The Green Party has warned against ‘riding roughshod over the British countryside’ to address the UK’s chronic housing shortage after planning minister Nick Boles stated that the amount of developed land in England should be increased by a third .
Speaking on the BBC’s Newsnight, Boles claims that the proportion of England’s developed land should increase from the existing 9% to 12% – an increase of 1,500 square miles, equivalent to two and a half times the size of Greater London.
Natalie Bennett, leader of the Green Party, said: “While it’s clear that we need urgent action from the Government to address the UK’s housing crisis, this should not mean whole swathes of our countryside being swallowed up by development as Mr Boles has suggested.
“The minister’s desire to rapidly increase housing development on greenfield sites does nothing to address underlying issues affecting the availability of housing, such as Government cuts to the affordable housing budget and the failure to tackle long-term empty homes – with approximately 300,000 homes in England currently uninhabited.
“Housing should be at the top of the government’s list of spending priorities – the campaign group Homes for Britain says that every £1 spent on housing puts £3 into the economy – and for every £1 spent on construction, government gets 56p back in reduced welfare payments.
“Nor does the minister address the practise of ‘land banking’ – purchasing land for development, then refusing to build upon it until the value has increased, which contributes to the problem of 1.5 million brownfield sites that are suitable for development being left unused .”
Ms. Bennett said: “Rather than riding roughshod over planning rules meant to protect our natural heritage, we need to see greater use of city and town brownfield sites, reuse existing industrial and office buildings as homes, and to look at how we can bring empty homes into use.
“This in part means restoring regional development policies that can rebalance our economy away from London and the South East.
“We should also be replacing regressive and business-damaging council tax and business rates with a land value tax, which would discourage speculation, ‘land banking’, and open up already existing development sites for use.”