Andrew Motion Criticises ‘Right to Sprawl’ But only by Redefining ‘Sprawl’ so it is Meaningless

Writing in the Daily Mail

CPRE has warned repeatedly about the Coalition’s planning policies, arguing that they have made England’s countryside – our priceless national inheritance – more vulnerable than ever.

But the situation is even more worrying now the Opposition has jumped on the same bandwagon: for their ‘right to grow’, read ‘right to sprawl’. 

The solution to our urgent housing needs is not to smear housing estates across open countryside, even if they are dolled up as ‘eco-towns’ or ‘garden cities’.

Especially since they probably won’t be affordable to those most in need of a home.

Only by concentrating a building programme on England’s 1.5 million brownfield sites can we meet our triple need: to save the countryside, revitalise our cities, and provide the necessary increase in new homes.

Whilst sharing concern about loss of countryside this is total unmitigated nonsense which undermines his case.  Where does Sir Andrew get the figure of 1.5 million brownfield sites?  He must be making it up.  The official NLUD database shows there is in South East of England brownfield sites suitable for housing for around 250,000 houses around one years national supply.  Some green field sites are inevitable.  The only way you could get anything like 1.5 milluon is by demolishing every none house in the UK, every shop, school, office, warehouse and factory.  And then where would the new houses, shops, schools etc. be built…err the countryside?    Sir Andrew seems to be suggesting that all greenfield sites are ‘sprawl’ irrespective of the design, intensity and sustainability of the housing or the location suitability or sensitivity of the site.  In losing all critical faculties he might as well describe Dan Brownas great literature.  So if all greenfield sites are sprawl and some such ‘sprawl’ is inevitable what then is the case against it.  Politicians might then conclude sprawl is good tea party style.

This is why when the CPRE resorts to dodgy data and extreme arguments pandering only the the UKIP vote and gutteral uninformed arguments about the real hard choices planning must make it places itself outside the real of civilized discourse that a man of letters should be championing.   His attempts to redefine sprawl to mean any bad housing is as disengenous as the Policy Exchanges attenpts to redefine any bad housing as a Grden City.   It diverts attention from the unnecessary pro-sprawl (defined as low density build what you like where you like as opposed to planned urban regeneration, eco-communities and Garden Cities) bias of national planning policy and what the realistic alternatives, which still get the houses we need built, are.


5 thoughts on “Andrew Motion Criticises ‘Right to Sprawl’ But only by Redefining ‘Sprawl’ so it is Meaningless

  1. There seems to be a general communication gap between urban professionals and governments/policy makers. I work in India and we also see a huge bias towards pro-sprawl planning. Here, of course, this is explained by the obsession with leveraging lad as a resource. Eating up the countryside feeds the huge greed for profiting from information asymmetry created in the land use planning process. I am not familiar with the UK, but I was interested to read this anyways. Clearly, we urgently need policy makers to take the long-term view. Is that a contradiction?

    • Of course that is not what Sir Andrew said and he should issue a correction he referred to 1.5 million sites. Of coourse there are not 1.5 million sites. The Green Balence report talked of stock and flow over many years, Sir Andrew was talking in the present tense. Even with those assumptions needing 300,000 or so homes a year to meet need and backlog even with the Green Balence figures you woould need to build around 40% of housing on greenfield sites. So why should not the CPRE support well located and designed Garden Cities etc. to fill the Gaap. A simple question Shaun, where should the 60,000 or so shortfall for meeting housing need in Sussex be met based on Shmas and shallas which have considered every suitable brownfield sie?

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