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.

  • Samuel Joy

    I read about Mr Boles’ comments on the way in to work. Whilst I agree with a lot of what he says, and can’t deny that this is a step in the right direction (unlike many of those responding to the article on the BBC site), I am slightly concerned that at some point there’s going to have to be such significant pandering to the powerful lobby groups supporting a) the mainstream builders and b) NIMBY backed pro-Green belt supporters that any progress risks being too piecemeal.

    Whilst I do not believe that the Green Belt is a bad thing, in the contrary it made a lot of sense when it was introduced and the population size was nothing like it is now, I do feel that by saying we won’t build on the green belt, are we missing the big point that houses have to be built were people need/want them i.e. where this is work.

    The Planning Minister refers to not building on the green belt, but on other ‘open spaces’. I just hope these ‘open spaces’ are not the limited open spaces left in UK cities, for it is all well and good to say that brownfield sites in cities should be regenerated, but it might be nice for the millions of city dwellers, as opposed to the minority of countryside dwellers, if these brownfield sites were developed in to clean, open spaces for children to play in, not simply to buy a house in.

  • Andrea Skinner

    My concern is that homes are currently being built without any additional amenities or infrastructure. There is a huge new housing development near my home that was built on the site of an old factory. However the the roads can’t cope with all of the additional traffic that has been generated and there isn’t a single shop, postbox, playground or community centre within walking distance. It’s these things that create a community, if they are missing the area just becomes another faceless commuter estate.

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