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U.K. Should Open Up a Third More Land for Houses, Minister Says

November 28, 2012

The U.K. will need to increase the amount of land given over to housing by a third if people are to claim their “basic moral right” to live in a house with a garden, Planning Minister Nick Boles said.

Britain’s housing shortage would be solved if people dropped their objections to building on greenfield sites, Boles said in an interview with BBC Television’s “Newsnight” show to be broadcast tonight.

“We’re going to protect the greenbelt but if people want to have housing for their kids they have to accept we need to build more on some open land,” Boles said, according to extracts of the interview posted on the BBC’s website. “In the U.K. and England at the moment we’ve got about 9 percent of land developed. All we need to do is build on another 2-3 percent of land and we’ll have solved a housing problem.”

Objectors need to be convinced that developers will build beautiful homes rather than the “ugly rubbish” typically built in new housing estates, Boles said. Prime Minister David Cameron’s plans for building 150,000 affordable homes over four years are less than a third of what is needed, said Shelter, a housing charity, citing government data showing that 654,000 households in England and Wales were overcrowded in 2009.

The Campaign to Protect Rural England said there are enough brownfield sites, where there has been previous development, for 1.5 million new homes and Boles’s call to build on green fields is “provocative and unnecessary.” Business groups welcomed Boles’s encouragement for development.

“It is encouraging for the construction sector and for business as a whole to have a planning minister who recognizes the importance of new development,” Corin Taylor, economic adviser at the Institute of Directors, said in an e-mailed statement. “The U.K. population is rising, so it is utterly unrealistic to simply hope people will disappear or cram themselves into ever smaller divisions of the existing housing stock.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Thomas Penny in London at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: James Hertling at

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