One of the more surprising facts I’ve come across in 15 years or so writing about housing is that just 9% of land in the UK is developed. You’ll be forgiven for thinking that the exact opposite is true if you listen to many commentators on the matter, or read much of the mainstream press – the overarching dialogue is about ‘overcrowded’ Britain ‘bursting at the seams’ and, that old favourite, ‘concreting over the countryside.’
Nothing could be further from the truth. The new Planning Minister, Nick Boles, last night called for more open land to be used to build houses in order to solve our housing crisis. And, yes, I can hear you now – what housing crisis? That’s all very well for those of us in large houses with good gardens and who were fortunate enough to buy houses before the turn of the millennium, but for our children, buying a good house with a good garden at a reasonable price is a distant dream.
The comments that Boles made. I have to say that they are hugely impressive and ambitious – and to be applauded by us all.
“Much current housebuilding is ugly rubbish”
“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.”
“Having a house with a garden was a “basic moral right, like healthcare and education. There’s a right to a home with a little bit of ground around it to bring your family up in.”
The dream for self-build is the ability to build a well-designed, energy-efficient, family home with a good garden. If Boles can deliver on his rhetoric, we will be really getting somewhere.