TACKLING immigration, not more countryside building, could be the key to dealing with a widespread housing shortage, according to Isle of Wight MP Andrew Turner.
He made the claim after planning minister Nick Boles MP said more areas of the countryside should be opened up for development to tackle a housing shortage in England.
In an interview for the BBC programme Newsnight, due to be screened last night (Wednesday), Mr Boles said that an increase of two to three per cent of developed land would be enough to solve the problem.
But Mr Turner has criticised Mr Bole’s approach and suggestions that those opposed to more development were selfish.
He said: "It’s grossly unfair to label those who want to protect the English countryside as 'selfish’. Is it 'selfish’ to want green space that our children and grandchildren can enjoy? Greenery may be a simple pleasure, but is a necessary one.
"It is one of the greatest attributes of the Island and I believe it should be protected.
"Is it 'selfish’ to want to protect our farmers, a cornerstone of the England’s economy? Island farmers need land to supply English and international consumers with agricultural products.
"These plans could side-line a major part of the English economy, which would not lead to long term growth but long term decline.
"Lastly, is it 'selfish’ to want to protect our history? The Island’s countryside is steeped in history and is a valuable part of English heritage. Once land is built on the damage cannot be undone. Plans for over-development could permanently scar the Island’s landscape and history."
According to a report by the Institute of Public Policy Research, England faces a housing supply 'black hole' by 2025 when England will face a shortfall of 750,000 homes, a spokeswoman for Mr Turner said.
He argued this would be better tackled by focusing on immigration.
"There is a shortage of housing on the Island. The Council’s homelessness strategy for 2008-2013 stated the overall current provision of housing on the Island is seven per cent less than the estimated actual need and the social rented housing provision is more than 40 per cent less than the actual need.
"However, we must look at the cause of the housing shortage rather than simply trying to patch up its consequences. The Isle of Wight has 370 people per square kilometre which is higher than the UK average.
"The problem lies with the UK’s population level which has increased exponentially. Since 1997 over 3 million immigrants have arrived in this country – that number dwarfs the expected housing shortage. To continue to let such huge numbers of people into our country is just unsustainable. If there is a choice between maintaining the English countryside or stopping mass immigration: I would choose to handle our borders better."