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The Great Myth Of Urban Britain

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I thought I would pop this up as it is always worth remembering when we see so much of the emotion backed propaganda used by the CPRE and NT on our televisons and newspapers both national and local.

I thought I would start a thread after watching a recording of last weeks depressing Question Time episode, where by Simon jenkins and some strategically placed NIMBYS were allowed to spout their "concreting over England" meme to much applause and reading the Daily Telegraphs article titled:

Number of new housing estates jumps by a quarter since planning reforms.

Naturally the majority by far of comments section (representing the average Tory voter) is extremely hostile to any building or development going on anywhere in the country, with some even calling for even tighter planning regs. So I thought is there any data out there that can clear up this idea of "concrete England?". And the answer is yes, I very quickly found this article by the BBC reporting on the UK environmental accounts published by the ONS anf UK National Ecosystem Assessment.

In fact not only is England not concreted over, but the portion of its woodland has increased to cover 12.7% of the UK, the highest proportion since 1924 when records began.

It gets better though.According to the UK National Ecosystem Assessment:

6.8% of the UK's land area is now classified as urban" (a definition that includes rural development and roads, by the way).

and

The urban landscape accounts for 10.6% of England, 1.9% of Scotland, 3.6% of Northern Ireland and 4.1% of Wales.

Put another way, that means almost 93% of the UK is not urban. But even that isn't the end of the story because urban is not the same as built on.

In urban England, for example, the researchers found that just over half the land (54%) in our towns and cities is greenspace - parks, allotments, sports pitches and so on.

Furthermore, domestic gardens account for another 18% of urban land use; rivers, canals, lakes and reservoirs an additional 6.6%.

Their conclusion?

In England, "78.6% of urban areas is designated as natural rather than built". Since urban only covers a tenth of the country, this means that the proportion of England's landscape which is built on is

… 2.27%.

Yes. According to the most detailed analysis ever conducted, almost 98% of England is, in their word, natural.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-18623096

So not only is the UK actually increasing its share of woodland and greenbelt, the myth of concreting England is being pushed very heavily onto a population by at best a bunch of uninformed emotional lunatics or at worst some vested interest borderline sociopaths.

It is amazing that these facts are not more widely known by a population going through a housing a crisis and instead the NT simon jenkins propaganda line is.

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You are somebody who seeks out data and might even do a calculation or two in order to understand something. The vast majority of the UK population does not think like that. As soon as they see numbers their eyes glaze over. No quantity of graphs, tables or percentages can ever dislodge memes like "concreting over Britain" or "build on brownfield first" from their brains. It is pointless trying to reason with somebody like that using numerical information. The only thing that will dislodge those memes is another meme that fits better with their personal experience, maybe something like "the next generation need a chance in life too" or "Britain's housing shortage is a national disgrace" for those who have younger relatives who are suffering from poor housing prospects.

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You are somebody who seeks out data and might even do a calculation or two in order to understand something. The vast majority of the UK population does not think like that. As soon as they see numbers their eyes glaze over. No quantity of graphs, tables or percentages can ever dislodge memes like "concreting over Britain" or "build on brownfield first" from their brains. It is pointless trying to reason with somebody like that using numerical information. The only thing that will dislodge those memes is another meme that fits better with their personal experience, maybe something like "the next generation need a chance in life too" or "Britain's housing shortage is a national disgrace" for those who have younger relatives who are suffering from poor housing prospects.

The only problem with relying on counter memes that fit their personal experience, is that it is almost always trumped by self interest and eco/green considerations. Only the young would have the personal interest in "the next generation need a chance in life too and half of them will be split by eco/green propaganda. But information like this? this, if repeated often enough would surely arouse the other generations which have been hoodwinked into thinking restrictive planning policy is justified due to the imminent destruction of Englands green and pleasant lands.

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You are somebody who seeks out data and might even do a calculation or two in order to understand something. The vast majority of the UK population does not think like that. As soon as they see numbers their eyes glaze over.

You don't need numbers. You just need to get on a plane, and look out the window. Most of Britain is green.

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You don't need numbers. You just need to get on a plane, and look out the window. Most of Britain is green.

"Yes, it's green now, but that's only thanks to the green belt. If we lose some green belt now it will just be a matter of time until we have to do it again and again until Britain is covered in concrete!" A quick calculation will show that's pretty silly, if we have managed to fit 63m people into 9% of the country without ever seriously going for density then we could fit the population of the entire EU (pop. 508m and falling) in and still have green space left over, and at growth rates in the hundreds of thousands per year the process would take millennia. Nonetheless, it is how many people think. The trouble with non-quantitative thinking is that there is nothing to stop it heading to the extremes very quickly.

