Wednesday, 10 December 2014

NIMBY Bullshit Of The Week

From The Evening Standard:

Our green belt is the envy of the world (1); it is a green lung,(2) provides space for recreation(3) and is a check against unsustainable urban sprawl(4). Once it is paved over, it is gone for ever...(5)

Nicky Gavron (Lab), chair, London Assembly Planning Committee (6)


1) In my line of work and daily life, I meet a disportionate number of people from abroad, and I sometimes ask them what drew them to England.

There's a fairly short list of answers, and never, ever, ever, has any of them ever mentioned The Hallowed Green Belt. Ever. And as we know, most tourists from abroad visit London, and if not, then Oxford or Cambridge or something.

2) That's a terrible Americanism, and "green lung" refers to an area of natural parkland within an urban region. Woodhouse Moor in Leeds, Platt Fields Park/Birchfields Park in Manchester etc. It does not refer to "farmland". Urban parks are worth their weight in gold*, but I'm not aware that parks like this are unusual to the UK.

3) 99% of "green belt" is private farmland around towns and cities, which does not provide a single square inch of space for recreation. Ag land owners wage their own private war on the ramblers.

4) People gotta live somewhere. If they live in smaller towns out in the countryside, then they just commute longer distances and are less likely to use public transport.

5) Once you've eaten some carrots, they are gone for ever. Use a litre of petrol and it's gone forever. But well built new housing will effectively last forever (centuries) and the land under them really will last forever. And the land is not "gone", it's just being used for a higher value purpose. For ever.

6) Were she a Tory MP or councillor from the stockbroker belt wanting the maintain the scarcity value of her constituents' homes, fair enough, but this woman is supposed to be on the people's side.

* Not literally, obviously.


The Stigler said...

The thing about "lost forever" is nonsense. If you knock down a house and break up what's in the ground, nature will take route very quickly.

Mark Wadsworth said...

TS, sure, but obviously it's better farming stuff which has never been built on.

But how often has it happened that people have decided to knock down their own houses and use it as farmland instead?

Maybe once or twice in the whole of human history?

Anonymous said...

Khmer Rouge would be once. May be a typo but Nicky Gavron is a 'she'.

Mark Wadsworth said...

PC, was not a typo, it was a mistake on my part, I have amended.

DBC Reed said...

This is grade one Homeownerist friendly bullshit.As soon as the righteous point out that there is something fundamentally wrong with the land market to produce such unaffordable house prices, the ruthless Tory establishment starts cranking out the same old song "Just build over from Brighton to Northampton and Bob's your uncle.Nothing wrong with the land market.Nothing wrong with anything.Pay your mortgage pleb and shut up while we make sure you make a capital gain out of it. Be grateful."
Anti urban sprawl legislation started long before the Second World war and the subsequent post war unpleasantness for the political minority to the right of Macmillan.
A vote loser whichever way you look at it.Nicky Gavron's instincts are more sensitive than those of the establishment fuckwits colonising her party.

Bayard said...

"But how often has it happened that people have decided to knock down their own houses and use it as farmland instead?"

Near where I used to live in Battersea, there were two small parks that were once housing. One had a very good pub on the edge of it.

Mark Wadsworth said...

DBC, you are talking utter nonsense.

Can you point out any of Nicky Gavron's claims which are actually true, and we'll busk it from there.

B, yes, turning high value housing land into even higher value urban parks is a different matter. I was referring to turning high value housing land into low value farm land.

The Stigler said...


"But how often has it happened that people have decided to knock down their own houses and use it as farmland instead?"

Not often, I agree. I'm just pointing out that it's inaccurate (some old roads near Swindon have been dug up and in a few years I doubt anyone would know it).

I think it'll happen to some mining villages, eventually.

And nature is growing up on abandoned houses in Detroit, although a lot of that is down to the idiots in government who've set property taxes way above what's realistic ($2500 of taxes for a house worth $7500).

Mark Wadsworth said...

TS, yes, there are plenty of houses which have been abandoned over the years, but the last owner did not make the conscious decision "I would rather have an extra tenth of an acre of farmland, that is worth so much that I will pay to have the house demolished and the land remediated", they just abandoned it.

DBC Reed said...

@TS You are right about Detroit.I used to have huge arguments with diehard Georgists on land café who asserted that land tax on the most down-and-out areas of Detroit would ensure the place's revival.They were implacably opposed to Obama's plans to co-operate with the big auto unions which actually saved the place (somewhat).They blamed the union-won pension plans for Detroit's demise seeing them as a form of rent seeking, proving that supporting LVT doesn't make you right about everything.
Talking of which: Mark challenges the propositions that green belts contain urban sprawl (when it is just this containment he objects to) and that they are used recreationally (when as a child I lived on the A5 twenty miles out of London and was woken up on Bank holidays by the huge mass of car traffic heading out of London for country pubs or preferably country pubs next to cricket pitches or just simple open air sex or whatever)
I never thought I'd see dreary sex-maniac haunted Platt Fields held up as a good example of anything.
People don't like villages linked up by ribbon development to become conurbations.The vision of 100 mile diameter London is a nightmare.Its a loser and also the Tory get-out to avoid LVT.
In fact it could be used as a pro LVT argument:its either LVT or 100 mile London.

Mark Wadsworth said...

DBC, this is a tedious form of argument.

Accuse somebody of saying something he or she never said and then criticising it.

I ask you, can you find any truth in what Nicky said?

Country pubs and cricket pitches are not "green belt". They are "developed land" and "public parks" respectively.

As to Platt Fields, I once stayed in Manchester for a couple of weeks and it was near a nice big park, I can't remember what it was called so I just used the two largest as examples.

DBC Reed said...

I have said all of Ms Gavron's assertions are true, except No 1 which is obvious hype. You have implicitly admitted No 4 is true by complaining the Green Belt is all too successful in containing the urban sprawl you approve of. If you have been in Platt Fields you will be able to name the very ugly statue that's tucked away there because nowhere else would have it.

DBC Reed said...

I withdraw my challenge about the statue as, unbeknownst to me, it was moved some time ago.