. Green Belt – A False Blessing | London Progressive Journal
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Green Belt – A False Blessing

Fri 16th May 2008

The Green Belt policy aimed at preserving the countryside immediately around London is often lauded as one of Britain’s environmental success stories. The truth, however, is almost the opposite. Although many of a green disposition see the countryside as the ultimate setting for green living, this is almost certainly not the case. Cities are in fact the centres of true environmentally friendly “greenness”.

Country dwellers tend to have large houses, multiple cars, longer journeys, less access to recycling facilities, and as a result of all this, huge carbon footprints – per household that is. Urban inhabitants tend to use public transport, cycle when they can, have fewer cars, have easy access to recycling facilities, and essentially share their resources on a large scale, leaving them with much smaller carbon footprints per household or person than in the country.

Now, it suddenly makes you wonder why we have a so-called ‘Green’ Belt policy after all. Surely it would make sense for everyone to live in cities, where everyone would have smaller carbon footprints, thus reducing the nation’s entire overall footprint. Admittedly there is a greater concentration of pollution in cities, but the overall amount for the nation would still be smaller.

The Green Belt not only does the opposite to what it says on the tin by restricting and preventing the environmentally beneficial mass immigration of country-folk to the concrete jungle, but it also keeps house prices in the cities artificially high (supposedly another ‘good’ result as it prevents urban immigration). At a time when we have a housing crisis in this country, with many unable to reach even the first rung of the property ladder, surely it makes sense to free up land for more housing. Apparently not: the Green Belt appears to have achieved such a cult status, that its urbanisation whether total or gradual is deemed unthinkable, if not downright evil. Sure, the scenery will be missed, but I’d much prefer for there to be a greener nation as a whole as well as affordable house prices, wouldn’t you?
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#73: Posted by Matt Genner on Fri 16 May 2008 00:00

Anton Howes (Green Belt - A False Blessing, London Progressive Journal # 19) is deluded if he thinks that the nation would be a better one if everyone lived in cities and that the people who live in the countryside are carbon monsters. While it is true that many people in the countryside rely on the car for transport, many rural towns have thriving public transport. Also, it may not have occurred to him, but not everyone living in the countryside is a commuter. Furthermore, rural communities produce a more sustainable way of life with many local producers cutting down food miles and perusing organic practices.

I live in the countryside in an area of Greenbelt land and I don’t own multiple cars and a large house, neither do the majority of residents. I do, however, have my recycling collected weekly and as a result recycling rates are higher where I live than those in inner city areas. I also purchase food which has been grown and harvested within a few miles of my house, something that I would struggle to do if I lived in a city.

Has Mr Howes ever lived in the countryside? It does not sound as though he has. His article lacks any factual data and is simply a list of prejudiced assumptions. Where is there any evidence that an urban lifestyle produces less carbon than a rural one?

‘I’d much prefer for there to be a greener nation as a whole,’ he writes, in what is perhaps the most contradictory statement ever written on this website. If he is looking at ways to increase the housing stock perhaps he should be writing about the development of Brownfield sites. There is no mention either of the role that Greenbelt land around a city has in cleaning the air and lowering levels of carbon in the atmosphere.

Mr Howes also calls for the mass immigration of ‘county–folk’ to the cities. He fails to realise that the destruction of rural communities would lead to the inevitable loss of what is left of the British farming community and would, therefore, lead to even more reliance on imported food, further exacerbating rising food costs and increasing food miles. In a further contradiction this article eludes that mass urban migration would lower urban house prices. In reality the opposite would be true; increased and unsustainable demand would push prices higher. Mr Howes should be arguing for urban to rural migration if he wants to see house prices in the city fall.

‘Sure the scenery will be missed,’ he writes flippantly, as if the total destruction of the countryside, one of the great parts of British life, would be a small price to pay for a few cheaper houses. I would be interested as to where Mr Howes would stop. Once the city has expanded to fill what is now the Greenbelt, would he then do the same again until the entire nation was just one big urban sprawl.It would not surprise me if he also thinks it is a good idea to build more house on floodplains. It is a shame that such a poorly thought-out argument has been published amongst the rest of the well-written articles this week.

#75: Posted by Anonymous on Mon 19 May 2008 00:00

Perhaps you should read todays Independent: 'England's green and pleasant land is in catastrophic decline, with some of its most precious wildlife at risk of disappearing for ever, the first comprehensive report into the nation's natural life has shown.'