We HAVE to build on the countryside to solve Britain's 'massive' housing crisis, says CameronDavid Cameron made clear that greenfield sites would have to disappear
for new homes to be builtAnd he said the Government would continue to push for the planning system to be speeded up to allow new development
08:33 GMT, 12 December 2012
Controversial: Large areas of the countryside will have to be built on to solve Britain's 'massive' housing crisis, David Cameron said yesterday
Large areas of the countryside will have to be built on to solve Britain’s ‘massive’ housing crisis, David Cameron said yesterday.
The Prime Minister backed planning minister Nick Boles, who caused fury last month by saying the Government needs to concrete over an area of greenfield land twice the size of Greater London.
Mr Cameron said it was not a target to build on 3 per cent more of Britain’s land – the figure outlined by Mr Boles – but he made clear that greenfield sites would have to disappear for new homes to be built.
And he said the Government would continue to push for the planning system to be speeded up to allow new development.
Mr Boles had said that about 9 per cent of land was currently developed in the UK and ‘all we need to do is build on another 2 to 3 per cent of land’ to solve the housing crisis. He was condemned by Andrew Motion, the former poet laureate who is president of the Campaign to Protect Rural England, as ‘incredibly irresponsible’.
But Mr Cameron went to his defence yesterday, telling MPs that Mr Boles was ‘honest and honourable’ to make his statement.
He said: ‘He was trying to give an exemplification of the scale of the problem. It is not Government policy to set a target of the percentage of land to be built on. That 3 per cent is not going to form a target.
‘He was making an honest and honourable point that if we want to build more houses in Britain – and we have a massive housing shortage – we will on occasion have to build on some greenfield sites.
‘We will have to see planning permissions go ahead. That is a very correct thing to say. We have to be honest about that.’
In another controversial move Mr Cameron also backed the use of fracking technology to extract shale gas, saying Britain should ‘keep an open mind’ about the proposals, which critics fear could cause mini earthquakes and blight the landscape.
Firm: Mr Cameron made clear that greenfield sites would have to disappear for new homes to be built
He said: ‘I think it would be a big risk just to ignore what is happening in the gas market. We should have an open mind and we should take part in fracking and unconventional gas because this might be a revolution that we should be involved in.
‘If we ignored it completely, you could be giving your economy much higher energy prices than is necessary.’
Mr Cameron said the Government wanted to hand greater control to local neighbourhoods to decide the number and kind of houses to be built in their areas.
But he also said communities should be given incentives to accept new developments such as onshore windfarms – a plan the Government is currently consulting on.
Mr Cameron made his comments as he was quizzed by MPs on the Commons Liaison Committee. In the two-hour appearance he also appeared to give ground over the Government’s plans for secret courts.
Ministers suffered a series of humiliating defeats in the House of Lords earlier this month over plans to hold civil proceedings behind closed doors in terrorism cases.
Peers demanded that judges, not politicians, should decide whether evidence from the intelligence services should be heard in public.
‘We want to accept as many amendments as possible without wrecking the central tenets of the bill,’ Mr Cameron said.
He insisted he would not make policy on the hoof, but appeared to accept the principle that judges should be in charge.