And are we really to believe the extraordinary notion that allowing folk to build back extensions and conservatories willy-nilly is going to pull us out of recession? Oh please. Has anyone thought this through? Of course the exact definition of the permitted development rules can be revisited and maybe this would stimulate some spending (because remember it is spending that matters, not what you get for it), but somebody should explain to the PM and his team that town planning is a system for society to prevent neighbours killing each other.
Paul Norman summed it up on Twitter this morning saying "I suspect my local council in St Albans is about to be overwhelmed by neighbours objecting to extensions on extensions" and it certainly is the case that in my own (right up itself) neighbourhood of East Chiswick there will be three or four (or 10 or 12, or possibly 100 or 200) disgruntled neighbours for every one happy extender. It'll be open warfare in middle class neighbourhoods, you just watch! And we will have a new acronym of NIYBYs (Not In Your Back Yarders). How does this square with Greg Clark's stopping "garden grabbing" or Grant Shapps's stopping "beds in sheds" then? Blimey, who would be a planner at this moment in time? And I certainly don't envy Trudi Elliott or Gideon Amos right now. Only one thing seems certain: whatever you think of planning reform proposals this week, there will almost certainly be another bundle along next week.
But as regeneration eternal optimists and political junkies, we in UKR will grasp at any straw the government offers and welcome almost anything! So we warmly welcome the investment proposals: that there is to be new legislation for government guarantees of up to £40bn worth of major infrastructure projects and up to £10bn of new homes. The Infrastructure (Financial Assistance) Bill will include guaranteeing the debt of housing associations and private sector developers.
And we look forward to seeing how it works... Will it really stimulate action for the long term? Or only help a few schemes in the crucial period before 2015 (aka the next election). £10bn seems like a lot, but if it guarantees 100% of the debt for projects, a back of the envelope calculation suggests that means around 100,000 homes. The devil is going to be in the detail and we cannot square all the numbers yet.
But remember that all this is really supposed to be about "growth"; can the government get some numbers to score in GDP? (rather than "are we solving a housing problem"). Eric Pickles has now provided some more of the detail in his written statement and more is expected on the legislation and how to bid for money. Presumably he has not yet been able to asking his Housing Minister for a steer, as Mr Prisk has only been in the job two days!
But the most interesting bit of all the complex bundle concerns the private rented sector: there are to be an additional 5,000 homes built for rent at market rates in line with proposals outlined in Sir Adrian Montague's recent report to government. Now things seriously hot up, and you suddenly understand why Sir Adrian's report had to be published in the middle of everyone's summer holidays (take a gold star Paula Hirst).
If you're following it on Twitter (and my head is seriously hurting with it all) you will see that Grainger seemed to know a bit more than the rest of us about how this would work. Now UKR is on record of being totally against subsidy for the PRS (see blogs 2 July and 29 August) believing strongly that risk belongs firmly in the private sector. We thought we could prove the viability of a PRS model by delivering a demonstration project in a regional city. And indeed we near completion on our first land deal, with investors committed. But (and this is a very big but) if the government is going to insist on underwriting our debt, then we will warmly welcome that too. After all, it would be rather churlish to put ourselves at a disadvantage in the market.