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Saturday02 August 2014

Develop open land for housing, says minister

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Nick Boles outlines plans to develop a third more of Britain’s land

Development must take place on open land if Britain is to tackle its housing shortage, planning minister Nick Boles has said.

The recently appointed Conservative minister told the BBC that it would be necessary to develop a third more of Britain’s land over the next 20 years.

“In the UK, about 9% of land is developed in any way,” he said. “That’s 91% that is not. All we need to do is build on maybe 2-3% over the next 20 years.

Nick Boles

Nick Boles

Boles said that doing so would mean another one to two million houses being built. He described people who were anti-development as “selfish” and accused them of ignoring the housing needs of their children and grandchildren.

The minister added that the built environment could be more beautiful than the countryside, but conceded too many “pig ugly” housing estates had been built in recent years.

He stressed that the government was committed to protecting the countryside. “We’re going to protect the green belt,” he said. “But people, if they want to have housing for their kids, if they want to bring up their kids in a small house with a garden, they have got to accept we’ve got to build more on some open land.”

The comments look likely to re-open a rift between the government and the countryside lobby, which has campaigned vociferously against the liberalisation of planning laws.

But the pro-development sentiment will be welcomed by house builders, who this week urged chancellor George Osborne to include initiatives to boost construction in next Wednesay’s autumn statement by chancellor George Osborne.

The Home Builders Federation wants the government to free up mortgage lending, expand the definition of affordable housing, crack down on onerous planning conditions and pledge more money to kickstart stalled housing schemes.

Stewart Baseley, executive chairman of the federation, said: “This is a critical opportunity for the government to demonstrate once again its commitment to increase housing supply and boost the economy.

“Over the past year it has introduced a range of positive measures, but more needs to be done to refine those schemes and address other obstacles to home building.”

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Readers' comments (25)

  • Well, I hope most of that 2 - 3% is intended to be in his own constituency.

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  • Well there's plenty of open land around Grantham and Stamford to build on. Obviously a desirable place to live and with the proposal to make it easier to build houses with less planning restrictions the 'NIMBY's can have a field day at his expense.
    There's plenty of open land in urban areas, brown field site, which should be filled first, with government money used to clean them up if needs be.

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  • Here in the East ENd of London, almost every nook and cranny has recently been stuffed with 6 storey blocks of flats, even when next to the motorways or other inappropriate locations. Further homes have to be built elsewhere.
    Let's build a fantastic new city to rival London, with development freedoms & etc to entice people there, and maybe distract some of the foreign billions fuelling property prices in London.

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  • Priority should be given to reviving existing rundown and empty housing and sites in existing communities before contemplating unnecessary despoilation of the countryside

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  • This is the first sensible solution to the housing crisis that I've heard.

    Developing 'brownfield sites' and 'empty homes' can only help to a very small degree, and clearly aren't able to deliver all the housing which is needed. That's what we've been trying, it's not working.

    Or we could just build up instead, and put loads of residential towers - everywhere - but I don't think people would be any more fond of that either.

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  • Build on the green belt! It's unfair to stuff all new developments on undesirable brown field industrial sites. Most people do not want to live in these areas. Existing home owners should stop being so selfish and allow the younger generations to live in nice areas too.

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  • One way and thats up!

    Totally agree with #Peter Scott

    An absurd statement from Nick Boles

    - All we need to do is build on maybe 2-3% over the next 20 years. (once you open the doors there's no turning back!)

    - that doing so would mean another one to two million houses being built. (2m homes yeah right!)

    - the built environment could be more beautiful than the countryside (Is he taking the p*ss now?)

    How about the government invest in existing areas, an easy one is Croydon etc etc etc........

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  • Other generations would have considered it absurd to constrict development to only 9% of the available land. The reason we have absurdly high property values is because we are not building enough of the right dwellings in the areas where people want to buy them. This is not preserving the countryside, it is wrecking the country

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  • A large percentage of new buildings are bought by overseas investors to rent to people who would like to buy but can't.
    It doesnt matter if you build 2 million new homes if they are all bought by overseas investors to rent back to people who would like to buy but can't. Priority for residents perhaps?

    Nick sounds like someone who bought some greenbelt land cheap and is now looking to make good on the deal. How many developers have landbanked greenbelt land and are now looking for a pay day. Stop bashing NIMBYs, they are the community that actually care about where they live.

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  • Another foolish proposal, probably thought up to help some lobbyists get their hands on more land.

    The housing problem isn't due to lack of land, hence the big housebuilders are currently sat on over 400,000 plots of land with planning permission.

    The problem is that they won't build until the markets are right for them. Once mortgage lending improves, then they will build.

    Unless the Conservative minister is proposing that the government carries out the work, shurely shome mishtake.

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