Its been going on for some time now, and is still not resolved. The processes to get the planning application approved has taken many turns, and is now with the Secretary of State for Local Government, Eric Pickles, who will now examine whether a full planning enquiry is necessary; a process which could take many weeks.
The application is for 400 houses to be built on land behind Ash Manor Comprehensive school which Ash Residents Association ASHRA, had attempted to be designated a ‘Village Green’, unsuccessfully as it turns out by the who have been fighting tool and nail, with local residents, to oppose the building of these houses. This is not just a ‘NIMBY’ protest, it goes deeper than that and surely demonstrates the folly of trying to get a quart into a pint pot. Let me explain: the area in question is a boggy area which has been an open area between the villages of Tongham and Ash since time began and is natural buffer between these communities. The closing of the gap would ensure that it becomes one conurbation instead of two distinct villages, joined by a ribbon development between the two of one road. My argument though is not the need for extra housing in this country, it’s the where.
That the UK population is growing, there is no doubt, although many are not born in this country and a further group are as a result of split families and single parent families. This puts a strain on the current housing stock and demand exceeds supply, but why does it seem everyone wants to build in the already overcrowded south east? It seems a particular hobby horse of politicians to squeeze as much housing as possible into the already overcrowded, under-resourced and under-infrastructured (is there such a phrase?) as the Surrey/Hampshire/Sussex region. Lets break these elements down:
- Overcrowded – the percentage of land use in the UK is something 10% (10.6 to be precise) of England is used for housing and ‘conurbations’. The perception is that most of this is in the South East, and that would be true, except I don’t have any figures for it. Yet, there are vast tracts of land over the rest of England, without including Scotland and Wales that could be used instead. There are 8.38 million people living in the south east, the highest region in population in England. this is predicted to increase by half a million by 2016. Why, is there some magical element in the South East, are there more children born? Do more immigrants settle here? Is there more work here? Are the streets paved with gold?
- There is a vast amount of under-resourced development going on, by that I mean the funding of infra-structure, which to my mind falls very short of the requirement. It’s all very well building house upon house, where’s the drainage, sewerage, electricity, gas supply, Broadband etc going to magicked from? These resources can’t cope now, never mind the thousands of houses they want to put here.
- The infra-structure as well as meaning the lack of resources (see above) I also mean that adjoining authorities don’t seem to talk to each other. Let me give you a example: Near Aldershot, there is ex-MoD land being developed to build 5000 houses, yet just 1/2 a mile away, Surrey are building 100’s of houses seemingly without any consultation with each other. Why is this? Do they think that one development doesn’t impact on the other? Are there limitless resources to be called on? No! Why don’t they talk to each other. Spread the load, I don’t suppose most people would mind if they lived in either Surrey or Hampshire, in that sense there’s not much difference between the two.
The attraction is always that is this area is where people want to settle despite being the most populated, has most air pollution and least available and most expensive housing. Yet, yet the planners and politicians don’t try to play down these facts and don’t direct people to move elsewhere. There are vast areas of housing in other parts of the country. Recently I saw houses in Liverpool or somewhere being sold for £1 each. Admittedly they required a lot of refurbishment, and there probably wasn’t work to be had nearby, but at least it’s somewhere to live and the other things can follow. I just do not understand this obsession with wanting to live in the crowded south-east. Its certainly not the climate.