Small builders need help to solve the housing crisis

CPRE’s housing researcher, Luke Burroughs has just published an excellent new report, Increasing Diversity in the House Building Sector – It is the first of a series of publications aimed at provoking discussion about housing issues, and coming up with solutions. You can read my blog about Luke’s pamphlet on the Telegraph website:

#wasteofspace: help CPRE identify brownfield land suitable for housing

CPRE is running a big new campaign to identify brownfield sites that could be used for housing. We want to produce a map showing the thousands of empty sites and unused buildings going to waste across England.

The campaign, #WasteOfSpace, will run for six months, as we also conduct research to get to the bottom of the available figures for brownfield land. Our last report on the issue calculated that there was enough brownfield land for 1.5 million new homes. A report by Civitas earlier this year put the figure at 2.5 million. The Government seems to think there is much less suitable brownfield land out there, but it has not produced any figures.

We need to know the real scope for brownfield development, and we want the general public to identify sites that may have been overlooked in official plans.    Continue reading ‘#wasteofspace: help CPRE identify brownfield land suitable for housing’

Save the countryside: build more roads

Patrick McLoughlin, the Transport Secretary made an interesting speech last week in which he talked about the need to meet ‘people’s rising expectations, both for the quality of our infrastructure and the impact of construction on the environment’.

I will pass over his bold reframing of HS2 as the biggest conservation programme in Europe. Most of the speech was about the roads programme. The Government has almost abandoned demand management, returning to a predict-and-provide approach to accommodating road traffic, so it was superficially encouraging to hear the Secretary of State talking about how to ‘manage the increasing demands on our roads’. What he was really talking about, however, was accommodating demand by using technology, which is not quite the same thing. Continue reading ‘Save the countryside: build more roads’

Road to 2015: time to hear from UKIP

CPRE often hears from external speakers on the day of its AGM. Last year it was Nick Boles the Planning Minister, who gave a rather thoughtful speech. A couple of years before, we had Oliver Letwin. David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Caroline Lucas have all delivered the CPRE lecture, and I am pleased that Hilary Benn will be delivering this year’s lecture, in London on 11 September. So engaging with politicians is nothing new.

The speaker immediately before this year’s AGM will be Nigel Farage, and as the invitation has proved controversial I thought I would set out why we made it, and why I am pleased he has accepted. Continue reading ‘Road to 2015: time to hear from UKIP’

Ambridge in Danger. Road Threat Gets Real.

CPRE and the Campaign for Better Transport have been trying for some time to rally opposition to what the Government boasts is the largest road-building programme for fifty years. It has been hard to build the campaign because the prospect of future new roads, probably somewhere else, can seem rather abstract. Now, however, the threat is very real. Ambridge is in danger, and for many people, it does not get more real than that.


You can listen to recent episodes of the Archers online, but the basic plot is that a new road has been proposed to link Borchester and Hollerton (if you do not know where they are, you need to buy a better map). Of three possible routes, one goes through Penny Hasset, an announcement that provoked disgraceful Nimbyish cheers at a public meeting in Ambridge village hall. (I now suspect that the Mrs Penny Hasset who wrote to me asking CPRE to campaign against the road may not be a real person.)


Route B, however, goes right through David and Ruth Archer’s farm, Brookfield. David’s mother, the saintly Jill, is particularly upset. ‘Just think, you might have cars and lorries thundering by here soon… It’s all so lovely at this time of year – cow parsley, red campion, and later on it’s full of willow herb… And now, it may not be there for much longer… If you believe that terrible man, the new road would go right through the middle of it, the whole path would be bulldozed and covered in tarmac.’ Continue reading ‘Ambridge in Danger. Road Threat Gets Real.’

Book of the Month: Defending Politics

Last week’s elections were a triumph of anti-politics. In the European election, only a third of the UK electorate bothered to vote and a quarter of those who did supported UKIP, a party whose appeal rests partly on its being ‘none of the above’.   

Of course, European elections in Britain have always had a poor turnout. In the week of the 1999 election, when I stood, more people voted in the final of a TV talent show, Stars in their Eyes (and yes, that hurt). But the anti-political mood has grown since then and people are increasingly impatient of political argument and hostile to politicians.   

So this seems a good time to recall why politics should not be a dirty word. The case is made well by Matthew Flinders in Defending Politics: why democracy matters in the twenty-first century, an updating of Bernard Crick’s great In Defence of Politics.

The specific relevance of all this to CPRE is that much of our work is done through planning and the planning system sits within our (arguably discredited) political system. Moreover, planning itself is an intrinsically political business. Continue reading ‘Book of the Month: Defending Politics’

How to get more brownfield development

A new report from the centre-right think tank Civitas gives welcome support to the case for building on previously developed brownfield land before encroaching on the countryside. Restoring brownfield sites in our inner towns and cities by the industrialist Peter Haslehurst draws on the author’s considerable experience of how costly and difficult it is to remediate brownfield sites. The short report is full of good examples and is well worth reading.

Many brownfield sites require no remediation, but those that do are often eyesores that bring the rest of the town down. Without policy changes, the report says, ‘our towns and cities will continue to be scarred by ugly derelict sites left to rot and our beautiful countryside (which tourists cross continents to see) will be gradually eroded by building development’.


It argues that the UK should learn from the US and do much more to make brownfield remediation economically viable. Continue reading ‘How to get more brownfield development’


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