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Planning minister Nick Boles becomes Tory 'hate figure' with plan to build on two million acres of countrysideCall to build on 'another 2 to 3% of land' sparks backlash from Conservative votersTory MP Bob Stewart says the government should focus on developing brownfield sites
13:30 GMT, 3 December 2012
High demand: Planning Minister Nick Boles warned 100,000 new homes will be built to accommodate the expanding British population
A plan to build on two million acres
of countryside to solve Britain’s housing crisis has made planning
minister Nick Boles a Tory ‘hate figure’, it was claimed today.
The outspoken minister, promoted by
David Cameron in this autumn’s reshuffle, claimed ‘another 2 to 3 per
cent of land’ needed to be developed to meet soaring demand for housing
fuelled by immigration.
But Tory MP Bob Stewart revealed voters in his Beckenham constituency are furious at the idea,
insisting homes should be built on brownfield sites which have been
Last week Mr Boles said migrants accounted for almost
half of the housing demand, and his figures suggest 100,000 new homes a
year will be needed to accommodate them. The minister added: ‘We can’t
go on like this.’
conservationists by saying up to two million acres of green fields may
have to be concreted over to deal with the housing shortage.
Now he is at risk of sparking a Tory revolt among MPs with rural constituencies and voters who do not want to see more development.
Mr Stewart told The Times: ‘Boles is rapidly becoming a hate figure. ‘They would much prefer building on brownfield sites.’
Mr Boles is the first government minister to draw a clear link between housing demand and the legacy of Labour’s open-door immigration policy.
He said: ‘The fact is – and I am critical of the last government’s immigration policies – we allowed the population of this country to expand dramatically.
‘The population of England has gone up by two million in the last ten years. These people now live here, these people are now British and they need homes just like other British people.
‘The fact is, 43 per cent of the new households which want a home, is accounted for by immigration.
‘We can’t go on like this. We need to have less immigration and more house-building and we might then have a civilised country.’
Mr Boles warned the scale of demand
meant large swathes of countryside would have to be sacrificed, because
there were not enough empty homes or developed sites.
But conservationist have accused him of advocating unnecessary development of irreplaceable beauty spots.
Sue Holden, chief executive of the
Woodland Trust, said: 'Mr Boles does not only ignore existing land
availability, he fails to recognise that some aspects of nature are
'Unlike new buildings, ancient
woodland cannot be recreated. We are told by the Government that
economic growth and environmental enhancement can go hand in hand but
this kind of statement does little to promote confidence in its
commitment to a balanced approach.'
At risk: With a lack of both empty homes and developed sites where new homes could be built, Green Belt land may have to be sacrificed
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said
last month that the number of households was forecast to expand at the
rate of 230,000 a year. The figure supplied by Mr Boles suggests that
immigration will account for almost 100,000 of the total.
Clegg said total house building amounted to just 117,000 last year,
adding: ‘There’s only one way out of this housing crisis: We have to
build our way out.’
Mr Boles angered conservationists by suggesting the total area of land under development should be increased by a third to ease the housing shortage.
He said ministers would protect the Green Belt, but warned that large areas of ‘open land’ may have to be given over for housing. And he hit out at developers for building ‘pig ugly’ housing estates that deter communities from accepting any new development.
‘We’re going to protect the Green Belt but if people want to have housing for their kids they have got to accept we need to build more on some open land,’ Mr Boles said.
‘In the UK and England at the moment we’ve got about 9 per cent of land developed. All we need to do is build on another 2 to 3 per cent of land and we’ll have solved a housing problem.’
The National Trust accused Mr Boles of making up figures ‘on the back of a fag packet’, while the Campaign to Protect Rural England said his proposals were a licence to developers to ‘let rip’.