or the moment, development is driven by the same absurd machismo typified by HS2, a belief that prosperity lies in centralism, bigness, disruption and public extravagance. Small and local is for wimps. Beauty is for herbivores. The so-called national infrastructure commission is not a regulator but a lobby for the “big eight” building contractors and their grand projects.
As Scruton and Boys Smith point out, this approach to planning is deeply un-green. It favours the destruction of old buildings with tax reliefs and starter subsidies. It imposes 20% VAT on conserving the “embedded energy” of existing buildings, but subsidises the carbon release of new ones. In addition, identikit estates have densities so low as to require a car journey for every need. This is global warming “planned in” to the system.
It is refreshing to read a Whitehall report that gets the message of America’s Ed Glaeser and others, that “green means urban”. Happiness lies not in anonymous sprawl but in the adaption and intensification of existing city buildings. New York has the lowest per-capita carbon footprint in the US. The report advocates the “gentle densification” of Britain’s underoccupied cities. West Yorkshire has 2,400 mills lying vacant, offering 52,000 new homes. Britain’s low property taxes effectively subsidise emptiness, which in London – with one of Europe’s lowest densities – conceals potential homes for “millions more households”.