Housing Developments: a Wider Perspective

So according to the meeting on March 19th, the government has recommended that the policy of preserving green belt land is to be all but abandoned in the search for suitable building sites. Taking a step back from the all-too-easy “not in my backyard attitude”, I think it’s pretty important that we consider this in terms of its wider consequences throughout the UK.

These designated green belt areas are not only beautiful rural expanses which are enjoyed by both wildlife and the local community but they are often, as in North-East Baldock, working farmland. From an environmental perspective, a nationwide policy of ignorance with regards to the importance of this would be pretty serious. The plans to develop Baldock are not isolated: thousands of houses need to be built in the UK, and land is needed for them. So, many more farms are under threat. As well as the impact this will have on individual landowners such as the Oakleys at Bygrave Road – who will be forced to give up a proportion of their farm and livelihood if these plans go ahead – the impact on Britain’s sustainability will be massive. We have seen the effects of a food supply chain filled with too many steps and too much bureaucracy in the last few weeks with the continuation of the horsemeat scandal. If we were to further reduce the percentage of usable farmland in Britain, our need to import from afar would only increase, adding more steps to the supply chain and raising the chances of this type of scandal occurring again.crops

Crucially, more housing estates on previously productive land means a huge decrease in the UK’s ability to exist sustainably, in terms of its use of fossil fuels and its output of carbon emissions. Food supplies will have to be transported over much longer distances, and imports will only increase. Not only does this affect the environment, but means that we become increasingly dependent on other countries, which is not particularly a position we want to be in when economies and even the weather (and so crop production) fluctuate as much they do today.

The inevitable risks of destroying our green belt and farmland seem even less worthwhile when we note that there are almost a million empty homes in the UK today. I’m sure that the economics and logistics of rebuilding and refurbishing empty buildings are completely different to those of building a new site from scratch. However, many of these buildings lay vacant in areas that are already built up. There are clearly enough of them for the housing problem to be greatly eased by bringing them up to inhabitable standards, without the surrounding communities being affected by huge increases in congestion as a completely new site would do here in North-East Baldock. They generally have access to appropriate infrastructure too, so the issues of overcrowding in schools and public facilities would hardly be exacerbated as they would here.

If these empty homes were filled before new sites were even considered for development, the issue of housing shortages could be diminished and our lovely, productive and sustainable farmland and countryside could be maintained as well. This seems like the way our country should be moving forward.


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6 Responses to Housing Developments: a Wider Perspective

  1. christine says:

    Trouble is, although we should use brown field first we were clearly told by our councillors that they expect some houses will be built in Baldock, and there isn’t much brown field here. So we must make it clear why East Baldock is NOT a good place to develop and why another area would, in our opinion, be more appropriate.

  2. Albert says:

    Excellent post re empty homes and Brownfield sites.
    When I go home to Birmingham, there are many houses and blocks of flats boarded up. These should be used first.
    Did someone say at the meeting that it is more costly to build on Brownfield sites than on Greenfields sites, due to the clear up costs.
    Closer to home, there is some unused brownfield land, and a large empty office building in Baldock, along the Pond Road extension to the east, south of Icknield Way. Wonder who owns this land & property.

    • Albert says:

      Walked past this property today (which is in Meeting House Lane) and they are just starting to convert the office block into flats, and build two more houses (according to the builders at the entrance). Hopefully these new residences will reduce the total of new houses needed in Baldock.

  3. Clare says:

    I totally agree with you Meg and I think that more discussions like this would be good for the site.

  4. christine says:

    Very much so, Meg. I think it’s important for us to make this point in our letters to the councillors encouraging the use of brown field sites first, before any green belt or green field land is touched.

  5. Stuart says:

    Great post Meg. I’ve thought that myself about empty houses, derelict army barracks etc. Spot on in everything you say.

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