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We think that planning Minister Nick Boles’s call to increase the urbanised area of England is provocative and unnecessary – and casts a shadow over at least 25% of our undisturbed countryside.
He is calling for an increase in the area of built up land in England to 12% from what he claims is the current figure of 9%. Yet Government figures show that 12% of England’s land area is already built on – the third highest figure in Europe after Belgium and Holland. Research by CPRE has shown that this level of urbanisation has impacts well beyond this area, to the point where only 50% of English countryside is currently perceived to be truly undisturbed by urban intrusion.
We agree that we need to build more houses, and that the quality of new house-building should be improved. But we disagree that using more and more green land for house-building will solve current problems with the housing market.
There are enough previously developed ‘brownfield’ sites already available for 1.5 million new homes. Mr Boles should forget about unrealistic think-tank schemes to concrete across the countryside, and make it his priority to do more to redevelop these sites, to reuse empty homes for affordable housing and to pressure house-builders to get on with putting up the 400,000 homes for which they already have planning permission.