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Brown field
I see that England has reclassified gardens in planning terms so they are no longer “brownfield” sites (a category otherwise used for post-industrial land). This means that councils can make the planning process for building on gardens more arduous, which I welcome. Suburban gardens should be treasured and valued, rather than viewed as a money-making development opportunity. In particular, I don’t think that houses should be built on gardens in a way that significantly changes the housing density or character of a neighbourhood.

In covering this story on the BBC News channel, their report said that new houses will still need to be built. Do they?

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It's a debatable point, though the Barker Report back in 2003 pointed out that due to rising population and social changes meaning lower occupancy density (more single people, old people living along in a multi-bedroom house etc.) that there was a need, then, for 230,000 new properties a year but only 165,000 being built.

And also that this "get on your bike and go to where the jobs are", means lots of empty properties in Welsh villages and ex-manufacturing English towns and cities, and a greater demand for properties "where the jobs are", which pushes property prices up beyond the reach of nurses, school-leavers etc.

Half of the software engineers I work with in London are renting rooms in shared houses, most of the people who have their own place are in a two-income household and live outside zone 3 on the tube map (I'm in zone 6, colleagues not sharing "with strangers" are in Reading, Southend, Twickenham, West Drayton and Walton-on-Thames and commute in daily)

So I'm not aware of any of my colleagues that is without a roof over their heads ... but I know that several of them would welcome enough extra property (in the right places!) coming on to the market to provide affordable first-time buyer properties (or at least something affordable to rent).

And, to be honest, there's a lot of bad, high-density accommodation in inner-cities that either needs to be destroyed, or has been pulled down. Hackney tower blocks for example. Put too many rats in a cage and they start attacking each other (or so I'm told) ... some of these housing estates are much the same. Poor construction, poor maintenance, high density, and to be avoided! Vertical communities is a nice idea, but hasn't worked in many places.

Look at this picture of Ely ... you cam see where the Greenbel/farming protect land is, by the sharp demarcation and high density housing on one side of a road, and vast clear fields the other sides. Building land is limited for new housing, so "in-fill" (or "garden grabbing") development was one way of increasing density ... which I've already said I don't like! So I applaud this change that makes gardens not "brownfield".

Looking at England as a whole, is there really a shortage of housing? I understand the squeeze in the south-east and in the midlands, but housing is cheaper in other regions, and so I assume there is more available.

One could deal with the housing shortage by building more accommodation in those areas with the least available housing. But that would just feed the demand, and isn't sustainable. I can't see that building 'low cost' housing in the south-east of England helps anyone in the long term.

Or one could do nothing, and let the market price people out of the housing market. Wouldn't that give businesses an incentive to locate in northern towns or Welsh villages where there is cheaper housing for their employees? And it would encourage people to share accommodation. Perhaps living alone should be viewed as a luxury only to be afforded by the rich and profligate?

I agree that the overpopulation of the South East is a Bad Thing - for the rest of England, the rest of the UK, and probably for the South East itself.

However, I think it would take more extensive social engineering than just failing to build houses to prevent the lemming-like rush to live/work/do business there. Lack of housing, while the other pressures to go there remain, will just result in slum conditions.

You need to move significant parts of government and business out of London to make that kind of change. Difficult.

Maybe if businesses' NI contributions were related to the local cost of living, there would be a financial incentive to employ people in cheaper areas. That could help to spread business spending around the country.

And if the government took a lead in this by saying that it was unaffordable to pay anyone a London weighting on a public-sector salary that didn't have a really good reason to be based in London, then that could see public spending move out of the south east too.

I seem to recall the howls of protest when the Scottish Government took the decision to move some department or other (?Sport? Culture?) to Inverness. I think the crying would be deafening if you moved (and I think they should) major departments out of London. As far as I can see, the only Government Department with a decent reason to be in London at all is the Foreign Office, and that only because all the Ambassadors are there...

Hrmmm.... Move Defence to somewhere between Portsmouth, Brize Norton, and Salisbury Plain. Winchester, perhaps? Salisbury? Home office to Manchester. Environment to Newcastle. Treasury to Birmingham. Can you hear the lamentation of the masses already? And yet presumably it would net a massive amount for the treasury, as you sold all that prime housing land in central london.

Scottish Natural Heritage? They moved from Edinburgh to Inverness. Actually, I could heartily support moving most government departments to the highlands.

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