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


Countryside housing, photo by treehouse1977

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.

See all our stories from the UK »

  • ugr61

    Terrible news! I hope they won’t do it!

  • Nick T

    I agree! Trees, rivers, lakes, ponds, mountains, valleys, forests, fields, moors, meadows, beaches and dunes are ugly. Never mind the wildlife, be it furry, feathered or flying. All ugly. Bring on the Barratt homes! Everybody loves a little porch!

  • Ogier de Beauseant

    The minister should travel to the USA and see the disaster this kind of thinking has wrought. High density housing is a tough problem and it needs to have a committed
    design team brainstorming solutions and cataloging worldwide examples of likely direction. Just don’t turn the developers loose with bulldozers on the landscape.

  • Lan Deno

    Nature doesn’t fill up his pockets. Buildings do.

  • FM

    While it is unfortunate, to some degree expansion wil be necessary. That said, it seems rather short-sighted to not work with increasing the density of existing urban areas – by now it seems correct to view spacious dwellings as a luxury rather than a human right.

  • oTTo

    “basic moral right, like healthcare and education” – all decimated by the Tories. He (they) must go.

  • Selina Golfin

    What a load of cockle shells! We need more housing – agreed on that point. However, consult the genius of the landscape: when I need to reflect, regain inner peace or want to walk with a friend, our countryside is the perfect canvas. It’s a tapestry of colours naturally woven that excites the eye and nose! Never mind the crisp fallen leaves under foot.

    I love looking at and being in old characterful buildings or stunning modern builds but this proposed building plan is “normal standard housing units” and one should never think the ordinary can be more beautiful than the extraordinarily landscape that surrounds us.

  • Justin

    I heard there might be some houses up for grabs in Ireland. Just a thought.

  • Loong

    No doubt some buildings can be very beautiful. The problem is not about buildings vs “nature”, but the problem is those who are investing in the project and those unsuitably trained local planning authorities for approving to build projects such as large housing developments in UK.

    We hardly see any innovation in the land.

  • NotAnArchitect

    If you can get some of the major employers to move out of London and into other major cities, then there won't be a need to live in London anymore. It's hardly a necessity that everybody must live in London? I think economic planning should have a bit more of a role here than simply urban planning.