Research

Research and analysis are major features in the work of Green Balance, comprising part or the whole of many projects. We aim to produce reports which answer clients’ questions clearly and with insight. When wanted, we welcome the opportunity to apply research findings to clients’ wider purposes, setting out reports in terms that are directly useful and help to inform policy decisions.

'Why providing more land for housebuilding will not reduce house prices'

There is a popular view in the Treasury, amongst economists and elsewhere that if the planning system provided more land for house building then house prices would fall.  Our report for the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) Planning for Housing Affordability, with the above subtitle, demonstrated that this was incorrect.  Our research was prepared at the height of the house price boom in 2007 and tackled the key steps in the argument showing that:

  • housebuilders do not take full advantage of the huge amount of land permitted or allocated for housing by planning authorities: insufficient house building is a problem, not insufficient land;
  • house building is a remarkably inefficient means of reducing house prices: it would only work if so many houses were built that there were far more than households, but housebuilders will obviously not build houses to stand empty and have no desire to see their sale prices slump;
  • instead, after allowing for housing quality and location, house prices are fixed mainly by the availability of money and the willingness of buyers to spend it on houses.

 

Poundbury is a popular housing development on the edge of Dorchester, Dorset

Our research even showed that additional land supply can cause local house prices to increase.  In a detailed case study, one of six areas, we demonstrated that the major development of Poundbury by the Prince of Wales on the edge of Dorchester in Dorset, designed to respond to pressures of housing need, caused house prices in Dorchester to rise not fall, due to the popularity of this urban extension. 

Research for the Government

Green Balance has been commissioned by various Governments, Departments and agencies to carry out research across a variety of planning and environmental issues.  These have of course all followed from competitive tendering processes.

The Welsh Assembly Government and others joined a study for the Welsh Local Government Association on how Welsh local authorities could apply the principles of sustainable development in the planning system. Our research (with the Building Research Establishment) gave practical advice theme by theme on what the planning system could do, a menu of policies, advice on development control, and case studies to show what could be achieved.  The report Shaping the way we live work and play was launched by the Welsh Planning Minister in 2007.

Green Balance has carried out research projects on mineral planning policy funded in whole or part by the Department of Communities and Local Government and its predecessors. (For more information, see Minerals and Advice).  One directly-commissioned project examined industrial minerals – the normally scarce minerals required for specialised industrial processes.  Rather than propose more Government policy, this research (with the British Geological Survey) advised on the planning issues raised by each mineral which mineral planning authorities needed to take into account, and provided a novel series of Factsheets for each mineral.  The research report Industrial Minerals: Issues for Planning offered very long term approaches commensurate with the planning and investment needs for these vital resources.

The UK Government had been a key participant in the preparation of the European Landscape Convention by the Council of Europe, but had not become a signatory.  Green Balance (with the Institute for European Environmental Policy) was commissioned by Defra to advise on the advantages and disadvantages of the UK signing the Convention.  Our research found that participation could be achieved without any change to national law, policy or practice, but that committing to the Convention would be more cost-effective by acting to consolidate policy at the same time.  The Government subsequently signed and ratified the Convention.

Other examples of research carried out by Green Balance are for English Heritage and the National Trust (see Heritage), and for English Nature and CPRE (see Natural World).

 

Get in touch

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Key resources:

Planning for Housing Affordability: why providing more land for housebuilding will not reduce house prices

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Application of sustainable development by Welsh local planning authorities

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Industrial Minerals: Issues for Planning

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