The parents of the planning minister – who last week said they had been on a "journey" from "Nimbys" to taking a positive view of development – have objected to plans for new homes in their West Country village, according to reports.
Nick Boles, the planning minister, told last week of his family's objections to plans in the 1970s to build an estate on the edge of Talaton, near Ottery St Mary, East Devon, near their home. Citing it as an example of how people could stop being "Nimbys", Mr Boles said the development had turned out to be a "powerfully good thing for the village" and had helped to support the local pub and shop.
However, a report in The Daily Telegraph at the weekend said that Mr Boles's parents, Sir Jack and Lady Anne, were opposing plans for 21 houses on fields adjacent to the village church in Talaton. Sir Jack, the former head of the National Trust and ex-High Sheriff of Devon, yesterday confirmed he and his wife had spoken to a reporter but declined to comment further.
"We didn't think it was a suitable site and there were better sites in the village," Lady Boles, Mr Boles's stepmother, was quoted by the newspaper as saying. "It looked too overcrowded."
"I wouldn't want a public path right through the graveyard," Sir Jack said.
"We have identified two or three much better sites. We have never been Nimbys."
The development has been proposed by Greendale Investments which had proposed building 21 new homes on a site planning 11 acres. It has also been opposed by many in the village.
Mr Boles described his family's unease at building in Talaton – when he was 12 years old – as a "classic".
"My father and I have talked about it often," Mr Boles said. "We all have realised that actually that development – while I'm not saying it couldn't have been improved – it was a powerfully good thing for the village.
"It revived the village. Now we look out at the estate and it looks like it has always been there."
Mr Boles spoke last week of applying "moral pressure" to get critics to accept more house-building.
He said developments of the scale of new towns such as Cranbrook in Devon were less likely to be fought by "Nimbys" – "Not in my back yard" opponents – than smaller schemes on the fringes of villages and small towns. He argued that just nine per cent of land in the UK had been developed and increasing the footprint by a fraction would prompt greater house-building.