Sean Garman works in corporate finance in the City of London and is a member of the Conservative Party’s Business Relations grouping. He is a also a committee member of City Future – the under 35s organisation for Conservative supporters in the City of London.
The change in planning laws to simplify development may be a nice concept to spur economic development but it runs against the latest empirical research which shows that city development rather than rural development is critical to economic growth. If we are serious about growth then our reform focus must shift to the areas that have the greatest potential to drive that growth: British cities and towns.
Many people have an idyllic or utopian view about living in the countryside. That is understandable given the numerous benefits it can confer. However, anthropological research has shown that human beings are hardwired for higher density living. We can conclude that our idyllic desire to live in the countryside does not stack up with how we act. Human psychology is important when designing policies and it seems that we have already forgotten the “nudge” concept that once was our intellectual underpinning. The new planning laws may lead to unsustainable development in rural Britain rather than be based off what is proven to work and fits in with human psychology – higher density urban living as a population grows.
If we take it that humans are hardwired for higher density living as a population grows then we need to look at the impact cities have on productivity, creativity and innovation. Studies have indicated that a doubling of population can increase productivity anywhere from 6 to 28 percent. Cities also provide ‘hubs’ (areas of specialisation), for instance London is a global financial hub and is developing its creative industries while Silicon Valley maintains its predominance in information technology.