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NIMBY (an acronym for the phrase "Not In My Back Yard"), or Nimby, is a pejorative characterization of opposition by residents to a proposal for a new development because it is close to them, often with the connotation that such residents believe that the developments are needed in society but should be further away. Opposing residents themselves are sometimes called Nimbies.

Projects likely to be opposed include but are not limited to fracking, homeless shelters, oil wells, chemical plants, industrial parks, military bases, wind turbines, desalination plants, landfills, incinerators, power plants, prisons,[1] pubs, adult entertainment establishments, mobile telephone network masts, abortion clinics,[2] toxic waste dumps, group homes, youth hostels, sports stadiums, strip malls, housing developments, freight railway, highways, airports, seaports, and medical cannabis dispensaries.

The NIMBY concept may also apply more generally to people who advocate some proposal (for example, austerity measures like budget cuts, tax increases, or layoffs), but oppose implementing it in a way that would require sacrifice on their part.

Claimed rationale

There are multiple types of development that are particularly susceptible to objections by local residents. Such developments include:

The claimed reasons against the development of these projects are varied. These reasons include, but are not limited to:

  • Increased traffic: More jobs, more housing or more stores correlates to increased traffic on local streets. Industrial facilities such as warehouses, factories, or landfills often increase the volume of truck traffic.
  • Harm to locally owned small businesses: The development of a big box store may provide too much competition to a locally owned store; similarly, the construction of a new road may make the older road less travelled, leading to a loss of business for property owners. This can lead to excessive relocation costs, or to respected local businesses becoming insolvent.
  • Loss of residential property value: Homes near an undesirable development may be less desirable when the owner attempts to sell it. The lost revenue from property taxes may, or may not, be offset by increased revenue from the project.
  • Environmental pollution of land, air, and water: Power plants, factories, chemical facilities, crematoriums, sewage treatment facilities, airports, and similar projects may, or may be claimed to, contaminate the land, air, or water around them. Especially facilities assumed to smell might cause objections.
  • Light pollution: Projects that operate at night, or that include security lighting (such as streetlights in a parking lot), may be accused of causing light pollution.
  • Noise pollution: In addition to the noise of traffic, a project may inherently be noisy. This is a common objection to wind power, airports, and many industrial facilities.
  • Visual blight and failure to "blend in" with the surrounding architecture: The proposed project might be ugly or particularly large.
  • Loss of a community's small-town feel: Proposals that might result in new people moving into the community, such as a plan to build many new houses, are often claimed to change the community's character.
  • Strain of public resources and schools: This reason is given for any increase in the local area's population, as additional school facilities might be needed for the additional children, but particularly to projects that might result in certain kinds of people joining the community, such as a group home for people with disabilities, or immigrants.
  • Disproportionate benefit to non-locals: The project appears to benefit distant people, such as investors (in the case of commercial projects like factories or big-box stores) or people from neighboring areas (in the case of regional government projects, such as airports, highways, sewage treatment, or landfills).
  • Increases in crime: This is usually applied to projects that are perceived as attracting or employing low-skill workers or racial minorities, as well as projects that cater to people who are thought to often commit crimes, such as the mentally ill, the poor, and drug addicts. Additionally, certain types of projects, such as pubs or medical marijuana dispensaries, might be perceived as directly increasing the amount of crime in the area.

Generally, many NIMBY objections are guessed or feared. However, waiting until the project is finished before objecting rarely works, since new existing establishments are unlikely to be shut down.

