Patronising Boles Suffers Heckling at CPRE AGM

Telegraph

The row broke out as Mr Boles, who has aggressively been trying to increase the number of new homes built across England, addressed the annual meeting of the Campaign to Protect Rural England, which has fought the Government’s decision to relax planning rules.

He took issue with a report in The Daily Telegraph last year which – quoting Local Government Assocation figures – showed that there were over 400,000 plots with planning permission in England.

Mr Boles said: “There are only 120,000 units worth of land in ‘land banks’ with planning permission where building is not happening. That is half of what we need to build every single year.”

Mr Boles told one CPRE member that “it is no good shaking your head”, but others shouted at him that the figures were “untrue” and he was being“so simplistic”. One shouted from the back: “It’s about time you listened to other people.”

The heckling is thought to be the first time that Mr Boles has publicly had to face the anger caused in communities across England over the Government’s decision to rewrite the planning rule book with a bias in favour of sustainable development.

There was more anger among the CPRE members when Mr Boles said he wished England was more like Germany, where property prices are low because more land is released for building.

Banging the lectern, Mr Boles said: “Look at Germany where real house prices have been constant for 30 years, where houses have got bigger, better designed, more beautiful, more eco-friendly.

“Why? Because they release enough land, to build enough houses, to meet demand. Nobody is doing what we crazily do which is put all of our income into houses, bank our whole retirement into the value of our house – it is completely nuts.”

This prompted more heckles from the CPRE members, and two walked out. Outside the first member, who declined to be named, said: “He is not listening.”

The second CPRE member, Richard Nicholls from Dorset, added: “The man does not understand what planning is about. The man is a fool.”

In his speech Mr Boles had told the CPRE that blocking new housing developments was slowly condemning rural villages to be “museum exhibits, not so much protected as embalmed”.

He said: “How do we protect rural England – not I am sure by paralysing the rural economy and squeezing the life out of village communities.

“Yet in many parts of the country this is what has been happening. In Devon, Cornwall, Shropshire, Sussex, the Cotwolds and the Yorkshire Dales some villages are inches away from becoming forever fossilised.

The homes were so highly prized that local people “could not afford even the tiniest cottage”.

Villages in these areas were beautiful certainly but “somehow sanitised, with all the stone walls recently re-pointed and the most humble of doors recently repainted in the greys and greens from Farrow and Ball: perfectly preserved but strangely lifeless.

“What these villages need is some noise, bustle, young blood, teenagers kicking a ball around after school, teenagers sitting on a wall nervously flirting, young mothers and fathers reaching for a pint in the local after an hour digging the vegetable patch or doing the ironing.”

If people were not around to mend the church roof then “it isn’t a community it’s a museum exhibit, not so much protected as embalmed”.

In an earlier speech to builders Mr Boles said that allowing large scale poorly designed housing developments near existing communities can damage house prices.

In remarks to the National House Building Council, he said badly designed new homes “undermined” property prices. He said: “If you design better places, if you design more beautiful buildings, communities will release land for development.”

People would not “object quite so fiercely if they think that the thing that is going to come down the end of their road is something that might actually add to their house value not undermine it”.

Speaking at the CPRE meeting, the organisation’s chairman Sir Andrew Motion branded Mr Boles as “Boles the Builder”.

Sir Andrew said: “He leapfrogs brownfield sites and lands with a bricky crunch in the open countryside.He speaks up for green field housing estates rather than the green fields themselves.”

Sir Andrew added that “the reasons to speak up for the green belt have become more and more urgent” as councils come under pressure to provide more land for building.

[blob] People will not be able to use the Government’s help to buy mortgage guarantee scheme to buy second homes, the Treasury said.

Borrowers will be forced to make an explicit declaration that they have no financial interest in another property.

In the speech – the issued version not mentioning landbanking or Germany, Boles almost entirely focused on affordable housing in villages, which CPRE are in favour of.  It was like turning up to a WI conference and lecturing them on how they shoudl adopt better jam making techniques – patronising in the extreme.

Where does Boles get his landbanking figures from – he he updated figures from the OFT report since the recession?  Perhaps an FOI is in order.  Given the stats show that The average time taken to complete a private development has risen from 20 months in 2007-08 to 25 months in 2011-12. In London it is 30 months, its uggests that the a crack down on land abnking could increasde completions by a fifth to a third, in London Boris Johnson has stated that  showed that 45 per cent of all land with planning permission in London was held by actors who had no intention of building on it.

2 thoughts on “Patronising Boles Suffers Heckling at CPRE AGM

  1. Pingback: Blanc, Boles and Motion: three speeches | CPRE viewpoint

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