Boles – old People to Blame for Green Belt Loss


Boles seems to make the basic mistake of conflating population and household growth here as of course household growth can rise whilst population is falling.  Aging also has an effect on household growth because of the ‘flow’ effect of the reduced number of households released for sale or reletting.  But of course from many confused statements we know Boles cannot distinguish between stocks and flows.  Mps seem also to think that some brand new method has been dreamt up to calculate targets.  The method has been essentially the same for two decades.  All that has changed is that now LPAs in a housing market area calculate it cooperatively whereas before they calculated it cooperatively under the discipline and aegis of a regional planning convention (big deal methodologically however the new system adds around 5 years to log jams because of disagreements under the duty to cooperate).  I note the charge that targets were arbitrary and too high was exactly the charge made by pickles before the last election.  Mps however are more on the right track when they accuse the NPPF system of being ‘planning anarchy’, ‘developer led’ and a ‘free for all’ – when their is no local plan in place – local plan in place – exactly what we predicted on his blog on many occasions.  Of course you can argue that a discipline to ensure to meet targets where LPAs are slow but that is no excuse for allowing a first come first served approach when there are much better sites.  Mps would be wise to fucus their attacks.  Are they against housing or against housing in the wrong place.


The planning minister singled out the rise of four-generation families for an “intense” housing crisis, saying a rapidly-ageing population was putting greater pressure on the housing market than mass immigration.

Mr Boles, speaking at a Westminster Hall debate in Parliament, faced a major backlash from Tory MPs who warned the party was haemorrhaging votes after creating “planning anarchy” that would “destroy our open countryside”.

But Mr Boles said the new targets for land supply for housing imposed on councils are too low, and said there are no longer enough brownfield sites to meet demand.

Southern England and some northern towns face an intense “housing crisis” that has left children in overcrowded homes and two-thirds of first time buyers relying on help from wealthy parents, Mr Boles said.

“Our population has grown and we have not built enough houses to keep pace with it.

“How many people now are part of families in which four generations are alive? Quite a lot of people. It used to be very rare that there was a great grandparent or a great-grandchild in family. It is now very common because people are living longer and they don’t all want to live in the same house.”

Mr Boles said he would “love” to avoid building on open countryside, but one in three developments must now take place on greenbelt land because many brownfield sites are in areas where people do not want to live.

Mr Boles faced a succession of furious Conservative backbenchers, who said the government was imposing too high housing targets on local authorities, forcing them to designate greenbelt land for housing.

“Our policies on housing are losing us many votes in rural areas,” said Laurence Robertson, MP, who said “arbitrary” targets had been set in an attempt to “engineer a recovery”.

Nick Herbert, the former policing minister, said the reforms were “developer-led” and “effectively allow for a free-for-all on our countryside”.

They risked undermining ministers’ promises to grant more power to communities under the localism agenda, he added.

Stewart Andrew, Conservative MP for Pudsey, Horsforth & Aireborough, said the greenbelt in his constituency risked being “ravaged” by overly high housing targets that demanded 74,000 new homes. Eighty per cent will have to go on green fields.

“The precious places that are the lungs within our communities, the natural barriers between our towns and villages and the green borders between the cities of Leeds and Bradford will all be gone,” he said.

Sir Tony Baldry, MP for Banbury, said a development had been allowed on greenbelt land in his constituency after Mr Boles approved an appeal by developers, against the wishes of the local council.

“What the Secretary of State has allowed is a first-come, first served policy, with planning permission given to whichever developers happen to get their applications in first. This is planning anarchy,” he said.

Martin Horwood, the Liberal Democrat MP for Cheltenham, said his town had been hit by unfairly high housing targets because of “insatiable” demand from housebuyers who want to send their children to good local schools.

But Mr Boles insisted his housing targets are too low for Britain’s growing population, and councils must be forced by Whitehall to prepare for newcomers.

“It is not that there are hugely inflated demand figures being put into local plans, adding up to something way ahead of what we need.”

He added: “We don’t say to the NHS provide as many GPs as you can afford right now. We say to the NHS, work out how many GPs are needed. The same is true of housing sites.”


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