Blimey! "Right to Build" is a novel idea alright!
What on this earth do you make of Grant Shapps this morning, announcing that the government plans to enable "villages" in England to build homes without seeking council planning permission?
The initiative aims to "provide small numbers of affordable homes in rural areas where high home prices are driving people away" and is "part of David Cameron's Big Society idea of allowing more decisions to be made locally".
Under the plan, villages would be able to form local housing trusts, and hold a referendum to decide if house building should go ahead.
A "large majority would be needed" apparently and on Radio 4 this morning, Mr Shapps said it would be "80 or 90 per cent" in cases of small developments of fewer than 20 homes. The Council for Protection for Rural England (CPRE) is, of course, up in arms (as far as I'm concerned this usually augurs rather well for any policy).
But I am frankly amazed. In this age of austerity, is this government seriously sanctioning (yet more) "rights" without responsibility. This is simply astonishing. Even more astonishing is that (it would appear from the press release) the policy has been cooked up entirely on the basis of the views of those in Essendon, a village in Hertfordshire, which, of course, happens to be in Mr Shapps's constituency.
Nobody is disputing that things need to be done differently in villages to shore up their vitality. But we all know how villages work. "Villages" will not make the decision.