HOUSES CREATE MORE HUMAN HAPPINESS THAN FIELDS


Lawrence Hill… or so we are told today by Mr Nick Boles, Planning Minister (see link below).

I live in the Highlands of Scotland: relatively low population density.

Recently I found myself spending a couple of weeks living on the eastern outskirts of Bristol; I went down to arrange my father’s funeral. My experiences in the area were disappointing, much as I have a lot of residual affection for a part of the world in which I spent my first 18 years.

In a nutshell, I couldn’t help concluding that we appear to be living in an ‘Undeveloping Nation’; certainly as far as some parts of our country are concerned. When I left east Bristol over 35 years ago, it seemed to me to be a vibrant part of the city, in good shape. In the past 2 weeks, however, there were times when I thought I was visiting a Third World country: crumbling infrastructure; crappy commercial and local authority signs plastered everywhere you looked; over-dense housing developments; more by-passes, dual-carriageways, street signs and motor vehicles than you could shake a sick at; the suburb of Lawrence Hill, for example, having some of the characteristics and outward appearance of a Somalian locality (how and why so in a suburb of Bristol, England?  Was this demographic development planned and agreed 30 years ago with the locals?); I could go on.

(Aside: Bristolians remain truly some of the friendliest people you could wish to meet).

Here’s a photograph taken in Kingswood High Street last week; the shop you see on the corner on the left was once a well-kept and beautifully presented model shop (without shutters) where I would go each Saturday morning to admire the model toys on offer, sometimes scraping together enough pocket money to buy an airfix kit.  How does this ‘vista’ represent progress since 1973?

South Gloucestershire-20130524-02698

England – if it’s not already so – is set to become one of the most, if not the most, densely populated nations in Europe. Our public services are stretched to breaking point; public sector finances are out of control; the national debt climbs inexorably; there is tension on our utopian, multicultural streets where off-duty soldiers now run the risk of being hacked to pieces by their fellow citizens.

Meantime, a cretinous politician tells us we need to scrub the British countryside and build more houses … presumably to cope with the unfettered growth in the population of this country, half-a-million of whom arrive on these shores every year from other nations (whilst 300,000 of us wisely leg-it to foreign climes). You couldn’t make it up.

So, let’s dwell then for one more moment on the profound wisdom of a card-carrying member of the British political elite living, as we do, in an ‘Undeveloping Nation’ which needs to import 40% of its food, with that proportion rising annually; Mr Boles tells us that …

The sum of human happiness that is created by the houses that are being built is vastly greater than the economic, social and environmental value of a field that was growing wheat or rape.”

PS Perhaps Mr Boles might consider relocating to Bristol’s Lawrence Hill district where he could be overwhelmed with human happiness?

PPS Perhaps I’m more sensitive to urban and suburban environments, living as I have done for 35 years in rural and semi-rural locations?  However, I challenge anyone to explain to me how what I witnessed as (presumably) ‘economic development’ in and around east Bristol last week might be construed as progress, or the enhancement of quality of life?  At times the ambience (signage, dense housing, signage, dense transport, signage, soulless dual-carriageways, signage, soulless by-passes, closed-down pubs, sorry looking shops, signage, crumbling infrastructure …) was a tad overwhelming.

Epilogue

In posting a comment on the Daily Telegraph website along the lines of my post above, ‘Working Nomad’ accused me of being a bigot, to which I replied as follows:

I seem to recall a previous Prime Minister calling a citizen ‘a bigot’ when she expressed some reasonable concerns about the trajectory of our society (she didn’t quite put it like that).

I was genuinely shocked at the deterioration in the socio-economic environment that I experienced in east Bristol whilst I was there, compared to how it was 35 years ago. On virtually any measure, the environment has regressed. I feel comfortable in saying as much because those of my family and friends who remained in the area this past 35 years said as much themselves.

It’s a shame that to make such an observation invites an accusation of bigotry. I suppose Gordon Brown felt obliged to do the same to Gillian Duffy when she rattled his cage.

My concern is the extent to which our political class imposes societal change on us all artificially and, recently (over the past 20 – 30 years), at breakneck speed. I doubt whether the citizens of, say, Lawrence Hill were consulted 20 or 30 years ago on whether they wanted their community to become the alien landscape that it is today. My cousin, who has lived in Lawrence Hill all his life, no longer recognises his locality, where inter alia the crime rate is twice that of the average ward in Bristol.

Here is the reality of life in Lawrence Hill thanks, presumably, to the good work of our politicians this past quarter-century: http://tinyurl.com/p8dlytv

That said, I agree with ‘Working Nomad’ that much of Bristol is lively and vibrant, as he says.  Oh, and another thing!  When I grew up in Kingswood (in the late 60s and early 70s) the local delicacy was the Clark’s pie.  The company was established in 1947 and today a baker (David Baggs) still makes Clark’s pies by hand in his shop in Redfield (picture below).  Whilst Mrs Moraymint and I were in Bristol recently (to where we made two return trips) we purchased a ‘Freezer Pack’ of a dozen Clark’s pies on each trip.  The ‘Freezer Pack’ consists of Mr Baggs grabbing a cardboard box from the back of his shop and, er, putting 12 freshly baked Clark’s pies in the box.  So, to end, here’s a definition of ‘Human Happiness’: a Clark’s pie.  Thank you Mr Baggs!  Hope to see you again soon …

City of Bristol-20130523-02677

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Daily Telegraph ‘Homes create more “human happiness” than fields, Planning Minister claims’: http://tinyurl.com/olgz3rj 

7 comments

  1. Mark Deacon · ·

    Too many people in too small an area.

