Take your pick

Nothing is pleasant that is not spiced with variety.

Some weeks there are so many things happening ‘out-there’ that require comment, that I’m never sure where to start, nor which to choose. This is one of them. So, this week’s missive will be something of a smorgasbord, a picnic, if you like, in a nod to the supposed season. More tapas than full English. I can then revisit some of  these issue in more detail in due course. Possibly.

Housing: Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has dialled up the manifesto pledge to build one million homes by this end of this Parliament. Homes, you note, not houses. So that will include flats and apartments, and they will be focussed on inner cities and built-up areas, rather than the green and pleasant land round Little Whingeing. This, clearly, would be A Good Thing. Not just because, we are a land with a growing population, and an acute need to house that population but also because building more dwellings is what keeps this industry roundabout turning. More homes and more property transactions lead to more sales for merchants and manufacturers, as well as the myriad other sectors all allied to property transactions. Economics 101. However, the end of the Parliamentary term is looming next year. The five-year parliament that began with Boris Johnson’s thumping great majority win in December 2019 has fewer than 18 months to go. They’d better get their skates on if those homes are to be built. Tick-tock.

Banking: Business can, I suppose, decide with whom they wish to do business. In the same way that customers can decide which businesses get their custom, for any number of reasons. That’s kind of the point of boycotts. No left-leaning student in the 1980s would have dreamed of buying South African apples or banking with Barclays. I’m not really sure that the news value in the Coutts-NatWest-Nigel Farage debacle is worth the space that the media is giving it. I’m pretty sure telling a BBC journalist a less than accurate version of events was an error of judgement, and the head of Nat West has now paid for that error. There are plenty of lesser mortals who have been ‘de-banked’ for reasons known only to the bank itself. That doesn’t mean they should do so, or should have done so in Mr Farage’s case. The difference in this case is that it happened to someone who knows how to play the media for his own purposes. Please stop it now.

Greece: I was on holiday in Rhodes last year. It’s a beautiful island, and my heart aches for all those hoteliers and local businesses who are seeing their livelihoods destroyed by the wildfires. It’s not unusual to get fires like this in the Summer months, and usually, they can be controlled, but what has exacerbated the problems this time are the unusually high winds, which can’t. However, the hotter the air temperature, and the ground temperature, the more likely it is that fires will break out. Climate change is real, and it is making Summers hotter, Winters drier, Springs and Autumns wetter. It is looking increasingly unlikely that the UK will meet of the is net zero targets, as a result, there is talk of scaling back the ambitions: the tax on packaging has been delayed, and there may be a similar delay to the gas boiler ban. This would be A Bad Thing, in terms of our care of the planet. We have to reduce our carbon emissions, and our reliance on fossil fuels. It would also be A Good Thing if it was re-thought so that it actually works for people and for businesses.

Planning: This links into the issue at the top of course, because you can’t get one million homes built if the planning system is creaking along archaically. This Monday will see new planning plans from Michael Gove, the Minister for Levelling up, Housing and Communities, with the aim of making it easier to convert disused brownfield sites such as shops, agricultural buildings and warehouses into homes. Plus, he wants to cut the red tape so people can more easily add home extensions and convert their lofts.  This will be via a “super-squad” of planners and experts charged with clearing delays in big developments, starting off in Cambridge. Good luck with that. The last two PMs have had a go at sorting out planning and it’s been less than successful.


planner man
It is a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s Planning Man

About Fiona Russell-Horne

Group Managing Editor across the BMJ portfolio.

Check Also


Get your yellow on for #MaddiesDay

If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold it would …