Pickles: Britain must remain a green and pleasant land
Britain must remain a “green and pleasant land”, with new housing development instead concentrated on brownfield sites, a Cabinet minister says today.
Eric Pickles, the Communities Secretary, says the Government’s push to increase housebuilding must be focused on land that has already been built on in and around towns, “preserving the best of our countryside”.
To encourage more urban living, the minister will soon unveil new proposals for converting former warehouses and factories into new homes for families
Mr Pickles’ comments, in a Telegraph article, come after George Osborne announced a fresh Government drive to build hundreds of thousands of new homes to help bring balance to the UK property market.
The Treasury’s determination to increase house building levels has raised fears that more green land could be built on. Property developers prefer to build on rural land because it is often cheaper and easier than redeveloping urban sites.
Building on brownfield land will allow the Government to reconcile the need for more houses with the protection of the countryside, Mr Pickles pledges.
“We’ve always been a green and pleasant land: and we must stay that way, preserving the best of our countryside and other green spaces. But we’ve also been facing a serious housing shortage in this country, and we’ve got to increase supply in line with demand. I’m determined that we rise to that challenge without building unnecessarily on undeveloped land. The way to do that is to use brownfield better,” he writes.
Earlier this week, the Chancellor vowed to unleash an “urban planning revolution” by changing planning rules to “remove all the obstacles” that prevent the development of brownfield sites.
Under new rules councils will be required to create pre-approved planning permissions – or local development orders (LDOs) – on derelict sites in towns and cities to make it quicker for builders to start work.
Officials estimate that 90 per cent of brownfield sites should be covered by fast-track planning rules by 2020. That could result in planning permission for 200,000 new homes by the end of the decade, ministers say.
“It makes more sense to have new homes in existing urban areas, where people have easy access to the jobs, shops, transport and service on offer,” Mr Pickles said. “And with careful management of public services and transport, existing residents benefit too, from regeneration and new investment in infrastructure.”
Previous Government initiatives to boost building have alarmed countryside campaigners, but the focus on brownfield sites pleased former critics like the National Trust.
Ingrid Samuel, the Trust’s historic environment director, said: “We have called for state investment to get difficult brownfield sites ready for development, and so we welcome moves in this direction from Government – and the clear recognition from the Chancellor of the need to protect valued countryside.
However, the Town and Country Planning Association (TCPA) expressed concern at the prospect of councils losing more power over development decisions.
“Developing brownfield land is vital but removing planning control will lead to a legacy of low quality housing as local authorities may not be able to apply the necessary high standards to development,” the group said.
“The TCPA also fears that this policy could have a disproportionate and highly negative effect on places and communities outside London and the South East, particularly in the north of England where much larger areas of land are classified as brownfield.”
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