Origin and history

The Oxford English Dictionary identifies the acronym's earliest use as being in 1980 in the Christian Science Monitor, although even there the author indicates the term is already used in the hazardous waste industry.[3][4] The concept behind the term, that of locally organized resistance to unwanted land uses, is likely to have originated earlier. One suggestion is it emerged in the 1950s.[5]

In the 1980s, the term was popularized by British politician Nicholas Ridley, who was Conservative Secretary of State for the Environment. Comedian George Carlin used the term in a comedy skit, implying that people had already heard of it. Although he did not coin the term, he certainly helped to popularize it.[6]


NIMBY and its derivative terms NIMBYism, NIMBYs, and NIMBYists, refer implicitly to debates of development generally or to a specific case. As such, their use is inherently contentious. The term is usually applied to opponents of a development, implying that they have narrow, selfish, or myopic views. Its use is often pejorative.[7]

Not in My Neighborhood

The term Not in My Neighborhood (or NIMN) is also frequently used.[8]


Opposition to certain developments as inappropriate anywhere in the world is characterised by the acronym NIABY ("Not In Anyone's Backyard"). The building of nuclear power plants, for example, is often subject to NIABY concerns.[9]


NAMBI ("Not Against My Business or Industry") is used as a label for any business concern that expresses umbrage with actions or policy that threaten that business, whereby they are believed to be complaining about the principle of the action or policy only for their interests alone and not for all similar business concerns who would equally suffer from the actions or policies.[9] The term serves as a criticism of the kind of outrage that business expresses when disingenuously portraying its protest to be for the benefit of all other businesses. Such a labelling would occur, for example, when opposition expressed by a business involved in urban development is challenged by activists – causing the business to in turn protest and appealing for support from fellow businesses lest they also find themselves challenged where they seek urban development. This term also serves as a rhetorical counter to NIMBY. Seen as an equivalent to NIMBY by those opposing the business or industry in question.


BANANA is an acronym for "Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anything" (or "Anyone").[10][11] The term is most often used to criticize the ongoing opposition of certain advocacy groups to land development.[12] The apparent opposition of some activists to every instance of proposed development suggests that they seek a complete absence of new growth. The term is commonly used within the context of planning in the United Kingdom. The Sunderland City Council lists the term on their online dictionary of jargon.[13]


PIBBY is an acronym for "Put In Blacks' Back Yard". This principle indicates that the people with social, racial, and economic privileges object to a development in their own back yards, and if the objectionable item must be built, then it should be built so that its perceived harms disproportionately affect poor, socially disadvantaged people. Economically disadvantaged people might not want to hire a lawyer to appeal the right way, or might have more immediate troubles than a new nearby construction project. The environmental justice movement has critiqued Nimbyism as a form of environmental racism. Robert Doyle Bullard, Director of the Environmental Justice Resource Center at Clark Atlanta University, has argued that official responses to NIMBY phenomena have led to the PIBBY principle.[14]


FRUIT is an acronym for "Fear of Revitalization Urban-Infill and Towers". The word FRUIT or FRUITs is a play on words in support of the acronym BANANAs. First used in a development industry article in Vancouver to refer to irrational local opponents (fruit cakes, fruit loops or just fruits) of well-planned developments.[15]


SOBBY is an acronym for "Some Other Bugger's Back Yard" and refers to the state of mind which agrees that a particular project may be desirable and perhaps necessary – but only if it is placed somewhere else.

Points of debate

In favor of development

Frequently argued debate points in favor of development include higher employment, tax revenue, marginal cost of remote development, safety, and environmental benefits. Proponents of development may accuse locals of egotism, elitism, parochialism, drawbridge mentality, racism and opposition to diversity, the inevitability of criticism, and misguided or unrealistic claims of prevention of urban sprawl. If people who don't want to be disturbed see the general need of an establishment, such as an airport, they generally suggest another location. But seen from society's perspective, the other location might not be better, since people living there get disturbed instead.[16]

In favor of local sovereignty

Those labeled as NIMBYs may have a variety of motivations and may be unified only because they oppose a particular project. For example, some may oppose any significant change or development, regardless of type, purpose, or origin. Others, if the project may is seen as being imposed by outsiders, may hold strong principles of self-governance, local sovereignty, local autonomy, and home rule. These people believe that local people should have the final choice, and that any project affecting the local people should clearly benefit themselves, rather than corporations with distant investors or central governments.[17] Still others may object to a particular project because of its nature, e.g., opposing a nuclear power plant over fear of radiation, but accepting a local waste management facility as a municipal necessity.



