Friday, 12 July 2013

Just horsin' around

Colin Wiles in Inside Housing:

One of the frequent arguments put forward by countryside campaigners opposed to house building is that greenfield sites are needed for food production. According to this argument, new homes will endanger our ability to feed ourselves in the future...

But if you look at a detailed analysis of land use in England you soon realise that there is another aspect to this argument. Ninety per cent of England is countryside – around 12 million hectares - but only 8.9 million hectares, or 74 percent, is actually used for agriculture, and around half of this is grazing land, mainly occupied by sheep and cattle. However, some of it is also occupied by horses.

In fact, when you start to look at the statistics for the horse population some interesting figures emerge. 
The estimate for the number of horses in England ranges from 600,000 to 1.1 million but  no more than 20,000 of them are professional animals – i.e. involved in the horse-racing industry, eventing or dressage.

According to the British Equestrian Trade Association an estimated 3.5 million people ride each year and the vast majority are leisure riders - and 75 percent of them are women and children*. But there is also a problem with surplus and unwanted horses, with many reports of horses being dumped on land around the country.

According to the British Horse Industry Confederation, the average land grazed by each horse is one hectare. So even using a very conservative estimate, at least 600,000 hectares of England's countryside is occupied by horses, and probably a lot more. To put this into context, this is almost HALF of the of the 1.3 million hectares of England that is built upon. What's more, with the exception of a few rogue burgers, horses contribute precisely nothing to our food chain.

So just to be clear, horses occupy an area of land that is almost half the built up area of England. That is enough for 18 million homes! Most horses are grazed on land that may not be suitable for agriculture. In my previous blogs I have suggested that we need to build 3 million homes on greenfield sites over the next twenty years.

In other words, just one seventh of the land currently used by horses could be built upon and it would have no impact upon food production whatsoever. This nails the argument that loss of greenfield land means loss of food production.


* I'm not sure of the relevance of that statistic. Women and children (of both genders) make up nearly two-thirds of the population and are slightly over-represented among horse riders. We also  use a heck of a lot of land for golf courses and golf players are mainly men, so it all evens out.

15 comments:

Bob E said...

A "Hurrah it's Friday" silly ... Any idea how much land is given over to the golf/hockey/rugby/equestrianism hybrid called "Polo"

DBC Reed said...

@MW
What is the total land area for UK in hectares?The LLC is bedevilled by idiots (no names no pack drill) who insist that you can raise all the money needed for LVT without taxing residential.

Mark Wadsworth said...

BobE, probably not much.

DBC, who cares about surface area? It's about 60 million acres (one each) as it happens, but the 85% undeveloped/farmland has a rental value of naff all (maybe £1 billion, tops).

It's the 10% developed bit which has an annual rental value of well over £200 billion, of which about 80% of the rental value of the developed bit is residential and 20% is commercial.

It's all very simple - there is a very close correlation between build density, population density and location rental value.

So the location rental value of London is about a third of the total rental value of the whole of the UK, despite it's only 1% of the surface area.

Morgan Charles said...

"According to this argument, new homes will endanger our ability to feed ourselves in the future..."

Yes, but this argument is bull and can seen to be bull without involving horses. What's more the people putting it forward know it's bull, but they can't say the truth, which is that they prefer to have the view of green fields ,with or without horses on them, that they paid for, than a less valuable view of other people's houses.

Mark Wadsworth said...

MC, you keep telling us that the NIMBYs have "paid for" the view, well in that case, they can go and sue the person from whom they bought the house, it's not my bloody problem if they didn't read the small print.

DBC Reed said...

@MW
Many thanks.

Morgan Charles said...

Yes, Mark, I know you can't get your head round the concept of "paid for but not got any rights over" no matter how many real life examples I give you, but that's not my fault.

Mark Wadsworth said...

MC, I am very familiar with the Homey concept that they once paid off a few quid in mortgage decades ago in order to save a far larger sum in rent and now believe that the world owes them a living for ever more, but perhaps you might like to brush up on contract law and so on.

"Nemo dat quod non habet" and all that, you can't sell what is not within your power to sell and so you certainly cannot buy what is not within the power of the seller to sell, so the Homeys simply have not paid for the view, they haven't, it's basic contract law so they don't own it either.

Or else if they believe they did pay for it, they can go back and sue the original seller.

Morgan Charles said...

I cannot see how you can get from "paid for but not got any rights over" to either "the Homey concept that they once paid off a few quid in mortgage decades ago in order to save a far larger sum in rent and now believe that the world owes them a living for ever more," or "the Homeys simply have not paid for the view, they haven't, it's basic contract law so they don't own it either". At what point have I said anyone owns anything in this argument?
Please could you explain which of these statements you disagree with?
1. A house with a view costs more than the identical house without a view.
2. Someone who buys a house with a view pays more than someone who buys a house without a view.
3. The difference between the two amounts paid is because of the presence or absence of the view.
4. The difference of the two amounts paid is the cost of the view.
5. The buyer of the more expensive house has paid more because of the view, that additional cost being the cost of the view.
6. The buyer of the more expensive house has paid for the view.

Mark Wadsworth said...

MC, you keep coming back to this debate but I know perfectly well what you mean and you know perfectly well what I mean.

Just because I've paid for a taxi ride doesn't mean I own the taxi.

And just because you might originally have paid £100 extra for a house with a nice view donkeys years ago does not give you the solemn right to prevent any new housing being built to "spoil" it, you did not pay, under a binding private contract, to all those people who are burdened by your NIMBY tendencies, end of discussion and you do not own the view.

At least there are some NIMBYs who are decent enough to buy all the surrounding fields off the farmers to prevent them being built on, fair play, say I.

Morgan Charles said...

"I know perfectly well what you mean"

Well, no you don't. Or if you do, you don't say so. You keep saying that I mean that someone "owns" or "has a right to" the view from their house. I don't mean this. I mean that they've paid for it, which is something completely different, the law notwithstanding.

"and you do not own the view."

I think we are both agreed on this.

Mark Wadsworth said...

MC, I do know perfectly well what you mean and you know perfectly well what I mean.

The point is that you have some sympathy for the NIMBY position and I don't, that's where we differ.

Morgan Charles said...

"MC, I do know perfectly well what you mean and you know perfectly well what I mean."

We'll have to disagree on that one then. I can't see how you can logically get from what I mean to what you say I mean and vice versa.

Mark Wadsworth said...

MC, you have made six statements which are all relatively uncontroversial.

My point - as you are well aware - is that whatever they have paid or whatever their house is worth, they do not own the view and have no real right to prevent more houses being built.

Morgan Charles said...

"is that whatever they have paid or whatever their house is worth, they do not own the view and have no real right to prevent more houses being built."

Did I ever say that they did? All I said was that they had reason to feel aggrieved because they had suffered a financial loss (and, yes, anyone, even a non-NIMBY like yourself, is going to suffer a financial loss if they buy a house with a view and sell it a year later without one). As I pointed out in my post on the subject, the evil of the system is, not that such people are aggrieved, or that they attempt to mitigate their loss, both of which even you would admit are quite reasonable positions to hold, if they didn't involve land (e.g. if you saw someone damaging your car, you'd firstly try to stop them doing it, and then feel aggrieved that they'd done it), but that they are forced to pay for the view in the first place, the law notwithstanding.