Planning minister: We need to build more homes in the countryside
Andrew Grice has been Political Editor of The Independent since 1998. He was previously Political Editor of The Sunday Times, where he worked for 10 years, and he has been a Westminster-based journalist since 1982. His column, Inside Politics, appears in The Independent each Saturday.
Tuesday 27 November 2012
The amount of land that is built on in Britain needs to be expanded by up to a third to tackle the nation’s housing shortage, the new Planning Minister will say tomorrow.
Nick Boles will reveal a controversial plan to build more homes in the countryside 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.”
His outspoken remarks will reignite the debate over whether planning rules should be relaxed to address a growing housing crisis. 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.
In his first interview about his new role since being appointed by David Cameron in September, 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, who is making two Newsnight programmes about his brief, will say: “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 - sometimes buildings are better.”
He will add: “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, a close political ally of Mr Cameron, will argue: “Land is expensive but to some extent [developers] are just lazy. They didn't talk to local people or get involved enough. But also it's just bloody expensive to build because land is expensive.”
“It's my job to make the arguments to these people [who oppose development] that if they carry on writing letters their kids are never going to get a place with a garden to bring up their grand kids. I accept we haven't been able to persuade them. I think it would be easier if we could persuade them that the new development would be beautiful.”
Mr Boles will flesh out his approach in a speech tomorrow (Thurs) 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, Mr Boles advocated building in the Green Belt in a report for Policy Exchange, the think tank he headed, which has close links to Mr Cameron.
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