Last week, I blogged about Planning Minister Nick Boles’s call to build over the countryside. I pointed out that it makes no sense to pave over open lands, which would be lost forever, when there is so much capacity to get building within our existing cities.
Since then, Boles’s suggestion has elicited condemnation from both left and right. Yesterday, the Observer‘s front page featured Andrew Motion, head of the Campaign to Protect Rural England, lambasting Boles’s comments as “incredible irresponsible”. Motion said, “we know what will happen if this goes through: builders will slap up new estates in the most desirable places; they will snap up prime land in addition to the vast tracts of undeveloped land they own already.”
The criticism heightened this morning, when The Times reported that Boles is quickly becoming a “hate figure” even within his own party., and the minister was denounced by Tory MP Bob Stewart.
The most astute article on the dangerous implications of Boles’s comments was an editorial from the Telegraph, which characterised them as a “recipe for senseless sprawl”. Like others, the piece raised questions about Boles’s fitness for the job, pointing out that he “has given the impression of being someone who sees planning as an impediment to prosperity rather than a balancing act between the competing requirements of economic growth and preserving the countryside for future generations.”
The rounding opposition sparked by Boles’s statement is reassuring. The planning minister offers a vision of an England peppered with unsustainable housing estates, where people rely on their car for everything from getting to work to the weekly shop. This clearly isn’t an England the people want.