[Diggers350] Newbury development and food growing

david bangs dave.bangs at virgin.net
Thu Apr 19 23:30:55 BST 2012

Hiya James,

I don't think you've taken in the points I made about (capitalist) uneven development...that is, the overdevelopment of some regions/states/continents/ and the under-development/regression of other regions.

Down here in my milieu I've had the reputation of supporting housing developments in downland (and other rural) locations...so it makes a change that you imply I'm a nimby !!

My own position is to oppose ALL housing which is not affordable...and in practice 'affordable' means social housing. Why should I, as a socialist, support 'non-affordable' housing ? On the other hand, I support most affordable housing developments.

I do not agree with the notion that an increase in private sector house building will drive down prices to the benefit of poor folk, at least in my region. The distortions of uneven development completely rule that out. I recently read one projection of a UK population increase of 10 million by 2035....That (and more) is exactly the nonsense that uneven development and unchecked climate change will impose on us...

Most of the politics I support are, sadly, not "on the radar of  policy makers"...If they were, I would give up politics and get on with doing wot I love most...just being in the countryside with nature...

dave bangs

  ----- Original Message ----- 
  From: james armstrong 
  To: dave.bangs at virgin.net ; diggers 
  Sent: Thursday, April 19, 2012 6:34 PM
  Subject: RE: [Diggers350] Newbury development and food growing


   I agree with much of what you say.

  And like to think of myself as atavistic – that sounds vaguely feral and  get up and gol

  But seriously,  I always ask nimby’s  first , are you well housed? 

  First I should declare an interest. Mine is that I am well housed and snug,  with no mortgage or rent to pay,  so I would never presume to  tell someone in housing need that butterflies  and foxes come first, and that the supply of new houses must be curtailed so you will just have to suffer.

  Second where exactly  would you place each of the 1,000 proposed new houses to be built?

  Will you tell that to the 1,000 families  who won’t be housed if they are not built.

  I am looking at the  figures for new house supply for 2010 and it is dire. 136,000 units.

  With the backlog of unbuilt houses the catch up figure Kate Barker quotes is  352,000 new houses each year.   See the Barker Review .

  I don’t think that “ There is far too little land” is a good starting point, for obvious reasons. 

  Also ‘increasing the footprint of food growing land’  is not on the radar of  policy makers- not while land use in UK includes - 1.3 million acres of pony paddocks,and (recently) I million acres of set aside and now  1 million acres ? of oil seed rape some of which goes to the £81million Norfolk bio-fuels plant of British Sugar. 

  We have a long way to go before we need to eat into food growing land  to build houses. (Tho Duchy of Cornwall has gobbled up Fordington Fields , Middle Farm and Poundbury farm   for the horror at  Poundbury,  and without so much as a whimper from NFU or Farming Today) 

  And 10million cats and 10 million dogs and 1 million horses will have to go when there is genuine food security problem .  

  Of course there is no such thing as ‘waste’ land.   I don’t confuse prairies with Dorchester, although the countryside here is  deserted of workers and farmers. 2 Rows of  former farmworkers’ cottages lie abandoned, with dairy buildings and until recently  one  former farm house.    I have visited 18 deserted  stone age or medieval  settlements around here, and know of another three,  

  I appreciate your analysis  “The case for land reform is a case for the democratic resolution of these competitions on all spatial scales,”      and I ask exactly where you position the 1,000 new houses    “

  And I agree the danger of  romantic ideas of peasant farming. My vision is  reforming control of the land- not changing the use of the land- so that monopolists stop exploiting people’s housing,Food, access and social needs ..   

  Kevin has some funny ideas among which is that  giving individuals  ownership of land provides them with an asset against which they can borrow capital - oh my!

  I  like your analysis , that capital exploits land  for profit  and not on account of agriculture, development and nature, and I deduce the need is to  strike the balance according to  reason and equity not according to profit. 

   I have prepared a pamphlet on housing ,plugging  council housing and team self build  which I’d like your ideas on if you have time to read and comment  and input?    Cheers mate ,  James 

  To: TheLandIsOurs at yahoogroups.com; diggers350 at yahoogroups.com
  From: dave.bangs at virgin.net
  Date: Sun, 15 Apr 2012 10:31:17 +0100
  Subject: [Diggers350] Newbury development and food growing



  The Newbury development is a spin off / consequence of the Newbury Bypass (which I am sure you opposed)...and the Newbury Bypass was part of a roads policy which served the interests of capital, not of ordinary folk. That is, it served/serves to concentrate capital in regions and sub-regions most favourable for profit...at the expense of other regions (both within the UK, Europe, and globally) and at the expense of nature. 

  The proposed Newbury development is at the junction of the M4 ('silicone valley') corridor and the A34 (Solent/Oxford/midlands) corridor. That is the reason for its landscape's vulnerability...and its ancient riverine and woodland landscapes - of massive cultural importance - are ignored.

