How to build houses and save the countryside

How to build houses and save the countryside

The recent publication of ‘How to build houses and save the countryside’ by former CPRE chief executive Shaun Spiers, which pulls together many of the debates and issues that dominated his time with us. Its timing is particularly pertinent given the current consultation on national planning rules, given its exploration of the nature of the housing crisis and its impact on our countryside. It includes a look at the historic context, rural housing, environmental constraints, design, and how a revised, refocused planning system could provide a route forward.


Shaun Spiers said: ‘We need to build more new homes in England and we can do so, but only with radical changes to policy. For years we have managed the difficult trick of building too few homes while losing too much countryside. Many rural communities are embattled, fighting constant development proposals because they assume – often rightly – that the homes built will be poor quality and unaffordable to most people.


‘It doesn’t have to be like this. My book makes the case for a new approach. It is strongly pro-housing, particularly affordable housing in villages, but at the same time it seeks to show just why the countryside matters and why it must be safeguarded.


‘Sadly, the Government’s recent announcements on housing are too close to recent history – high targets imposed on local authorities, without the means of delivering them. The predictable result will be too few houses built, too much countryside lost, and too much energy devoted to countryside battles rather than to working out how and where to build the good quality homes the country needs.’


In his book, Shaun argues that to drive house building on the scale needed, government must strike a contract with civil society: in return for public support and acceptance of the loss of some countryside, it must guarantee high quality, affordable and social developments, in the right locations. Simply imposing development, as recent governments of all political persuasions have attempted, will not work. Shaun makes a powerful case for democratic planning reform and a more active role for the state, including local government.



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