Nova Scotia

In July 2012, residents of Kings County rallied against a bylaw, developed over three years of consultation and hearings, allowing wind generators to be constructed nearby.[18] A similar theme arose in September 2009, where residents there rallied against a wind generator in Digby Neck, Nova Scotia.[19] In January 2011, residents of Lawrencetown, NS openly opposed a cell tower being built.[20] A proposed development of downtown Dartmouth in August 2012 was also contested by residents.[21] In February 2013, some residents of Lunenburg County opposed wind farms being built in the area, saying, "It’s health and it’s property devaluation" and "This is an industrial facility put in the middle of rural Nova Scotia. It does not belong there."[22]

In March 2013, some residents of the community of Blockhouse opposed the building and development of a recycling plant, referred to by one business owner as a "dump." The plant would offer 75 jobs to the community of roughly 5,900 people.[23] In the same month, the municipal councilors of Chester, Nova Scotia, approved the building of wind turbines in the area in a 6-1 vote, despite some local opposition.[24]



People living near the Lübeck–Puttgarden railway, or having a leisure home there, a popular tourist area, oppose the Fehmarn Belt Fixed Link. This link will reintroduce freight traffic, also by night, on this railway. Freight traffic has not taken place on this line since 1997, when it was diverted to the Great Belt Bridge and past Flensburg, a 110 mile detour. These people have made public demonstrations and gained some media attention.

United Kingdom

Ashtead, Surrey

In the affluent English village of Ashtead, Surrey, which lies on the outside of London, residents objected in 2007[25] to the conversion of a large, £1.7 million residential property into a family support centre for relatives of wounded British service personnel. The house was to be purchased by a registered charity, SSAFA Forces Help.[25][26][27] Local residents objected to the proposal out of fear of increased traffic and noise, as well as the possibility of an increased threat of terrorism. They also contended that the SSAFA charity is actually a business, thereby setting an unwelcome precedent.[28] Local newspapers ran articles titled "Nimby neighbours' war with wounded soldiers' families" and "No Heroes in my Backyard."

Ex-servicemen and several members of the British general public organised a petition in support of SSAFA, and even auctioned the "Self Respect of Ashtead" on eBay.[29]

High Speed 2

Particularly in the run up to the final decision on the route of the high-speed railway known as High Speed 2, BBC News Online reported that many residents of Conservative constituencies were launching objections to the HS2 route based on the effects it would have on them, whilst also showing concerns that HS2 is unlikely to have a societal benefit at a macro level under the current economic circumstances.[30][31] Likewise, Labour MP Natascha Engel—through whose constituency the line will pass—offered a "passionate defence of nimbyism" in the House of Commons, with regards to the effects the line would have on home- and business-owning constituents.[32]

Heathrow Airport

In November 2007 a consultation process began for the building of a new third runway and a sixth terminal and it was controversially[33] approved on 15 January 2009 by UK Government ministers.[34] The project was then cancelled on 12 May 2010 by the Cameron Government.[35]

Heathrow Airport has a CAA Public Use Aerodrome Licence (Number P527) that allows flights for the public transport of passengers or for flying instruction.[36]

Coventry Airport

The airport is owned by CAFCO (Coventry) Limited, a joint venture between Howard Holdings plc[37] and Convergence-AFCO Holdings Limited (CAFCOHL), and in June 2007 had its application to build permanent terminal and passenger facilities turned down by the UK government due to public pressure.[38][39][40][41][42][43]

Wimbledon, London



Fracking in Balcom, Sussex. While there are genuine fears of minor earthquakes, since it reportedly causes a Richter scale 2.2 quake in a Lancashire operation, Other fears listed below have also sparked protests:

  • Eyesores,
  • Global Warming,
  • Heavy site traffic,
  • Major earthquakes,
  • Light pollution
  • Noise pollution
  • Water pollution
  • Promised jobs require expertise not present locally, therefore will not go to locals.

