Kevin Cahill responds to George Monbiot

Gerrard Winstanley office at
Sun Mar 25 16:50:47 BST 2007

I am replying to Mark's picking up of the Guardian report about 
Greenbelt land. I am particularely focusing on facts the Guardian 
failed to present.
Greenbelt in England, a total of 4.1 million acres of land,  is 
sandwiched between urban areas and rural areas, but is generally what 
would be termed rural land. England is about 32 million acres in 
extent, of which about 8% to 10% is urban land, or a total of about 3.
2 million acres, maximum. The first point then is that the greenbelt 
is larger by almost a million acres, than the entire urban area of 
England, which includes offices, warehouses and factories as well as 
domestic homes. But the greenbelt is sited on rural land, which , if 
only the agricultural patch is taken  into account, is over 22 million 
acres. (The remaining land, about 6 million acres, is waste, marsh, 
hill, moor and road.) Were 10,000 acres of greenbelt to be used for 
housebuilding, the loss of greenbelt land would be 0.24%.  But the 
loss of 0.24% of greenbelt land hardly makes a good headline does it

Which is not the point. The real point is that the greebelt could, 
with ease, be pushed back a bit into the agricultural plot, to make up 
the lost 0.24%. And now the hard bit. Most subscribers to this strand 
would want young people to be able to get on the housing ladder and be 
able to afford a decent home.

Further, most subscribers would also want housing in England to be 
decent, environmentally friendly and accompanied by a garden where 
possible. Clearly, there is a choice. You can build shoeboxes on 
already overcrowded brownfield land, without gardens, and cram people 
into them as we have been doing for years. Or you can look at the 
English agricultural plot, all of it owned by just 144,000 people or 
families, and which costs about �2.2 billion a year out of working
people's taxes to support. Farming is a business. If it was economic 
it would not need a subsidy. Further, it is based on an asset, land 
which generally appreciates over time. So, what the working population
of England is doing is paying 0.28% of the population, who run an 
inefficient business, and who own over 66% of England, �2.2 billion 
in subsidy. I'd like to be on the public payroll too; wouldnt we all ? 
And the Guardian story was further incomplete in failing to look at 
what we'd get in housing for the loss of 0.24% of the greenbelt. 

Before John Prescott suggested doubling the density of housing, from 
10 units per acre to 22 per acre - an acre is the size of a football 
pitch by the way- 10,000 acres would privide space for 100,000 homes, 
about 220,000 homes under the Prescott density, all the size of shoe 
boxes and none with a garden. The shortfall in house building over 
recent years means that there is a shortfall of closer to 500,000 
homes in reality, so where are they all to come from ?

The Guardian story made much of quotes by a fellow called Sean Spiers. 
He is the mouthpiece for the Council for the Protection of Rural 
England, whose financial backers are unknown, but who largely consist 
of the owners of rural England and the main beneficiaries of the �2.
2 billion charitable handout. These are the people who largely opposed 
the right to roam bill but who are in the business of protecting rural 
England for entirely financial reasons. You see, if there is as much  
land as there actually is in England, then land is not scarce at all. 
To supply the housing backlog of 500,000 homes at the pre Prescott 
densities, all that would be needed is 50,000 acres, which is 1.2% of 
the greenbelt or 0.2% of heavily subsidised agricultural land   But to
make some land valuable; the kinds of figures shown by the Guardian, 
the surplus land has to be hidden in greebelt, agricultural and any 
other designation that keeps it off the market. All the Council for 
the Protection of Rural England are doing is keeping land off the 
market and keeping the people who pay for the upkeep of that land out 
of their taxes, off the land in every sense.
Kevin Cahill,
Author, 'Who Owns Britain & Ireland' 
and 'Who Owns the World'.           
  ----- Original Message ----- 
  Sent: Monday, March 12, 2007 4:58 PM
  Subject: [diggers350] Greenbelt   Development stand
to make millions for Queen, BP & British Aerospace]
10,000 acres of greenbelt under threat,,2031715,00.

Developments   stand to make millions for Queen, BP
and British Aerospace
John Vidal,   environment editor
Monday March 12, 2007

The Queen,   British Aerospace and BP will make
billions of pounds from
developing the   greenbelt under proposals to meet
government housing
targets. Research by   the Guardian and the Campaign
to Protect Rural
England shows at least   10,000 acres of greenbelt
land are likely to be
sacrificed to build some of   the biggest developments
in Britain in the
past 30 years.

In   addition, speculators have bought large areas of
greenbelt land,
which   protects the countryside from urban sprawl, in
expectation that
the   forthcoming government white paper on planning
will relax rural
protection   rules.

Local authorities in the Midlands, Avon and Eastern
England say   that if
regional housing targets set by central government are
to be met,   the
greenbelt that has been the mainstay of environmental
protection for   50
years will be decimated.

"Many villages will be engulfed by   housing, several
towns could nearly
double in size and others would   effectively join up
with each other to
create new conurbations", said   Shaun Spiers, CPRE's
chief executive.
"This is a time of unprecedented   change in the
Housebuilders, universities, airports, and   retail
parks are all seeking
to take advantage of government housing   targets and
changes in the
planning system.

BP stands to make nearly   �10bn if its advanced
plans to build 20,000
houses on 3,700 acres of   greenbelt land that it owns
in Hertfordshire
are accepted. The Crown   Estate, which manages
property owned by the
Queen, could make up to �500m   from the development
of 6,000 homes near
the A1 (M), while Arlington   Securities, the former
property arm of
British Aerospace, hopes to make   �3bn from the
sale of some of its
greenbelt land at Hatfield.

In the   West Midlands, where the government wants up
to 575,000 homes to
be built   in the next 20 years, large areas of the
greenbelt and open
countryside are   threatened, say local authorities.

Coventry, Walsall, Lichfield and the   Black Country
all stand to lose
protected land. Worcester, Redditch, and   Rugby will
only be able to meet
their housing targets if they build on   their

"It is going to be death by sprawl. All the greenbelt 
 is at risk", said
a West Midlands CPRE officer, Gerald Kells.

The   research identifies major erosion of the
greenbelt in many areas:

�   Bath, York, Oxford and Cambridge universities
want to release large
amounts   of greenbelt land which they own.

� Six Oxfordshire landowners,   including Thames
Water, Magdalen and
Brasenose colleges, are lobbying   planners to release
thousands of acres
of their greenbelt. Thames and   Magdalen stand to
make more than �300m if
their plans for up to 8,500   houses are approved.

� Several regional airports will need to destroy  
large areas of
greenbelt land to expand as planned. Gatwick wants 240
  hectares for a
second runway, and Luton, Manchester, Bristol and
Liverpool   airports
will also need to grow on greenbelt land.

� Annual reports   show that major housebuilders
have more than 200,000
acres of greenfield   sites "under option" to develop.

� Some of the biggest developments are   planned for
Hertfordshire. "We
are being asked to take a minimum of 92,000   new
homes, of which nearly
30,000 will have to on greenbelt land", said   Derrick
Ashley, the
executive council member for planning at Hertfordshire
  county council.
"If these plans go ahead there will be almost
continual   ribbon
development for miles. Nowhere is safe."
Guardian Unlimited �   Guardian News and Media
Limited 2007

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