    65 million people in 76K square miles (if I remember it right). That is f***ing ridiculous at 855 per square mile. After that it only takes a collapsed economy or some god awful natural disaster and it will turn into a free for all. Nobody is going to be restrained under the worst case scenario and any law becomes worthless if it is a matter of survival.

    The population number or the mix is not the issue! The real issue is the population density.

    Like

    1. Yes, but the Earth is too small for exponential population growth.

      Like

  2. Ceekay · ·

    I agree, to a point, but I think I understand the intent of the minister. Until recently I lived in a small village on the South Coast, after leaving school I was able to get a decent job locally and afford a house in the same village my family lived in. The cost was about 4 times my wage. In the intervening 25 years there have been little or no house building going on, people moving in from the cities then campaigning to stop any development that spoils their view. Consequently local youngsters would need a starting salary of £80,000 to even think about living locally.

    500 new homes built on the fields the Nimbys fight so hard to protect would enable the community to have a small chance of survival after they shed their mortal coil. They had the best of it from housing to pensions we need to give the young some hope or they’ll all leave.

    Like

  3. Ernie · ·

    Location, location, location – the three most important reasons, in order of priority, for choosing where to live. Building new better homes for the currently cramped, poorly serviced communities in the inner cities, where there is at least some chance of work, out in the sticks, on green field sites is nonsense. I live right out in the sticks, perhaps not as far as you MM, and there are many houses for sale for those who want to commute to work to the distant, large, concentrated urban areas. It’s the half way house, excuse the pun, where a nice place to live and a short journey to work is important that is causing the problem.

    The reason the developers want green fields sites close to urban areas is that it is cheaper and easier to build there and they can sell the houses in these attractive locations quickly and at a profit. Of course, much of the associated service costs are picked up and spread around to everybody else. To re-develop inner city brown field sites is messy, time consuming, usually achieved in penny packet lots amongst great areas of depravation making them unattractive to both the developer and prospective buyer. The inner cities cannot find the chance to re-generate when there is continuing pressure for low cost accommodation exacerbated by major waves of immigration. However, the problem will not be solved while the socialists want votes by shipping them in from foreign shores and the bleeding liberals want to welcome and hug anybody they deem as “in need” – especially if they are of a different hue and have exotic beliefs; the dilemma facing the liberals between immigration and wind farms must be excruciating.

    Like

  4. Malcuk · ·

    Apart from needing to change a “billion” to “milliion” your comment is totally spot on.

    We are heading towards a 3rd world slum across the whole” country rather too quickly, helped on by Common Purpose idiots in our 3 main parties in Westminster.

    Civil strife is heading our way, whilst the politicians play at politics both here and the EU.

    Like

    1. moraymint · ·

      Amended! Thanks!

      Like

  5. David C · ·

    Your post raises many issues…

    There is nothing wrong with people getting off their backsides and coming to the UK to work and making life better for themselves and their families. And there is nothing wrong wit hthe 6.5M UK citizens that live and work abroad as well. I myself have/am living and working abroad and earning a living for myself and my UK tax paying business.

    The decay you witnessed in Bristol can been seen in many towns and cities around the UK and despite the taxes we pay the decay has been there for years and will continue for years to come. Lots of people work hard trying to make the system work. But the system is worn out and needs replacing.

    Take the police, we have 43 seperate police forces, all with their own policies and proceedures, headquaters, purchasing policies etc. Why can’t we have one police force?

    We have a health service that is straining at the edges because 25% of beds contain people that don’t need to be in hospital. Yet the hospitals get paid to provide this expensive care when there is nowhere for them to go. If the NHS money followed the patient local authorities and care providers would welcome them with open arms, rather than see them as another burden on budgets…

    Transport: We subsidise bus services, but in most places you can’t get a bus home at night or from the railway station. Because nobody is integrating our transport services and thinking how can this service work for the consumer?

    Take corporation tax, multi nationals get away with paying little while everyone else has to pay. The governmentt says “we need to act collectively with all countries”. This is a cop out to do nothing. The government could act today to reduce tax rates, simplify the complex tax rules that apply equally to everyone. Give us our tax pounds back to spend o nthe things we want, not the projects the govermnet think we want.

    Frankly there is too much government at all levels busy managing an old world status quo, rather than less government focused delivering a 21st century solutions that work.

    Our politicians don’t have a clue how to make it work well. Thier focus is on appeasing lobby groups to stay in power. So we end up feeling disenfranchised and don’t vote, or those that do vote end up creating coalitions and the more we feel disenfranchised, the more we will have coalitions voted in by a minority of the population.

    The more the system creaks and moans…

    Like

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