• People should be delighted about building in the countryside

    17th May 2013 | News | Claire
  • See the story below and here in today’s Telegraph – http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/greenpolitics/planning/10062759/Michael-Gove-People-fighting-planning-reforms-are-against-aspiration-family-and-social-mobility.html

    Campaigners against the Government’s planning reforms are opposing social mobility, aspiration and the family, a senior Cabinet minister has suggested.

    Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, said the countryside should not be considered sacred when it comes to building new homes and suggested that the Coalition’s reforms to the planning system would have been approved by Margaret Thatcher.

    He criticised people who are fighting development in rural areas, which has been made easier by the Government’s relaxation of planning rules earlier this year. He also claimed that building more homes in the countryside could add to its beauty.

    “These planning reforms have not been without their critics but no one who believes in social mobility, in aspiration, in pro-family policies, in thrift and in freedom can be anything other than delighted by the release of more land for housing,” he said.

    Mr Gove continued: “We cannot think of our built environment without thinking of beauty. Many of the most beautiful vistas in the United Kingdom are beautiful because of building. Whether it’s Chatsworth or the Nash terraces of Regent’s Park, Edinburgh’s New Town or Salisbury Cathedral, the man-made environment is as capable of inspiring awe as anything in nature.

    “So when we think of new building we should not think only of losing some undeveloped land – we should also think of the potential to create something of grace and beauty, to ravish the eye and lift up the soul.”

    Ministers introduced reforms that cut 1,400 pages of planning guidance to 52, written with a bias for “sustainable development”. The changes were strongly opposed by campaigners and readers of The Daily Telegraph through its “Hands Off Our Land” campaign.

    In his speech today to mark the legacy of Sir Keith Joseph, a former Cabinet minister who served three prime ministers including Lady Thatcher, Mr Gove said the fact that “too few modern buildings can aspire to real beauty is a challenge to the architectural profession”.

    The lack of house building over “generations” had been partly responsible for the chaotic housing market and had “contributed to the growth and bursting of property bubbles”, he said. Owning a home had “become the preserve of those with family wealth” and the many “cramped” ones built in the past two decades had made it “more difficult to raise and support a family”.

    Mr Gove saluted “the political courage and policy clarity of Eric Pickles, Greg Clark and Nick Boles” who were ensuring that “things are changing”.

    The speech, to the Centre for Policy Studies in the City of London, will be welcomed by the Chancellor, George Osborne, who has backed the planning reforms.

    It was unclear why Mr Gove chose to enter the highly-charged debate over planning reforms.

    He also set out a strong defence of the City from excessive regulation by Brussels.

    He said the Industrial Revolution had depended on “financial innovation” and that “clumsy and ill-thought-out interventions” from either the EU or the Labour Party “would impair the power of the City to innovate, attract talent and generate wealth and opportunity for our nation”.

    Mr Gove highlighted government action to tackle the “cycle of deprivation” across a range of policy areas, including crime, welfare and education, insisting that it went to the heart of the Prime Minister’s leadership.

    Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister, had earlier hinted at Mr Gove’s reported intentions to lead the Tories during his weekly phone-in programme on LBC, a commercial radio station.

    He said: “Michael, who I think is a perfectly nice chap, doesn’t know the first thing about the [Lib Dems] … of course, he knows a thing or two about leadership ambitions, but that’s a different matter.”

    Shaun Spiers, the chief executive of the Campaign to Protect Rural England, said there was “nothing shameful” about fighting development and trying to preserve the countryside and that people who did so were “community heroes”.

    He said Margaret Thatcher had told the campaign in 1986 that it was “vital to protect an inheritance of such unparalleled beauty and variety as our British countryside”.