Street Votes: The way forward or a NIMBY’s Charter?
By Will Neale
At his first appearance at the Housing, Communities and Local Government Select Committee as Secretary of State, an unlikely question saw the Rt Hon Michael Gove MP announce his support for street votes.
Street votes were first proposed in February 2021 think tank Policy Exchange, in their report 'Strong Suburbs: Enabling streets to control their own development', would give local communities a vote on the density and styles of new homes on their street.
A ‘street plan’ submitted to the local council by 20 per cent of residents or alternatively 10 different properties would trigger a local vote on the street plan which would require a supermajority of residents to come into force.
Once passed residents would receive automatic planning permission for new homes or extensions to existing properties. According to Policy Exchange up to 100,000 homes a year would be constructed a year through increased housing density. AONBs, listed properties and green belt would be excluded from the policy.
Proponents of the radical idea claim it will convert ‘NIMBYs into YIMBYs’ by giving those who would traditionally oppose development an opportunity to have a legitimate seat at the table and a chance to benefit financially from increased development.
This would allow NIMBYs to oppose development freely as they wish, but the point made by the Policy Exchange is that there could be massive financial rewards for those who embrace high density development on their street.
A semi-detached street in London which votes to allow themselves to become a Victorian-style mansion block or row of terraced houses would deliver massive financial rewards for homeowners on the street.
Alternatively, it could give NIMBYS carte blanche to oppose development freely whilst ignoring local and national needs for housing. Without a planning committee to moderate proposals and balance competing factors and interests street votes have the potential to stifle the construction of homes in areas where they are needed most.
Support is strong amongst the Conservative backbenches for the proposal including senior figures, such as HCLG Select Committee member, Bob Blackman MP, who have concluded that housing pressures have become so severe, combined with a lack of political consensus in Parliament, that a radical solution is needed.