Motion slams ‘irksome’ Tory minister over greenfield building

Andrew Motion says Nick Boles is wrong ‘on just about every level’ over developing open countryside

LAST UPDATED AT 09:20 ON Sun 2 Dec 2012

THE COALITION’S minister in charge of planning, who wants to build new homes on large tracts of undeveloped countryside, is “irksome”, “incredibly irresponsible” and wrong “on just about every level”, according to Andrew Motion, the head of the Campaign to Protect Rural England.

The former poet laureate made his outspoken attack on Nick Boles just days after the planning minister said that large areas of “open land” will have to be developed to solve Britain’s housing crisis.

Boles told Newsnight last week: "In the UK and England at the moment we've got about 9 per cent of land developed. All we need to do is build on another 2-3 per cent of land and we'll have solved a housing problem.

"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."

In the Observer today, Motion hits back, taking issue with Boles’s figures and ridiculing his background as director of the right-wing think tank Policy Exchange.

"Nick Boles has clearly spent a lot of his life in think tanks,” says Motion, who took over at the CPRE this year. “And he has the kind of attitude you imagine went down quite well in a thinktank. Slightly abrasive, irksome, ruffling feathers.

"But to talk so blithely about these issues where so many people's lives and so much of our land is at stake is just incredibly irresponsible.

"On just about every level what he said was wrong. Start at the level of fact: he said 9 per cent of our countryside is bricked over; by CPRE reckoning it is actually already more like 12 per cent. And that doesn't take into account the collateral effects of development. About 50 per cent of our land is already compromised in some way or other."

Instead of degrading the “national masterpiece” that is the English countryside, says Motion, more should be done to build on ‘brownfield’ sites - land that was once developed but now lies abandoned. “Once you develop a piece of land it is gone for ever as countryside,” he says. · 

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