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Boles says build on boring fields

June 24, 2013 3:38 PM
By Trevor Carbin

Nick Boles, the Planning Minister, has said developers should be allowed to build on fields if they are "boring".

In a letter to Anna Soubry, the Health Minister, he said people must be realistic about the need for more housing, which will mean building on "environmentally uninteresting" green spaces. Mrs Soubry had warned Eric Pickles' Communities Department that housing was being built on the Green Belt despite assurances from David Cameron that it will be protected. She described the situation as "intolerable" and said that planning inspectors were over-riding local decisions and forcing councils to accept more housing including on Green Belt land.

Mrs Soubry wrote: "Assurances about localism and continuing protection for the Green Belt at ministerial level are flying in the face of advice from the inspectors leaving local authorities with no alternative but to agree to development on Green Belt land." Mr Boles, responding on behalf of Mr Pickles, said: "Given a 2million increase in our population over the last ten years and historic under-provision of housing we have to be realistic that not all the housing that we as a country need can be on brownfield land. In some places, this may mean building on low quality, environmentally uninteresting fields. In exceptional circumstances, it may involve a Green Belt review."

The story was headlined by the Telegraph on Saturday, with 'Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty' mentioned as possibly coming under the 'boring and buildable' category.

Comment. There is a housing crisis and we need more homes. Developers like to build on green fields because they're cheap and easy to develop and easy to sell at high prices. Houses on so-called 'brownfield sites' are difficult and expensive to build out, are generally located in less fashionable areas, and are less profitable overall. Development plans often allocate a mixture of greenfield and brownfield sites. For example if developers are given 50% greenfield and 50% brownfield allocations, they'll tend to build on the fields and then come back asking for more fields to build on.

A large part of the housing crisis would disappear if existing planning permissions were implemented, and if existing housing stock were used properly. The day may come when we have to go into existing Green Belt and AONBs but we're a long way from that at the moment - unless of course the government just rolls over and gives the large housing developers what they want instead of following sensible plan-led policies and allowing local councils and local people to influence development in their area.

Did you know:

1. Most opposition to house-building comes from people who live in houses.

2. The first Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty was set up in 1956. Before that time beauty was in the eye of the beholder, but now it's defined and delineated by the Men from the Ministry.