The government is focussing its attention on obstacles to growth and jobs as we try to escape the toxic legacy of banking collapse, recession and record budget deficits.
The obstacles are especially serious for small companies. Red tape looms large in their complaints and we have to reduce the burden of regulations.
One tricky issue is the regulation around planning. We tend to be in favour of new factories, office and housing developments in theory, where they generate wealth, employment and homes. But if they create more local traffic, encroach on green open spaces, spoil vistas or lead to a sense of overcrowding then there is opposition: why can’t they go somewhere else?
In our pleasant corner of suburban London these dilemmas are acute. There is a chronic shortage of affordable housing and pressure on jobs but little unused land.
We have lots of dynamic entrepreneurs wanting to expand their businesses: creative industries, professional and financial services, construction and retail. We also have fierce resistance to new development. We have big controversies like Twickenham riverside – and now Twickenham station; but numerous smaller planning battles over loft conversions, garden developments and gap sites.
The government wants to cut through the delays and complexity to allow most development to proceed swiftly unless it clashes with agreed local and national priorities: a presumption of sustainable development.
This may be easier said than done since planners will still have to assess whether benefits outweigh costs in contested cases. That is why the government wants to proceed with light touch planning on a localised basis. The idea is for enterprise zones in deprived areas which are eager for job generating development. Docklands is a good, past example.
Our borough is unlikely to become one of those zones. But there will be growing pressure to free up the planning system.