Countryside housing, photo by treehouse1977

"Built environment more beautiful than nature" – UK planning minister

News: buildings can be "more beautiful than nature" according to the UK's planning minister, who is calling for an area of countryside twice the size of Greater London to be built on in order to solve the housing crisis.

Speaking to the BBC's Newsnight programme in an interview to be broadcast tonight, Nick Boles said: “The built environment can be more beautiful than nature and we shouldn’t obsess about the fact that the only landscapes that are beautiful are open - sometimes buildings are better."

He added: "We're going to keep the green belt, but if people want to have housing for their kids, if they want to have people able to bring up their kids in a small house with a garden, they've got to accept that we've got to build more on some open land."

The Conservative minister, who was appointed in this September's reshuffle, noted that up to two million new houses could be built if more open land is developed.

"In England at the moment we’ve got about nine per cent of land developed in any way – so that's 91 per cent that is not. All we need to do is build on probably on another two or three per cent of land over the next 20 years and we’ll have solved our housing problem," he argued.

Increasing the total area of developed land in England from nine per cent to 12 per cent would mean building on an additional 1,500 square miles of open countryside, an area twice the size of Greater London, according to the Daily Telegraph.

Boles also said living in an affordable home with green space nearby is a "basic moral right, like healthcare and education," and added that developers were to blame for the lack of quality housing developments.

"Land is expensive but to some extent [developers] are just lazy. They didn't talk to local people or get involved enough," he said, while also describing current housebuilding as "ugly rubbish" and criticising some new housing estates as “pig ugly”.

Last year the Institute of Public Policy Research warned that England will face a housing shortfall of 750,000 by 2025.

We recently reported that a high-density, car-free city for 80,000 people is being built from scratch in a rural location near Chengu, a project that could be repeated across China if successful.

At this year's Venice Architecture Biennale, architect Alex de Rijke from Dutch firm dRMM told Dezeen that UK architects could learn from the Netherlands by designing floating housing.

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