'We need to build in rural areas to ease crisis'

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Britain's worsening housing crisis cannot be solved without a major expansion of house-building in the countryside, the new Planning minister will say tonight.

In controversial remarks that will reignite the debate about the relaxation of planning rules, including those protecting Green Belt, Nick Boles will say that the amount of land that is built on in the UK needs to be expanded by up to a third to tackle the nation's housing shortage.

In his first interview about his new role since being appointed by David Cameron in September, Mr Boles, right, will issue a call to build more homes in rural areas in order to give today's younger generation their "basic moral right" to an affordable home. He will also attack many of the modern homes being built by developers as "pig ugly".

Ministers admit 100,000 fewer houses than the country needs are being built each year. Over the next decade, the number of households in the UK is expected to grow by about 230,000 annually, but only 117,000 new homes were built last year.

Mr Boles will tell BBC2's Newsnight programme: "We're going to protect the Green Belt but if people want to have housing for their kids they have got to accept we need to build more on some open land. In the UK and England at the moment we've got about 9 per cent of land developed. All we need to do is build on another 2-3 per cent of land and we'll have solved a housing problem."

Mr Boles will flesh out his approach in a speech tomorrow to the Town and Country Planning Association. He described the National Trust as "latter-day Luddites" after it joined with other groups such as the Campaign to Protect Rural England last year to force the Government to make concessions over new planning guidance giving a presumption in favour of development. The draft was amended to encourage greater use of former industrial or commercial "brownfield" sites.

Before becoming an MP in 2010, he advocated building in the Green Belt in a report for Policy Exchange, the think tank he headed, which has close links to Mr Cameron.

Mr Boles, who is making two Newsnight programmes about his brief, will say: "I think everyone has the right to live somewhere that is not just affordable but that is beautiful and has some green space nearby". He calls this "a basic moral right, like healthcare and education. There's a right to a home with a little bit of ground around it to bring your family up in."

Mr Boles said: "The built environment can be more beautiful than nature and we shouldn't obsess about the fact that the only landscapes that are beautiful are open."