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But information like this? this, if repeated often enough would surely arouse the other generations which have been hoodwinked into thinking restrictive planning policy is justified due to the imminent destruction of Englands green and pleasant lands.

It is difficult for an INTJ to accept that most people don't think the way they do.

intj.jpg

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You only have to catch any inter-city train and look out the window to see that the vast majority of land is green, even going into Kings Cross, it's only the last few miles that are heavily urban,

I'm sure it was here that someone posted about how horses have more land given over to live on than humans in the UK?

Perception is everything, most people live in urban areas, and are therefore surrounded by urban land, so it's easy for most people think the entire country must be urban.

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Green belt? round here it's mostly yellow, 1000s of acres of mono-crop intensive agriculture, I think the lack of bio-diversity means these green belt areas are classified as desert.

Much better for the environment to build low density housing with big gardens, and let nature do the rest.

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The only problem with relying on counter memes that fit their personal experience, is that it is almost always trumped by self interest and eco/green considerations. Only the young would have the personal interest in "the next generation need a chance in life too and half of them will be split by eco/green propaganda.

Yes, it's difficult to think of a meme that would successfully dislodge the NIMBY ones. I'm not claiming to have the answer, I'm just suggesting that it will come in the form of a slogan rather than a graph.

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Green belt? round here it's mostly yellow, 1000s of acres of mono-crop intensive agriculture, I think the lack of bio-diversity means these green belt areas are classified as desert.

Much better for the environment to build low density housing with big gardens, and let nature do the rest.

Finally a sensible comment. Big gardens allow for huge bio-diversity, and are apparently quite nice to have as well.

As I've said before, I don't own a house and still don't want loads of awful shoebox estates built. Given that alternative, ****** it, keep the greenspaces/fields.

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Cui bono?

New Statesman- The great property swindle - The myth spun about Britain is that land is scarce. It is not.
http://www.newstatesman.com/life-and-society/2011/03/million-acres-land-ownership

In a written response to a question by Andrew George MP in February 2009, Bridget Prentice, a parliamentary undersecretary at the Ministry of Justice, replied, "The Crown is the ultimate owner of all land in England and Wales (including the Isles of Scilly): all other owners hold an estate in land. Although there is some land that the Crown has never granted away, most land is held of the Crown as freehold or leasehold."

Prentice omitted to add that, as the preamble to the Land Registration Act 2002 put it, "the concepts of leasehold and freehold derive from medieval forms of tenure and are not ownership". What this means is that, in relation to land in the UK, we are all tenants on the basis of the feudal superiority of the Crown, a superiority created in 1066 and founded on legal norms that were created to uphold that same feudal superiority.


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Behind the scare stories is a very simple financial fact: an acre of rural land worth £5,000 becomes an acre of development land worth between £500,000 and £1m once planning permission is obtained. Moreover, most land granted planning consent is registered offshore and is thus tax-free, or virtually so. If the true availability of land in the UK were known, the conversion factor would not be quite so generous. The true availability of land starts with who tenants or holds it freehold.


With rare exceptions, ownership dictates how land is used. Those who now "hold" the bulk of the acreage of the UK are extremely hard to identify, almost entirely because of the defects in the land registries. But they are for the most part the descendants - the so-called cousinhood - of the great landowners of 1873. Among them are the current Duke of Buccleuch, with his 240,000 acres, the Duke of Northumberland, with 131,000 acres, the Duke of Westminster, with 129,000 acres, and the Prince of Wales, with 141,000 acres.

With ownership information missing, planning of any kind, whether national or local, is extremely difficult. And finding out who is getting the money is almost impossible.


Today the great popular asset pile is threatened by tax addicts on one side, acting for inefficient government, and defective bank-dominated capitalism on the other. The banks, knowing the real situation about the land supply market, that it is rigged and opaque, recently felt safe enough to inflate a house-price bubble that showed reckless disregard for housing's primary purpose - to provide enduring shelter for people. That problem could have been contained eventually by normal domestic fiscal adjustments, no matter how brutal. What no one allowed for was that the banks, the masters of money, would blow a second, and even more destructive, asset bubble in their own basic commodity, money.

The banks created fictional assets and ran a bubble market in these, using other people's money. They incinerated about half the global stock of money, other people's money. When the banks' internal bubble burst, it left no assets, just worthless paper. The property bubble at least left some habitable assets behind. No matter how financially damaged, something could be rescued from the crash in house prices. The only rescue available for the banks was for money to be printed and for a lien to be taken on the entire nation's taxes for the next ten to 15 years. We owe the banks nothing except our debts.


http://www.newstatesman.com/life-and-society/2011/03/million-acres-land-ownership

http://www.countrylife.co.uk/countryside/article/506868/Who-owns-Britain-Top-UK-landowners.html

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You don't need numbers. You just need to get on a plane, and look out the window. Most of Britain is green.

