people individually worse off.

Coun Marianne Overton MBE

Lincolnshire Independents
Vice-chairman of the Local Government Association