The government has published the findings of research which suggest that very few local opponents to new homes will be bought off by being given money.
The project - called Attitudinal Research on Financial Payments to Reduce Opposition to New Homes - was commissioned by the Department of Communities and Local Government, and conducted by the University of Sheffield.
Although the report suggests the fieldwork was conducted in July 2015, the results have been published on the DCLG website for the first time this week - on the same day that much public attention was focussed on BBC pay and on a proposed increase in the state pension ago for some Britons.
The full document runs to a hefty 55 pages but in summary, the questions addressed by the research were:
- Would a direct financial payment reduce levels of opposition to new housebuilding amongst those who are likely to oppose it?
- How much would that payment need to be to influence attitudes and behaviour?
- What are the potential wider implications of financial payments for local planning policy?
The researchers emphasise in their findings that this was a theoretical exercise, so may not directly mirror what would happen if real money was offered in return for not opposing real new homes. “A real scenario that involved actual payment may have led to different responses” the researchers say.
Even so, the findings are fascinating and, in summary, are:
- Only 10 per cent of those interviewed felt that a direct financial payment would or might reduce their opposition to housing development; six per cent said it would and four per cent said maybe;
- The large majority - 84 per cent - felt that the payment would not influence their views on housing development or their likelihood to engage in some form of direct or indirect opposition to it;
- Those whose attitudes or behaviour might be influenced by a direct payment tended to be at the weaker end of the opposition spectrum;
- There was strong principled resistance to the idea of a financial payment amongst many households. Financial payments were associated with ‘bribes’ by 46 per cent of respondents.
- There were also concerns by households that such payments could lead to a reduced developer contribution, especially as pressure on infrastructure and services was often the main reason for opposition to housing development.
- Views on opposition to new housebuilding were mainly about the scale of development and its impact on local infrastructure and services. Over one third of respondents said that they might be less opposed to new development if they could have more of a say over development, or if there was extra resource for infrastructure and services, especially schools and health care;
The researchers also interviewed what they called ‘key professionals’ such as senior planning officers, council leaders and individual ward councillors and community group leaders.
This group showed “no significant support for direct financial payments” and worried over negative consequences, such as a reduction in trust in the planning process and reduced community cohesion.