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Minister Nick Boles: 'Homes must be built in country'

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: November 29, 2012

Minister Nick Boles: 'Homes must be built in country'

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The countryside is vulnerable if Britain is to solve the housing crisis, a Government minister has warned.

Planning Minister Nick Boles said just 9% of land is developed, and a surge in building of up to 3% will make huge strides in ensuring people are not priced out of the market.

The Conservative MP added people had to realise that good developments could be as attractive as open countryside.

Devon and Cornwall are blighted by social housing waiting lists and rocketing house prices that mean homes in attractive rural communities are as unaffordable as in London. But a series of developments have faced resistance from critics fearing the concreting over of the region's countryside.

In an interview with BBC's Newsnight due to be aired last night, Mr Boles says: "We're going to protect the greenbelt but if people want to have housing for their kids they have got to accept we need to build more on some open land."

He insisted everyone had "the right to live somewhere that is not just affordable but that is beautiful and has some green space nearby". That was "a basic moral right, like healthcare and education".

Westcountry MPs were last night wary. Andrew George, Liberal Democrat MP for St Ives, cautioned against a building a "developer's paradise". But Geoffrey Cox, Conservative MP for West Devon and Torridge, welcomed a relaxation of planning rules so long as it did not result in an "indiscriminate splurge".

Addressing so-called "Nimbys" – opponents to de velopment that argue "Not in my back yard" – Mr Boles said: "It's my job to make the arguments to these people that if they carry on writing letters their kids are never going to get a place with a garden to bring up their grandkids.

"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...

"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."

Mr Boles said he did not want "lazy" builders to build "pig ugly" houses, and urged them to work with local communities.

"Land is expensive but to some extent (developers) are just lazy," he said.

"They didn't talk to local people or get involved enough. But also it's just bloody expensive to build because land is expensive."

The Government faced stiff opposition when ministers proposed slashing more than 1,000 pages of planning policy to just 52, which they managed to get through after a series of compromises.

Ministers have also had to deny claims that they want to scrap the "green belt" – officially designated land ring-fenced from urban sprawl. Devon and Cornwall has no green belt, however.

St Ives MP Mr George said: "Cornwall has more than doubled its housing stock in the last 40 years but the housing problem has got worse.

"Nick Boles does not appear to have twigged that for some parts of the country simply building more houses is not the answer. We need clever development not just any development."

West Devon and Torridge MP Mr Cox said: "I support relaxing some of the planning laws in the countryside.

"The question is what the minister means. If what he wants is an indiscriminate splurge I would be extremely reluctant to see that. If he means a relaxation so that we can tackle housing shortages for people in rural communities and market towns I would support that. As ever with planning, the devil is in the detail."

Shaun Spiers, Campaign for the Protection of Rural England's chief executive, said: "Rather than giving up on good planning and allowing housebuilders to let rip, we should be re-using the tens of thousands of hectares of brownfield land available for high quality affordable housing, and strengthening protection for recognised 'tranquil' areas of countryside."

Hilary Benn, Labour's Shadow Secretary for Local Government, said: "We need to identify land for new homes, but it will be much harder to get that consent if communities feel they are being forced into accepting development."

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  • paigntonres  |  November 30 2012, 6:14PM

    Hi DougBrett what has "indigenous population" got to do with anything? Our politicians will import more people so that we need to build more houses. That is the only way they can see to get the economy going again! Very unimaginative and short sighted.

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  • JJLee  |  November 29 2012, 4:29PM

    Fully agree Sue200 services are the thing taking a beating and with the cuts just when they needed to expand it is turning us into a third world nation. Thanks Mr Brown

  • josdave  |  November 29 2012, 3:57PM

    There are thousands of brown field sites crying out for development and yet the developers are only interested in building on good arable land. With the relaxation of the planning laws by their friends in the Tory party they will get carte blanche to build wherever they want. How the government can expect farmers to produce more food while at the same time giving permission to concrete over thousands of acres of good farmland is beyond me.

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  • cornishexile  |  November 29 2012, 1:58PM

    There's not a housing shortage - there are simply too many people in this country!

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  • DougBrett  |  November 29 2012, 1:43PM

    With a TFR of only 1.8 the indigenous population of this country is steadily declining and will have halved in the next 50 years (govt statistics). Exactly who will be needing all these new homes?

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  • Sue200  |  November 29 2012, 1:25PM

    And, where are the jobs coming from to support these people in all these homes? I would have thought the best way forward was to put jobs in place, services in place and then build the homes. Or is that just too plain simple for our politicians?

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  • pandddawso  |  November 29 2012, 1:08PM

    I grew up in the Teign Estuary, a heavenly spot surrounded by some of the most picturesque landscape in the world. My hobby was painting landscapes. I never expected to have a house or a job in the area - like all my friends, after leaving school I went and did 40 years on the treadmill in the Big Wide World. They were 40 years of blood, sweat and tears, but I stuck it out, supported by the hope that I'd be able to buy my way back into a home on the Estuary and carry on with my painting. Now I've done it, retired, got myself a house in Teignmouth and started painting, but now all the people who just stayed here are saying that somebody should provide them with 'affordable' homes and the beautiful countryside doesn't matter. Surely I'm not the only person who feels this is a tad unfair?

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  • accom  |  November 29 2012, 12:07PM

    Didn't realise Nick Knowles was an MP.

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  • Stork  |  November 29 2012, 10:13AM

    Any new "affordable " housing in the South West should be like a version I read about some time ago in North Wales. There, some villages and hamlets have 75% second home ownership, much more than the South West. The councils' up there have established a method whereby "affordable " housing is purchased via a housing association, and if you buy one, you can only sell it back to the housing association, with a slight appreciation worked out by a council approved inflation index. Therefore, you buy one of these houses to "live in-as a home", rather than buy one to make " loadsofmoney". That's the way forward. With this method, the " affordable" housing shortage problem could be solved. There is no other way. If needed, this method could be taken a step further and "some" agricultural land could be compulsory purchased, in small units, which would reduce the price of "affordable" houses even more.

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