So Where Do You Want Us To Build?

Catherine Shoard on utilising brownfield sites for building those new houses we ‘need’…

The government cannot allow Ebbsfleet to fail. The investment already committed is enormous. HS1, too, didn’t come cheap, and public feeling about its Midlands sister depends to some extent on its success.

Plus, Ebbsfleet isn’t just any old new garden city, it’s the first of three proposed. Whither Bicester (earmarked as number 2) if this one shrivels?

There is another reason, too. The project is a de facto poster child for a significant piece of policy brought in shortly after the election. This loosens planning controls and all but guarantees consent to develop any suitable brownfield sites for housing – including, where necessary, compulsory purchase orders.

Reaction at the time was positive. We need more houses, after all. But the easy ride is also a matter of rhetoric: endlessly invoked, rarely queried. Better brownfield than green, right? Obviously it’s preferable to raze wasteland than ravage undefiled countryside.

Well, obviously! Right?

Errrr, no.

No. Not so obviously. Supposedly Arcadian greenfield Britain includes intensively farmed prairies, fields of polytunnels and industrial forestry hospitable neither to walkers nor wildlife. Indeed, it’s the destruction of much of our countryside that has made so much brownfield invaluable. The lack of human and chemical intervention in these disused quarries and rubbish dumps, railway sidings and former factories, gives nature a fighting chance of survival.

Yet even before this summer, such territory was vulnerable. In 2013, research found that over 50% of wildlife-rich brownfield in the Thames Gateway has been lost, damaged or is under threat. The fallout from the new ruling will push that figure far higher.

So we should raze all our green belt and agricultural land to build homes for our swelling population instead?

This is the politics of the madhouse.

2 comments for “So Where Do You Want Us To Build?

  1. Mudplugger
    November 18, 2015 at 10:43 am

    The ‘politics of the madhouse’ starts with allowing, nay encouraging, mass fertile immigration without the possibility of infrastructure to match.
    Uncontrolled population growth is the root-cause of the housing ‘crisis’, the school-place ‘crisis’, the NHS ‘crisis’, the congestion ‘crisis’, the energy ‘crisis’ – knock 10 million off the total and those ‘crises’ would evaporate.

    As those token 20,000 ‘Syrians’ start to land, they should be first greeted by Security Vetting, then sent immediately for vasectomy ‘vetting’ before even leaving the airport. At least that would put a limit on the future scale of the problem. And if they don’t like that deal, they can seek another version of safety somewhere else – their decision.

    • November 19, 2015 at 6:57 am

      I remember a progress meeting I had with a business client a couple of years ago – actually, about 8 years ago now, at least.

      He’d previously been an estate agent before changing jobs, and we were chatting as he had time to kill before getting his train. We discussed the ramping up of housebuilding – just becoming apparent back then – and he said he couldn’t understand it. Where were all the potential occupiers coming from?

      Now we know.

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