A new report by Centre for London has challenged the NIMBY stereotype, exploring the variety of reasons why people oppose new housing developments, and suggesting ways that their opposition can be addressed.
London needs nearly 50,000 new homes every year until 2035, but in 2015 the number completed was 24,620. Opposition from local residents is one reason why supply is not keeping up demand, delaying planning for new development or even deterring developers from working in some neighbourhoods.
The report Stopped: Why People Oppose Residential Development in Their Back Yard identifies seven reasons why people oppose new residential developments:
- Services: investment in infrastructure lags behind new development, making residents fearful that services such as roads, trains and GP surgeries won’t be able to cope with rising demand;
- Trust: Trust between residents and developers in London has been eroded, which slows down the planning process;
- Outsiders: Objections to new housing are sometimes more about new residents than about the houses they will live in;
- Place: Residents are concerned that the poor quality design and inappropriate development will damage neighbourhood character;
- Politics: When planning debates become politicised or are hijacked for alternative agendas;
- Engagement: Residents are more likely to support development if they can influence it. But engagement is often poor because it kicks in too late and does not actually listen;
- Disruption: Residents don’t object to the new homes – but to the impact on their daily lives from construction noise, traffic and other impacts.
The report argues that developers and local authorities must gain an accurate understanding of the type of local opposition to their developments before trying to resolve them; for example, offering a new playground to residents who are afraid of construction work will not placate their opposition.
Richard Brown, Research Director at Centre for London said:
“Pressure for new development in London is intense, as the city seeks to accommodate a rapidly growing population. Town planning always involves trade‑offs and balancing the interests of different groups, but some communities’ opposition to new housing is deep‑seated and hard to shift.
“This report shows how councils can better understand why local residents oppose new development, and suggests ways that they can work with developers and local communities to unlock the housing London needs.”
Greg Tillotson, Regional Development Director at Barratt London said:
“Barratt London is delighted to have supported this important research by Centre for London. Clearly understanding and positively responding to the needs and concerns of the local community within which a developer is seeking to deliver new housing is essential to achieving a positive planning permission.”