  Watership Down lies over 4 miles to the south and is entirely irrelevant...a bit of journalistic hyperbole...

  The Newbury Sandleford developmemt is proposed in a landscape which is a palimpsest of little woods, streams and open land. It is the last place one would rationally choose to put a major built development.

  Agricultural land in Britain relative to population IS scarce. Much of that land is in the middling and lower grades. Here in Sussex the higher grades (two and one) are on the coastal plain and on bands of ground which are subject to full-on built development pressures and (in the former case and in the long run) from climate change sea level rise.

  We could and should increase the footprint of productive food growing land but that needs be done in a very considered and planned fashion to prevent it taking place at the expense of nature and historic cultural landscapes.

  I, too, hated the programme...and turned it off...but for different reasons to you. There was no mention (if I recall correctly) of affordable housing or the kind of employment opportunities, and the opponent of the housing was very much a local plummy type...and no attempt to discuss the issue in larger terms was made. The fact of market-based uneven and combined development was taken as a kind of inevitable 'truth',...not something which must be challenged.,

  Your response worries me and reminds me of something I've always hated in Cahill's "Who Owns Britain" book...and which your argument reflects. His notion is that a democratic re-structuring of land ownership will release all the 'wasted', under-utilised land in Britain for increased exploitation...his notion is that the amount of land is not (part of) the problem, if only it were democratically owned....as though we are living on the edge of the 'empty' American prairies before the 19th century land rush...not on islands jam-packed and super-exploited by 250 years of capitalism at the expense of most of the rest of the world..

  I start from the opposite standpoint to Cahill...There is far too little land...and both nature, built development and food growing are driven into destructive competition by the capitalist conditions of its exploitation.

  The case for land reform is a case for the democratic resolution of these competitions on all spatial scales, NOT a case for some atavistic release of our developmental energies anywhere that goes...


  Dave Bangs 

    ----- Original Message ----- 
    From: james armstrong 
    To: TLIO list ; diggers 
    Sent: Saturday, April 14, 2012 9:23 AM
    Subject: [TheLandIsOurs] BBC bias


    The BBC are as thick as two short planks. Either that or  propagandists.  

    -what Franz Fanon calls , ‘bewilderers’

    Helen Marks on ‘Open country’ BBC Radio 4 , 14th April, said ,in the context of the plan to

    build 1000 new houses near Newbury 

    “Agricultural  land is scarce. ”  without any qualifications, (or source)  

    The truth is that of the UK’s total 60 million acres, 46million are agricultural use.

    Some 77%. 

    These figures are  derived from Annual Abstract  after converting  square kilometres into

    Hectares – (but why should I give sources when BBC doesn’t?) 

    Three members of Council  for Protection of Rural England opposed the plan on air .

    Without declaring  their interest as landowners? As multiple houseowners, as well-housed people?  Only one acknowledged his membership of CPRE.

    (I suggest that CPRE engineered the whole BBC programme  as NFU regularly do) 

    None identified or suggested a  specific alternative site for the new houses. 

    No homeless people were interviewed .

    Fictional characters, rabbits,  from Watership Down  were  quoted at length.  

     A planning officer stated the case for developing  this site- it adjoined houses and it was near a new  shopping precinct. 

    The ignorance of the BBC is breathtaking - of  the unqualified statement that ‘agricultural land is scarce.’ (no mention of that agriculture uses 77 per cent of all UK land, or of the 1million acres of pony paddocks, or 1million acres of set aside  etc. )

    Also interests should be declared -  the interest of the CPRE people was not, so   we don’t know  if those interviewed are well-hoiused or multiple housed and in no  need of new houses . They  should  detail exactly where the alternative sites are for each of the 1,000  houses if not on Watership Down’ 


    A Radio 4  ‘ Open Country ‘ programme devoted to housing  gave  no background to the issue, not the  2million backlog of unbuilt houses needed as identified by Barker nor the record low numbers  built since the Barker Review, nor of out of reach prices…... 

    It was  wrong to cast the  planning officer as an advocate for new houses –  the planning decision represents the views of   CPRE members as well as of other people including  those needing housing.

    The voice of the homeless , and of the house-needy , of selfbuilders seeking sites,  and of those  informed of the national housing issues and of  those advocating  repopulating the deserted English countryside  is needed and was missing .

    Such  programmes as this  demonstrate institutional bias , by the public services broadcasting medium.  And  the influence of  lobby  groups  to mould the public  policy. 

    But what can you expect from a programme which quotes Hazel and Fiver , two fictional rabbits,  and the   people who need houses were not heard?   

    TLIO AND DIGGERS  absolutely need to focus on  Open Country, Country File , Farming Today etc with a view to  creating  opportunities for and being heard on  programmes  which better inform people about  land matters and  which expose lobbyiong  by powerful interests.  

    I feel another leaflet coming on.   James 

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