I was wondering if people could be persuaded to look at a well-made video of the view of Britain from a plane.

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Green belt? round here it's mostly yellow, 1000s of acres of mono-crop intensive agriculture, I think the lack of bio-diversity means these green belt areas are classified as desert.

Much better for the environment to build low density housing with big gardens, and let nature do the rest.

Yes, I've read that point about desert as well. Seems that suburban gardens are much more supportive of wildlife.

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Moreover, most land granted planning consent is registered offshore and is thus tax-free, or virtually so.

That's a good trick. Surely they mean "owned by companies domiciled abroad".

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bacteria.jpg

Companies, charities, trusts, backs of envelopes, brass plaques .. whatevs, and don't call me Shirley. It's a 'trick' run by 'er-maj so that the few can indulge their inner Leona Hemsleys, amongst other things.

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Finally a sensible comment. Big gardens allow for huge bio-diversity, and are apparently quite nice to have as well.

As I've said before, I don't own a house and still don't want loads of awful shoebox estates built. Given that alternative, ****** it, keep the greenspaces/fields.

Makes some sense, Snagger and chronyx. I've got to confess I've not got a fully formed view about what needs to be done with building new homes. Disturbed by how many older owners have large family homes, and rattling around in them by themselves, or alone.

Last thing I'd want is to only get a plot somewhere remote, reliant on long distance car travel, budget stretched public services to repair/maintain bridges and roads. Or somewhere like Blackpool, told to be grateful I can afford there/build there - not overly close to central areas of employment opportunity - although that may become less of a necessity in the future. Mostly can't stand developers' standard newbuild houses though.

I'm thinking towards density build, and have no time for Huff-Haus large homes expectations that many people have, which could be a site for 2 or 3 nice homes.

It's the credit boom + then the rescue of lenders/builders and so maintain and inflate house prices even more for victims (and maintain older VI position) via 0.5%/QE + global QE, why land and house prices are so expensive for younger people reliant on themselves.

Yesterday's Sunday Times.. although would be good to get a fix on number of houses built each year in listed countries.

Ministers say Britain needs to build 230,000 homes a year but the main housebuilders are managing to construct only about 130,000 properties. Just 10,000 new homes in Britain each year are self-builds, compared with 60% of new properties in Germany, France and Italy.

...Ted Stevens, chairman of the NaSBA, said like-minded individuals could save even more by getting together on a project. He said: "In Germany, 11 friends recently built a row of four-bedroom terraced houses in central Berlin that only cost €220,000 (£180,400) each. You can't buy a garage for that in central London."

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When i was a kid the old brownfield sites of old mines and factories were full of wildlife.Dozens of ponds that would have thousands of frogs and newts in spring.Masses of birds,foxes,weasels,badgers.

The landowners fields had nothing one them as he pulled out all the hedges and filled in the ponds.

Government says you cant build on those green fields with no wildlife.Instead you must use these brownfield sites full of wildlife.Madness.

Once again its all about rentiers.They couldnt give a toss about wildlife.

Its ironic but i built a pond in my mothers garden back then and rescued as many frogs and newts as i could when they destroyed the brownfield site.They still come back every year and spawn in the garden.

Wildlife would be much better off with houses with big gardens.But doesnt suit the rentiers.

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It is difficult for an INTJ to accept that most people don't think the way they do.

intj.jpgI

Oh dear. Spock mode engaged. I had not realised people would just ignore the evidence.

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It is widely quoted that thanks to Green Belt planning regulations, more of Surrey is gold courses than housing. So the argument goes, people want the green belt preserving, even though they often have little or no right of access to it, as in the case of golf courses or intensive farming.

Although the biggest NIABY (not in any backyard) going, and no doubt the owner of half a dozen country piles, Jenkins does talk some sense on this topic. There is a virtual war going on, where even if local planning refuses the most outrageous development plans, the developers have them forced through over their heads on appeal. The government has bought hook line and sinker the developers narrative that almost all the new homes needed must be built on greenfield sites, when there are hectare after hectare of unused and under developed sites in towns and cities. Jenkins cites the Peak District being under siege from development plans, while down the road in Sheffield, there is mile after mile of post industrial land, crying out for developing.

Rather than develop in a structured, planned and though out way, building communities, we are just loosening our belt a notch and allowing the urban spread to expand another 500m at a time, until the next round of development. Take the example here in Swindon, the northern fringe of the hugely bloated suburbs is now at Tadpole Farm, approx. 5 miles from the centre. Meanwhile developers went to the Planning Inspectorate to gain permission to despoil the area close to Coate Water with 900 homes right next to one of the few genuine beauty spots in the town, while much of the existing urban area is chronically underdeveloped, not least thanks to the decision to build the new hospital more than 3 miles out of town on a main road, when so much of the town centre is barren. Two thirds of the hospital site is car parking (about 2,000 places now, completely full, tailbacks, missed appointment etc...) not surprising given the totally detached location and difficulty reaching the site from across town by public transport, and now of course more housing development is proposed around what was a largely rural setting. When the hospital moved it was only given permission to be out of town on condition a maximum number of spaces were permitted - since ripped up of course in light of the ensuing chaos.

