THE VILLAGE SOAPBOX
Two Worlds There is a severe housing shortage in this country and the scarcity of accommodation has kept prices high in relation to income. Many people in what one might regard as good jobs find themselves forced to live in poor housing whilst, at the same time, paying a high rent. Without doubt one of the factors responsible for the high cost of new housing has been the very high cost of building land and a major factor determining the price of building land has been the difficulty in obtaining planning permission. Green belt policies and building envelopes have severely restricted the amount of land available for building and they have enabled those already ensconced in their houses in the country to resist further developments. At the same time it has enabled those with land for which building permission was obtained to make a great deal of money at the expense of the house purchasers In England little more than 10% of the land is built on, the figure for the UK as a whole is much lower, and it is ridiculous to create this artificial shortage of building land by self imposed constraints. The Government are concerned at the housing shortage, they are proposing a loosening of the ‘green belt’ and are setting targets for new builds. Needless to say there is the anticipated howls of protest from such organisations as the CPRE (one of the major obstacles to progress in this country) and, to my great disappointment , the National Trust. They have no concern over the misery imposed on many people because of their uncomfortable living circumstances, their only concern is that someone might build something that will put a blemish on the vista from their own comfortable location. They would like to see more high rise buildings and houses built cheek to jowl in every available corner in the towns rather than seeing a few more green spaces created in the towns to improve the environment for those already living there. As I understand it, the proposal is that local councils will be able to decide where new homes should be built but they are expected to be of a type for which there is a demand and on suitable sites in locations where there is a demand . The target for East Anglia is for a further 347,000 new homes – goodness knows how they arrived at that number. Such a figure seems somewhat daunting and might frighten some innumerate people into believing that the whole of East Anglia will be like a building site and will be irrevocably changed forever. In fact the combined area of Norfolk, Suffolk, Cambridgeshire, Essex and Hertfordshire is 1,683,600 hectares (4,160,176 acres). If 347,000 homes are to be built at a fairly generous rate of 10 homes/acre they will require 34,700 acres and that is just 0.85% of the land area so that 99% of the land will remain much as it is today. There are many villages where young people are priced out and forced to move away, most of those villages would benefit from additional low cost housing enabling young people to stay and bringing more people into the village, making the provision of services more viable. Once again, however, it is important that the cost of the housing should be kept down by keeping the cost of the land down. Unfortunately releasing green belt land could be like a lottery win for some landowners unless some control is introduced, perhaps the price that the landowner wants for the land should feature in the decision to permit building. Scientists There was a time, I think, when scientists were more careful of their facts before rushing into print. Nowadays there seems to be so much rubbish attributed to scientists that it becomes difficult to sort out the wheat from the chaff. Axel Kleidon, a biogeochemist at the Max Planck Institute in Germany (a well respected establishment)recently suggested that if we replace all the fossil fuel power stations with wind power, some 17trillion watts, it could seriously dent the energy balance of our climate. He was quoted as saying “Large scale exploitation of wind energy will inevitably leave an imprint in the atmosphere. Because we use so much ‘free energy’, and more every year, we will deplete the reservoir of energy.” His theory appears to be that the wind turbines take the power of the wind and transforms it into electricity and whatever the use made of that electricity – machines, computers, TV, etc - it eventually finishes up as heat. He suggests that if all the electricity were taken from wind power the effect of the additional heat would be like that of doubling the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. What absolute nonsense! Firstly we are already producing that electricity and it is already finishing up as heat, but, by releasing the energy stored in the fossil fuel, we are helping to warm the planet, such warming is quite independent of any warming effect due to increased CO2. The effect is negligible, however. Secondly, what does Herr Kleidon think happens to the wind energy if it isn’t used for powering turbines? What does happen is that it is dissipated and finishes up as low grade heat whether we make use of it or not. The wind obtains its energy from the sun, aided and abetted by the rotation of the earth and the seasonal variation due to the movement of the earth round the sun, it is just part of the solar energy we receive and, make use of it or not, it will finish up as heat. I am not sure where his ideas were published originally but whoever approved it for publication was as big an idiot as he was. The trouble today is that there are so many ways in which people can air their views no matter how crazy but it is unfortunate if they can influence decision makers and equally unfortunate if they can damage the reputation of such a respected institution as the Max Planck.
Anti-social Behaviour Gambling on the Stock Exchange Paying oneself vastly in excess of one’s worth Corrupt Politicians Newspapers that corrupt Vandalism Rioting