It’s quite risky for a Tory minister to attack the National Trust, given the overlapping membership of the two tribes.
But today Greg Clark denounces the Trust as “not serious” for making “risible” claims about the impact of the coalition’s new planning policy. He also condemns those who seek to “preserve in aspic” their communities as being guilty of “nihilistic selfishness“.
The planning minister told Beth Rigby and I that more homes are needed to address the “crisis” in terms of a housing shortage in the UK, with fewer new properties built last year than for the last half-century.
There is a “moral” imperative to get more homes built, he argues:
“It is one of the great social injustices that we are failing to provide enough housing, particularly at an affordable level of rent.”
Clark is a serious politician, with a likely cabinet future – he was in the shadow cabinet before the general election. With these comments he has upped the ante on a row that was already simmering.
Key to Clark’s anger is the idea that the Green Belt is going to be built over with tens of thousands of new homes. As he points out, the only development on GB land would be clusters of homes – up to a dozen – where 90 per cent of locals have voted in favour. (Under the new ‘community right to build scheme‘).
Then again, having looked at the Trust’s criticism, I haven’t seen them make this claim about the Green Belt; instead their concern is that the new “presumption towards sustainable development” – part of George Osborne’s plan to revive the economy – will ruin various areas of natural beauty which don’t have safeguards.
Their central premise, that the new presumption will lead to hundreds of thousands of new homes – many of them in the countryside – still holds true.