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Sleepless in Fulham: Rambling and gambling by David Young
Thursday, 2 August 2007
Let's build.
Topic: Politics

I went to Guernsey this weekend to stay with a friend. On the way there the Aurigny ATR72 flew at an altitude of around 15,000 feet on a path from Gatwick to Poole before crossing the channel. It was the ideal vantage point to see the landscape of West Sussex and Hampshire.

There is almost nothing there.

It's easy to think that the whole of the south of England is overbuilt. But it's a myth. There is a huge amount of empty space. I have a running argument with my mother about the need for more house-building and it always ends with her telling me something like - 'You can't concrete over the whole country. It has to be able to grow its own food.' She recently suggested that I spend a week on a farm to help me understand whatever it is that I am missing.

I certainly am missing something. Her son is renting (and sharing) at the age of 38 and has been overweight since his late twenties. Obesity is soaring, children are getting adult-onset diabetes. Yet she worries about the strategic need to maintain national food self-sufficiency. It finally dropped on me last month that her earliest memories are of the Second World War and the post-war rationing. It must make a deep impression and I wonder whether it's influenced the way policy-makers of her generation have thought about land-usage ever since.

I don't worry about that so much, as I don't think future wars are going to be like WW2. Either we get nuked or we'll face some sort of insurgency/civil war driven by fanatics, like in Iraq and Sri Lanka. I don't see the country being surrounded by U-boats and denied supplies of food from the Commonwealth. In any case it's also possible for the UK to have a greater population density and still have agriculture. The Netherlands has a far greater population density than the UK and it exports food to us!

All of which brings me to this piece in the Times -  

We’ve got lots of countryside. Let’s get building.

which demolishes the overbuilding myth and suggests changes to the way homes are designed.

ps - on the return journey the plane crossed the channel on a different flightpath, reaching the mainland at Brighton. Once that's out of view there's nothing to see until you land at Gatwick.

_ DY at 2:56 AM BST
Updated: Thursday, 2 August 2007 5:31 PM BST
Post Comment | View Comments (8) | Permalink

Thursday, 2 August 2007 - 5:56 PM BST

Name: "anonymous"

1) I guess you didn't hear about the flooding in the news? Spare land has important uses other than housing and farming. Flood plains.

Gorgeous Gordon is going to build you another 3 million homes. Buy one in the Thames Gateway if you are desperate. But make sure you buy a wet suit too. XXXL.

2) Yes, the UK can import all the food it needs. That assumes that it has the money to afford to do so in the future. It also assumes the cost of transporting globalised food doesn't go through the roof with the record oil prices.

Every country in the world wants to be western. That also means importing food so that they can develop their farmland. What happens when every country wishes to import rather than grow food?

Still as selfish as ever.

Friday, 3 August 2007 - 2:40 PM BST

Name: "anonymous"

The world according to Young

- Food is grown in poor countries. The UK must not grow food but import it from poor countries. The UK must ensure that there are always poor countries in which to grow food.

- Oil comes from Arab countries. Jumped-up wars to protect the supply of oil to the UK are required when needs be.

- UK land is solely for building upon. All UK land to have houses, shops and casinos upon it. Those of David's class and above to be housed in luxury. Those below David's class to be housed on the flood plains.

- Animals are to be viewed in poor countries or on TV. Trees are for hippies. There are to be no more animals or trees in the UK. Animals and trees to be exterminated to make way for more houses, shops and casinos. 

Could anyone be more stupid than David Young?

Friday, 3 August 2007 - 3:03 PM BST

Name: "David Young"

I'm disappointed by the poor quality of the above posts. I'll answer them later, but before I do, are there any intelligent arguments that readers would like to make?


Friday, 3 August 2007 - 4:08 PM BST

Name: "anonymous"

YOUR lack of intelligence is the problem. Every article you type is bereft of intelligence and understanding.

Thankfully, yours is a voice in the wilderness. You have no idea how the world works. Nature, human interaction, economics, politics and so on are all mysteries to you.

Sunday, 5 August 2007 - 9:59 AM BST

Name: "anonymous"

I think your readership has commented. All one of them.

Face facts, you have no readership.

Better get on the mobile and phone a "friend" or just make up a comment yourself. 

Sunday, 5 August 2007 - 4:39 PM BST

Name: "Yaffle"

I was deterred from posting by the request for ‘intelligent’ comments – I can’t work under that kind of pressure. But after reading the last comment I can see how low the bar is, so now I feel comfortable enough to speak. What I was going to say was that a couple of years ago I had to put together a map of Britain showing which parts of the country would be under water due to global warming in 50, 100, 150 years. I thought that this would be an easy job, since surely the Met Office would publish a map of places at risk of flooding? Indeed they do. The problem is that the map covers just about everywhere that isn’t at the top of a steep hill.


This is not because rising sea levels and freakish precipitation are putting the entire nation at risk, but because there is hardly any agreement on which areas are ‘flood plains’ at all. If the definition includes anywhere with a reasonable risk of flooding once in a century then yes, there are plenty of flood plains throughout England. The Government plans to build more housing on them in the future because this is an acceptable level of risk – especially with beefed up flood defences to limit the damage. Would I buy a new house on a so-called flood plain? Sure. With the market the way it is it’s unlikely I’ll be able to buy one anywhere else.


As it happens, I was lucky enough to be able to get on the property ladder two years ago, and for the price of a two bed flat in central London we made someone rich enough to retire to his own hamlet in Spain. But if we’d waited a year we’d have been priced out of the centre. If we were buying today we’d be priced out of the outskirts too. This is for two professional people with decent jobs and a cumulative 20 years of savings. I thank God that I was not born three or four years later and shudder to think what it must be like to leave college today with £30,000 of debts and no prospect of ever affording a bedsit in Hackney for your trouble.


Monday, 6 August 2007 - 12:18 PM BST

Name: "anonymous"

Build up, not out. No cheap and cheerful 60s blocks but modern ones. Corporations get the best in skyscrapers. Desperate city dwellers should too.

Monday, 6 August 2007 - 5:50 PM BST

Name: "David Young"

Great to have some better thought out contributions. Hope to get a few more.

Building upwards is fine by me, provided account it taken of the shadow that tall buildings cast over their surroundings. The idea of high-rise accommodation has taken a battering in the UK, because of the poor quality of so much that went up in the 1960s.

But other countries seem to be able to do it. I've visited family friends in Germany who lived in high-rise blocks and been impressed by it. It doesn't have to mean squalor.


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