Examination of Witnesses

Part of Levelling-up and Regeneration Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 4:40 pm on 23rd June 2022.

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Alex Morton:

I think street votes are a very good idea. They are a way to try and encourage communities. They are not a solution to everything—I think we have to be honest about what street votes are. Street votes are in areas where there is high demand in housing and you have relatively low density—particularly Metroland, for example, in London—where you might be able to persuade people to replace a certain amount of terraced housing with four or five-storey terrace streetscapes, which would be quite attractive. That could be a good way in lots of high-demand areas, without building on green belts and green fields, to get a recycling of space. That used to happen. For most of our city’s history, that densification process was natural. You had a single landowner usually—sometimes aristocratic, sometimes merchants, sometimes commercial holdings—who would buy blocks, demolish them and build them up. You have to do that now in a way that is consensual and fit for the 21st century.

Street votes are a way to try to get people together and say, “Look, we can all, on our street, agree that we can build up another few storeys. We will all benefit from this. This will mean that we do not have to build on greenfield sites on the edge of London.” I do not think we should be too optimistic about it in the next, say, five years solving the south-east’s housing crisis. However, it has to be something that the Government moves at great speed on, to try and put pilots in place to get this going, so that if it can work—I think it should—we can then roll it out on a wider scale. That said, I do not think, sadly, that it will alleviate the pressure on green fields in the next five or 10 years, but it is a thing we need to do now if we are to stop building on more and more of our land surface.