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Never mind the bananas, here’s the housing crisis


There’s been a fiery row recently in my village near Oxford (officially the UK’s most unaffordable place). Sparked by the council’s consultation on its local plan and the potential for fields currently designated as Green Belt to be used for new homes, it’s brought out the worst in some people. It’s also reminded me of some important campaigning lessons and highlighted the crucial role that MPs should play.

Evidently unaware of (and reluctant to understand) the difference between a local plan and a planning application, the lead objectors quickly revealed themselves as not just NIMBYs (Not In My Back Yard), but apparently BANANAs (Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anyone)!

So how do you tackle this sort of attitude – seemingly uninterested in and unmoved by the plight of a generation with no prospect of a home of their own?

Firstly, this isn’t about logic or reason. After some attempts to make the case on the objectors’ web group for at least considering more local homes, the moderator told me it was “not a place for informed debate, just opposition to development”, so I was barred from submitting further posts. Well, what use would informed debate be when deciding a community’s future!?

Secondly, politicians need to get their messages straight and fulfill their responsibility to influence public opinion as well as respond to it. One party distributed a flyer strongly opposing the local plan, with the slogan ‘A stronger economy and a fairer society’. Surely they get the link between building new homes and economic growth, with good housing as the foundation of people’s life chances and social justice?

Finally, just accept that some folk are too comfortable or closed-minded to listen. Happily, bananas are a small number in a big bunch, so focus on those whose views you can change.


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Written by Ian Hembrow | Posted on 2nd December 2015

Ian Hembrow has worked in housing for almost 30 years, across the council, housing association and consultancy sectors. A senior consultant with PR agency Creative Bridge (www.creative-bridge.com), Ian is a Chartered Member of the Chartered Institute of Housing and a passionate community activist. He’s helped to create an award-winning local volunteer litter project and is the national housing champion for The Big Lunch – the annual community get-together (www.thebiglunch.com). Ian is a regular contributor to trade media including 24housing, Guardian Housing Network and Inside Housing. He’s currently helping a new local community land trust to develop its first cooperative scheme.

Website: http://www.creative-bridge.com/