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Campaign group slams Nick Boles' 'provocative and unnecessary' plans to build new homes

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Campaign group slams Nick Boles' 'provocative and unnecessary' plans to build new homes

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Published by Max Salsbury for 24dash.com in Housing and also in Central Government, Communities, Development

Countryside Countryside

The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) has slammed planning minister Nick Boles' call to increase England's urbanised area by up to 3%.

CPRE claims Mr Boles' vision is "provocative and unnecessary, and casts a shadow over at least 25% of our undisturbed countryside".

Mr Boles told the BBC's Newsnight that between one and two million new homes could be built over the next 20 years if 2-3% of the country's "open land" was developed.

Shaun Spiers, chief executive of CPRE, said: "We do need to build many more new homes in this country and some will have to go on greenfield sites. Nick Boles does not appear to know how much of England is really built on. Nor does he seem to understand that the countryside does not always have to be outstandingly beautiful to be worth protecting. It is equally crucial that people have places to enjoy peace and tranquillity, as the Government’s own National Planning Policy Framework recognises.

The minister will make a speech before the Town & Country Planning Association tomorrow, during which he will say that many new housing developments are "pig-ugly".

According to The Telegraph, Mr Boles will tell members that: "People look at the new housing estates that have been bolted on to their towns and villages in recent decades and observe that few of them are beautiful.

"Indeed not to put too fine a point on it, many of them are pig-ugly. Like Harrisons Wharf in Purfleet that I visited last week.

“I am sure the flats inside are nice enough but they occupy an overbearing and unbroken slab of dismal brickwork that is an insult to the community it borders, cutting it off from a stretch of the River Thames which, in Victorian times, attracted day-trippers from London keen to take a pleasant walk along banks of the river.”

CPRE says that it agrees with Mr Boles' that new homes need to be built and that the quality of new builds should be improved, but disagrees that using more green land will fix the housing crisis.

Shaun Spiers continued: “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. That is the best way to a lasting economic recovery.

"When he was running a think tank, Nick Boles specialised in interesting if somewhat unrealistic ideas. He is no longer an intellectual gadfly. He is a Minister with a serious job and it is time that he got serious."

However, Mr Boles has received support from the National Housing Federation. Chief executive, David Orr, said: “We need well designed, good-quality developments in which people want to live and work.

“With around 240,000 new households forming every year, we are building only about half the number of new homes we need each year. We desperately need to build significantly more new homes now.

“Not only will this provide homes for our sons and daughters, it will also create jobs. And there’s no reason it should damage the countryside: a handful of homes can turn a village around by helping keep a local shop, pub or school open.

“This need not be the planning free-for-all many fear. Public bodies are holding small pockets of brownfield land that can accommodate nearly 37,500 homes that we can build on which would create 55,000 construction jobs. Government should rapidly enable the release of these small parcels of land so we can get building and get our economy moving.”

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