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Tuesday22 July 2014

Nimbys become Imbys

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Housing surveys find that local residents would welcome high-density development in the South-east

British people are not Nimbys who will rebel against the government's plans to build thousands of new homes, according to two key consultations that emerged this week.

Recent consultation has seen local people come out in favour of one of the highest density developments under the government's Sustainable Communities Plan in Ashford, Kent.

The results of consultation in Ashford by masterplanner Urban Initiatives revealed strong support for high-density, high-rise development around the town's train station rather than two other options presented, which included sprawling new development on the outskirts.

This support is a major boost for the government as it prepares to persuade existing communities in built-up areas such as Milton Keynes and the Thames Gateway to accept huge swathes of new development on their doorsteps.

The revelation comes as a major survey in the South-east, released this week, further challenged the perception among local politicians that they will be voted out if they approve high-density housing.

Worried councillors will be cheered by the findings of social policy charity the Joseph Rowntree Foundation which claims that Nimbys are in fact a minority.

Two weeks after a South East Regional Assembly survey of more than 1,000 councillors found that most of them were inhibited from pushing ahead with high-density housing schemes (News June 11), the new survey of 1,400 people in areas earmarked for development, such as Aylesbury, Maidenhead, Chatham and Gillingham, suggests that councillors' fears are based on wrong perceptions or even paranoia.

The survey published this week by Cambridge Architectural Research (CAR) found that rather than be aghast at the prospect of a government housing plan that could see many new homes built nearby, 40% agreed that the South-east must be allowed to keep on growing, while only 24% disagreed.

Of those polled, 43% disagreed that building more homes would lead to a poorer quality of life as opposed to 35% who agreed.

Steve Platt, chairman of CAR, said: "This survey shows that Nimbyism is far from rife and that people don't have a blanket objection to land being used for new housing."

Instead, the survey found support for balanced development that would deliver quality housing at affordable prices with open space and access to schools and new facilities that would benefit existing communities.

"People make reasoned choices and compromises when presented with reliable information about a range of options," added Platt.

A summary of the report, Housing Futures: Informed Public Opinion, is at www.jrf.org.uk

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