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Financial Times: How to fix high price of housing? Who needs a greenbelt? Limiting immigration not even mentioned

And did those feet in ancient time
Walk upon England’s mountains green:
And was the holy Lamb of God,
On England’s pleasant pastures seen! — William Blake, ~ 1808


How would one describe a market in which the value of the same commodity varied by more than 100 to one? “Hugely distorted” is the answer. Yet that is precisely the situation for land near England’s most prosperous urban centres…

…The core question…is what is to be done with the green belts around our cities. Supporters of the policy of “urban containment” argue that this is a small island whose countryside risks being concreted over.

In fact, the land in green belts alone is one and a half times greater than in all cities and towns together. Moreover, the towns are far “greener” than green belts. Gardens cover nearly half of the 10% of England that is urbanised, while the dominant use of land in green belts is intensive arable farming, which is mostly hideous and offers less biodiversity than urban parks and gardens. Nor do green belts offer much if any amenity to the bulk of the population that lives in the great cities. Their value goes to the small number of people who own houses inside them.

So what is to be done? The price mechanism should rule…We do need to stop constraining the growth of the places where people really want to live. It is untrue that the green belts are areas of outstanding amenity. They are rather sources of increasing misery, as an ever-larger population is crammed into an artificially limited space.


Perhaps not surprisingly, the op-ed attracted only 14 comments, of which few seemed concerned about the green belt per se. I noticed this one:

Why not flatten Martin Wolf’s house — which I’m assuming is in London — and replace it with a high rise block?
When they’ve replaced all the houses and gardens in London with high rise blocks, I’ll be very willing to cede some of the green belt.

(Martin Wolf is the author of the op-end).

I am not familiar with the green belt in the UK, of course. But we also have one in greater Vancouver. Since I no longer live there I do not know if similar proposals are afoot there too (the house prices in Vancouver are extremely high).

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  • AlanUK

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/earth/hands-off-our-land/10192772/100000-homes-may-be-built-on-Green-Belt-land.html
    Gives an idea of the pressures and conflicts.
    If you want to know more about protecting the green belt try a Google search on Green belt land protection UK or anything similar.

  • Dana Garcia

    You would think that environmentalists would be front and center to protect open space. But not so, at least in the US. Here the Sierra Club, which acts as a leader to the smaller orgs, was convinced to omit the topic of immigration as being harmful to the environment.

    Sierra leadership secretly took a bribe, er donation, of $100 million from a Wall Street investor who stipulated that immigration not be mentioned as contributing negatively to environmental concerns like open space, sprawl, water supply, etc. Management then bashed reformer members as being racist for even mentioning immigration-fueled population growth.

    http://www.thesocialcontract.com/pdf/twentyfour-four/tsc_24_4_walker.pdf

    • Frau Katze

      I’ve heard about that. Total disgrace.

  • AlanUK

    Any idea where the photo was taken? I would suggest the Yorkshire Dales area – such as Swaledale but there are many lovely places. Try Google Image for Yorkshire Dales.
    (Shows how beautiful un photo shopped UK scenery can be.)

    • Frau Katze

      I could try using TinEye, which searches by image. A lot of scenery pix have no identifying info, much less the photographer name. It drives me crazy. Pinterest is full stuff labelled “misty”, “moody”, etc. And nothing else. I’m really careful when I load to Pinterest, I include place and photographer name plus a link.

    • Frau Katze

      TinEye found a site for Skipton Yorkshire using it as their background. There is not conclusive attribution for the photo though

      http://welcometoskipton.com/section/Skipton-BID

    • Frau Katze

      TinEye gives a lot of hits. You can get a high-res photo (for wallpaper). the photo names seem to indicate Yorkshire.

  • dance…dancetotheradio

    Say what you will about prog rock but punk didn’t produce this:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CN11bI1_sZo

  • James Hamilton

    The Green cover in metro Vancouver area is vanishing at fast rate.
    Cities like Surrey, Langley, Delta, Coquitlam & PoCo has transferred large plots of land from ARL to mixed use. Other like Pitts Meadow & Maple Ridge are following the trend.
    Areas where there use to be lofty stands of trees and small farm/ranches are now dotted with condo buildings & single family homes. Dismal landscape. At least 75% of the buyers are either new immigrants or foreigners (mostly third world).

    • Frau Katze

      Doesn’t surprise me. Anything for a quick buck seems to be the sentiment these days.