Mind the Gap


In Letters to a Young Contrarian, Christopher Hitchens wrote that time spent arguing is almost never wasted.
This week, MIPIM UK has certainly generated its fair share of arguments, both within the Hall and externally at protests and a counter conference.

However, wherever the arguments have taken place, there has been one common theme: the need to solve the housing crisis.

Whether delivered via a megaphone across a picket line or in a room with coffee and pastries, people were all focused on the same thing.

Local Dialogue, in partnership with lawyers Pinsent Masons, organised a fringe seminar to address, specifically, London’s housing crisis. Councillors with an interest in housing, experienced planning officers, an outspoken academic and a senior GLA director all debated openly and frankly about the issues:

– the need for truly affordable housing (not ‘Affordable Housing’);
– middle income families getting priced out (whether in Kensington or Southwark);
– a review of Green Belt policy;
– whether central government should be a house builder of the last resort;
– a radical reorganisation of property-based taxation;
– more control over who invests.

And on it went.

However a single theme was at the heart of the discussion: People.

“The ‘P’ in Planning should equal People.” “We should be focused on people rather than numbers.” “We need homes for people.”

Our event showed that, just like the protestors, all the parties involved in the housing debate recognise the challenges – and demonstrated that they have insightful, creative ideas to help solve it.

To truly tackle these issues – indeed, the issues that face almost any development – there needs to be both understanding and dialogue.

So while there were protestors outside MIPIM’s shuttered, police-protected doors, literally banging the drum for people who need more affordable housing, inside there was reasoned, open, and pragmatic dialogue taking place among people seeking to achieve the same thing.

Geoff Lentin