The Selsdon Manifesto

The Selsdon Manifesto dates from the Group's founding in 1973. Nearly fifty years on progress has been made in some areas, particularly in the balance between the public and private sector. Some sections however remain relevant today

Housing and Planning

Originally intended to cater for those in true need, council houses are in great numbers occupied by families well above the average earning level. The Government has taken laudable steps to improve this position by encouraging the sale of Council houses and by the introduction of the Housing Finance Act. But alas the former has been pursued only half heartedly and the latter has created a petty bureaucracy all of its own. The most significant field in which the individual has not the right to cater for his own preferences on the market is that of rented accommodation. Controls on rents (which were originally only meant to be temporary) have inevitably created a shortage of rented accommodation by stimulating demand and discouraging supply. Under the Leasehold Reform Act what has been bought or sold may change in value and indeed in substance within five years of the Contract. The man who bought what he believed was a lease with only a few years to run may suddenly find himself blessed by the waving of a statutory wand with an absolute freehold and the original freeholder is left with a minimum compensatory payment. How can it be expected that individual enterprise will flourish when one individual receives statutory pots of gold for an ill-considered act and another mere token payment for a prudent investment. So long as these complexities flourish the market cannot, and the scarcity of housing is bound to prevail. We believe therefore that the Rent Acts and Leasehold Reform Act should be repealed; and that Council houses should be let only to those in true need. In planning too, the Government indulges in intervention merely because the possibility so to do exists. It may be, although it is arguable, that some control is needed of ribbon development; and that a Green Belt should be preserved around the larger cities. However, to produce some 3,000 pages of regulations, orders, and circulars which should in theory at least be perused by everyone who wishes to carry out any development is to take an original useful idea to dangerous extremes. Of all the cities in the world possibly one of the best zoned is Houston in Texas where no control is exercised over the zonal disposition of development. Non-intervention can work, in many places it still does work, and if we are to free the individual citizen so that he may enterprise and flourish it must be made to work again.