Nimby or not Nimby?

Possible site of two houses in Nithdale Road
Possible site of two houses in Nithdale Road

A new planning application for 2 houses in Nithdale Road set me musing about Nimbyism. The acronym NIMBY (Not In My Back-Yard) is often used pejoratively, or as wikipedia says: “The term is usually applied to opponents of a development, implying that they have narrow, selfish, or myopic views.”

I have in the past opposed developments similar to the one proposed in Nithdale Road that were literally almost in my back yard, and I’ve felt slightly guilty about being a NIMBY. After all there is a housing crisis in the UK, with according to Shelter, 1.7 million people on local authority waiting lists, 7.4 million homes failing to meet the government decent homes standard and 654000 households overcrowded. Also, with the population rising, not enough new houses  are being built each year; it has been estimated that 240000 new homes are needed each year and only about half that number are being built. So it’s pretty selfish to deny other people the opportunity to have a home of their own, isn’t it?

But … there do seem to be a lot of new houses and flats built in the area. The Love Lane development will apparently yield more than 900 new homes, then there is the ongoing development of the  Royal Military Academy and the Royal Arsenal sites yielding hundreds more. Not to mention the 16 story residential block to be built on the DLR site, according to the new Woolwich Masterplan,  and many smaller developments such as the former Cottage Hospital. Do we need to build on every small plot of land, irrespective of the impact on the neighbourhood?

Also it appears that proposed developments try to fit in as as many homes as possible. I guess more separate “units” equals more money. I’ve noticed a pattern on several proposals where there are a series of planning applications that successively reduce the number of proposed units in order to get planning approval. One went from a 4 storey block of flats to a 3½ storey block to a pair of three storey semis over the course of three or four years. Another, similar to that proposed in Nithdale Road, started with two small semis which was rejected, then changed to a single dwelling (also rejected). If I were cynical I’d call it the “see what you can get away with” tactic. Some of these homes seem very small; in fact new homes in the UK are the smallest  in Europe.

Hoardings round plot in Eaglesfield Road
Hoardings round plot in Eaglesfield Road

The planning history for the plot of land at the end of Eaglesfield Road also demonstrates the trend of successive applications for a reducing number of units. In this case from 12 flats to 8 ending in an application for 6 flats which was turned down by the council and then allowed on appeal to the Planning Inspectorate. As consent was granted over 3 years ago it should now have lapsed, but the land has been left unattractively hoarded up for several years. Sometimes such plots of land tend to turn into rubbish dumps if the people who live near them aren’t vigilant. The land owners, many of whom don’t live locally, don’t suffer from the impact to the local environment of neglecting a plot, or the long term impact on the built environment of building something that doesn’t fit in. It’s very rarely that I read a planning application and I think “that person really cares about the area”.

Recently applications to build on land that used to be back gardens have been turned down because it was seen as “garden grabbing” which Councils were allowed to use as a reason for rejection. It isn’t clear whether this will still have any force when the planning laws change. It’s also not clear to me how the proposed “presumption in favour of development” will balance against localism’s “new rights and powers for communities”. However that plays out,  land owners may decide to just need to hang on to their holdings until some future government relaxes the rules sufficiently to allow them to build what they want.

As a result of my musings I feel a little bit less guilty about being a Nimby, and I will keep sending in my objection letters anyway.

One Reply to “Nimby or not Nimby?”

  1. Having seen your article, I would aree with your N.I.M.B.Y. as the current occupants of the house in question have long had a problem with the fundamental understanding of refuse disposal and no doubt whoever owns the house is either selling off the garden for a quick buck, or seeing the sale as an oppertunity to make money from the development.Also it would seem that there could be a problem regarding suitable vechicle access, parking and general disruption. I would also advise that my wife and I, knew an elderly previous tenant in the house in question and he advised at the time, that the existing timber windows could only be painted in a period green colour. To our surprise after he moved out to a care home, the windows were removed and replaced with P.V.C. ones. How then can this racking and stacking of available garden space development be tolerated by local neighbourhoods. For your information, you may recall 2 similar planning applications for the building of flats etc in the Mayplace lane garden areas, near the alleyway up to Brinklow Cres’. (Eglinton Hill side back gardens ) This development plan was rejected and will always be objected to, due to the associated enviromental effects regarding removal of historic trees and the disruption and inconvience which will be caused to neighbours in the area of such dvelopments and the implications to the directly affected community.
    It is interesting that you mentioned about local authority / or housing association waiting lists. When there are empty properties which belong to housing associations which are being sold off! an example of this was 37 Eglinton Hill, which is an end of terrace semi – detached property, comprising of 2 decent sized flats. The house also has a detached garage and decent garden areas, it was sold recently at auction, with the selling point of potential for development to the side and rear of the house, subject to planning permission. Hence if there is a shortage of local authority / housing association properties, why on earth are properties like this being sold off? There is also another H.A. house in Eglinton Hill, which has been empty for some while and which is up for sale. I can’t understand the logic in this, as surely such properties can provide affordable and desperately needed housing.
    Finally, should the property in Nithdale Road have the houses built in the garden. The houses will not be available for anyone on the housing waiting list, or any first time buyers.

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