MP Nick Boles says build on open land to tackle housing shortage

Nick Boles MP
Nick Boles MP

Stamford and Bourne MP Nick Boles says the area of developed land in England should be increased by a third to solve the housing problem.

Mr Boles, who was made planning minister in a cabinet reshuffle in September, says increasing the area of developed land by a third would involve building on another two to three per cent of the land in England. He made the comments to BBC Newsnight for a programme which airs tonight (Wednesday) at 10.30pm.

He said in the interview: “People have got to accept that we’ve got to build more on some open land”

“We’re going to protect the greenbelt but if people want to have housing for their kids they have to accept we need to build more on some open land.

“In the UK and England at the moment we’ve got about nine per cent of land developed. All we need to do is build on another two to three per cent of land and we’ll have solved a housing problem.”

Mr Boles also called for “beautiful” housing to be built that was sensitive to its local area quoting Stamford as an example of attractive housing.

Talking about Stamford the planning minister said: “Local tradespeople... decided they wanted to build nice places to live.

“We’ve somehow forgotten to do that, which is why people object to us building on open farm and land - they build ugly rubbish. If we remember to build places like Stamford, people won’t mind us building in fields.”

He added: “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.”

The MP added everyone had the right to “live somewhere that is not just affordable but that is beautiful and has some green space nearby”.

A report last year from the Institute of Public Policy Research warned that England faced a housing supply ‘black hole’ by 2025 when England will face a shortfall of 750,000 homes.

People have already been commenting on Twitter:

@rutlandblog said: “Stupid, dangerous view. Result would be decaying cities ruled by gangs, suburban sprawls with no community focus.”

@caroleatgoxhill tweeted: “There is far too little open land already. Build upwards, not outwards, especially business building.”

Phil Thompson, of Yarwell, e-mailed to say: “There are precedents like Cambourne for building new towns / villages in open land. There are vast tracts of farmland beside the A1, M11 and A14 (to name but three) and if the country needs the houses to accommodate its population then we either need to build the houses or control the population growth so we live within our means.

“It will always be controversial I guess, but there are disused RAF airfields where you could build a village in the middle.”

What do you think about Mr Boles’ comments? E-mail the newsdesk.