What housing is being built is aesthetically terrible and you can see this from the air too - a shambles of different designs scarcely two buildings seem to be the same height, facing to differing aspects, set back different amounts from the streets with incredible amounts of wasted space, land for car parking and vastly over engineered local road infrastructure.

Because these new estates are completely detached from the towns and cities they are completely unsustainable, with one car per adult, every journey beginning and ending on the driveway. It doesn't even matter being in the shadow of a motorway (Wichelstowe) as a rapid exit to the M5 is now a major selling point.

Jenkins is also an advocate of a land value tax, which apart from the many other things going for it, would be a serious step towards curtailing the over development of our rural landscape and focussing on what already exists in our built up areas. The experience in Harrisburg is well worth reading up on in this respect.

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Although the biggest NIABY (not in any backyard) going, and no doubt the owner of half a dozen country piles, Jenkins does talk some sense on this topic.

On question time he suggested with a straight face that the solution is for the priced out to live in spare bedrooms… presumably the spare bedrooms of his generation rattling around in houses they won't sell. He may even think this is also a solution for the current elderly care problem that is set to worsen before it improves. So thats your future young people, no life of your own, you can be the live-in carers for the generation that spent your future.

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Green belt? round here it's mostly yellow, 1000s of acres of mono-crop intensive agriculture, I think the lack of bio-diversity means these green belt areas are classified as desert.

Perhaps this is the way forward - hard hitting headlines 'NIMBYS prefer to watch RAPE(seed) than children playing!'

TBH though, NIMBYism knows no bounds - I've been to a parish meeting in the village I live in in which the majority of the 'villagers' were protesting against the expansion of a grain-store in the middle of agricultural land about 2 miles away from the village...

IMO people who move away from cities are the biggest proponents of green-belts, once they have rural homes of their own :(

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Perhaps this is the way forward - hard hitting headlines 'NIMBYS prefer to watch RAPE(seed) than children playing!'

TBH though, NIMBYism knows no bounds - I've been to a parish meeting in the village I live in in which the majority of the 'villagers' were protesting against the expansion of a grain-store in the middle of agricultural land about 2 miles away from the village...

IMO people who move away from cities are the biggest proponents of green-belts, once they have rural homes of their own :(

The problem is that the most effective counter meme - "decent houses for the British young, like we managed in the 30's and post war" is immediately killed by the counter counter meme "well without immigration we wouldn't need to build more".

That's why getting UKIP mass support is one way of moving towards a sea change in house building, in my view. Once the barriers to entry are properly in place, and population is stable, and the old boomers can see their kids and grand kids STILL need affordable housing to be built, the "decent houses for the British young, like we managed in the 30's and post war" meme can grow.

Pro-immigration and pro-HPC posters on this site - you will never get the second without giving up the first.

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Did you look at the source for that crap?

I did. Briefly, but just enough to guess the basics of how the journo is spinning.

Either some reporter is supremely ignorant or a downright liar.

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The problem is that the most effective counter meme - "decent houses for the British young, like we managed in the 30's and post war" is immediately killed by the counter counter meme "well without immigration we wouldn't need to build more".

That's why getting UKIP mass support is one way of moving towards a sea change in house building, in my view. Once the barriers to entry are properly in place, and population is stable, and the old boomers can see their kids and grand kids STILL need affordable housing to be built, the "decent houses for the British young, like we managed in the 30's and post war" meme can grow.

Pro-immigration and pro-HPC posters on this site - you will never get the second without giving up the first.

Like your thinking - people need to vote UKIP before they realise they are at best a waste of time (with respect to HPI). I don't think it will pan out like that in reality though and even if it did it would take an awfully long time. And I say at best because as far as I can work out their natural constituents are almost by definition NIMBY and 'Homeownerist'.

Most people (admittedly middle-class) I've talked to tend to blame estate agents rather than immigrants. This sense that the 'value' of houses is somehow a bit iffy is at least a step in the right direction - just debating out the truth might be better.

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Yes, I've read that point about desert as well. Seems that suburban gardens are much more supportive of wildlife.

The dawn chorus was pretty deafening this morning in my suburban garden, nothing like that in the countryside from my experience of living there. I still plan to escape to the country again within the next few years when the girlfriend final decides to quit the job....to escape people and cars but it will be a shame to leave all the wildlife behind too.

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