Hong Kong

When Christian Zheng Sheng College opened in 1998, several people spuriously called it an eyesore.

United States

Greater Boston, Massachusetts

Opposition to two proposed freeways within the MA Route 128 beltway road around Boston - the Inner Belt and the routing of Interstate 95 in Massachusetts into downtown Boston via the Southwest Corridor - were opposed from their proposals during the 1950s era, and finally cancelled by the actions of then-Governor Francis Sargent in 1970. The MBTA Orange Line heavy rail rapid transit line's southern route was eventually re-located along much of the Southwest Corridor right-of-way for the cancelled I-95's roadbed in the late 1980s, when the Orange Line's Washington Street Elevated tracks were torn down at the time.

Deerfield, Illinois

In 1959, when Deerfield officials learned that a developer building a neighborhood of large new homes planned to make houses available to African Americans, they issued a stop-work order. An intense debate began about racial integration, property values, and the good faith of the community officials and builders. For a brief time, Deerfield was spotlighted in the national news as "the Little Rock of the North."[45] Supporters of integration were denounced and ostracized by residents. Eventually, the village passed a referendum to build parks on the property, thus putting an end to the housing development. Two model homes already partially completed were sold to village officials.[45] Otherwise, the land lay dormant for years before it was developed into what is now Mitchell Pool and Park and Jaycee Park. The first black family did not move into Deerfield until much later. This episode in Deerfield's history is described in But Not Next Door by Harry and David Rosen, both residents of Deerfield.

Nantucket Sound, Massachusetts

Some residents and businesses of Cape Cod, Martha's Vineyard, and Nantucket Island have opposed construction of Cape Wind, a proposed offshore wind farm in Nantucket Sound. Proponents cite the environmental, economic, and energy security benefits of clean, renewable energy, while opponents are against any obstruction to the views from oceanfront vacation homes and tourist destinations based in the region.

St. Lucie County, Florida

Similar to the situation in Nantucket Sound, Mass., a minority of residents in St. Lucie County, Florida have vehemently opposed the construction of wind turbines in the county. The construction of the wind turbines is strongly supported by over 80% of county residents according to a 2008 Florida Power and Light (FPL) poll.[46] Additionally, the power company proposed building the turbines in a location on a beach near a prior existing nuclear power plant owned by the company.


A small number of residents (mostly farmers) in Hanford, California and surrounding areas are opposed to the California High-Speed Rail Authority building high-speed rail near farmland, citing that it will bring environmental and economic problems.

Wealthy residents of Southern Orange County, CA were successfully able to defeat a local measure to convert the decommissioned El Toro Marine Base from a commercial airport proposal to a park proposal, claiming that the airport would be "unsafe" during landings and take-offs as well as air quality issues. The real issue was the FAA planned the flight paths for the airport over expensive neighborhoods of the south Orange County and residents feared that their property values would decrease. The airport proposal was strongly supported by Northern Orange County residents. The resulting defeat of the local measure resulted in the creation of the Orange County Great Park.

Long time residents of Pasadena, CA have been successfully opposing the completion of Interstate 710 for years. After convincing the politicians to pursue an advanced underground tunnel freeway, they proceeded to oppose the very tunnel they were previously arguing for. USC and UCLA urban and transportation planning students study this group and their tactics as a local and definitive example of NIMBYism.

See also


External links

  • Multifamily Housing Group Targets NIMBY
  • Saint Index strives to measure Nimbyism
  • Nimby Wars from Forbes Magazine
  • How to Overcome NIMBY Opposition to Your Project
  • Q & A with NIMBY Expert Debra Stein
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