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Developers’ unified voice sets right tone

The combined might of the National Trust and the Daily Telegraph, allied in trying to take down the government’s proposed planning reforms, is a force to be reckoned with.

But so too are Chancellor George Osborne and communities secretary Eric Pickles, who have warned the campaigners not to “underestimate our determination to win this battle”.

The National Trust has every right to campaign, mobilise its members and express their views in every media outlet going.

Whatever Messrs Osborne and Pickles may have to say about it, the trust and the Telegraph probably believe they stand a decent chance of securing a U-turn, especially after their success in forcing the government to reverse its forestry sell-off policy earlier this year.

But housebuilders, developers and construction companies have the right to campaign, too.

The National Trust has claimed this week that the planning system is not there principally to promote economic development. But what is it there for?

The current system is in limbo. Regional spatial strategies and Housing targets have gone, housebuilding has stalled.

Whether or not the government’s proposed reforms will deliver everything ministers promise, there’s no arguing that the system they would replace was perfect either.

England’s green and pleasant land is not all about romantic notions of our rolling hills and hedgerows, but about first-time buyers being able to afford homes in which raise their families and there being enough social housing to go around.

Housebuilders and developers, whatever their vested interests, have as much right to lobby the government as countryside campaigners. The fact that ministers may appreciate developers’ intervention in this case is largely irrelevant.

Whoever wins the argument, this is an instructive example of industry representatives standing together to ensure their voice is heard. A unified, strongly argued case - which no doubt glosses over differences on minor points - is better than 10 similar but slightly different cases.

The construction industry as a whole needs to move in this direction - and indeed is starting to do so on subjects such as infrastructure investment and procurement.

This is not so much to make headlines - although that wouldn’t do construction any harm - as to make a real difference.

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