One of the UK’s leading architects has called for public money to be invested in housing in Africa to help solve the UK’s housing crisis.
Sir Nicholas Grimshaw, who designed Waterloo Station’s international terminal and the Eden Project, told BBC’s Newsnight the government could be spending “half our national income” building new homes in cities including Lagos in Nigeria.
He argues it would make them more attractive places to live and reduce Britain’s status as a “magnet” for migrants.
Sir Nicholas, who is launching an exhibition to mark his career, said: “I think we should in cities abroad, like Lagos and African cities or wherever ... we should be actually building in them and spending money there and making them exciting cities, so London doesn’t become such a magnet.”
He added: “And I mean real cash, I mean like half our national income. Really major cash. I think it would make such a difference.”
Asked whether he believed such a policy would be popular with the public, Sir Nicholas replied: “I don’t see why not. I’d put an enormous amount of money into overseas development. It’s a pinch of salt, what we spend in overseas development.”
Sir Nicholas also backed HS2 amid renewed speculation over the future of the high-speed rail project.
He said: “I’m a great believer in having a railway spine up the whole middle of the country. It’s modern Britain to have a service of railways up the whole middle, with branches everywhere. It’ll tie us together. We’re not a very big country.
“Over the years, people have had railways along their back gardens. In the Victorian times we were building railways along people’s gardens. You don’t hear people complaining about railways in the way they do about motorways.”
Sir Nicholas also spoke of his horror after the Grenfell Tower disaster in west London, and said the blaze showed the need for renovations to older blocks.
He said: “You had a building something like 20 storeys and one staircase. When I heard that I was absolutely shocked.
“There are a large number of tower blocks that probably would benefit from complete upgrades or being torn down in some places.”