Pavlova paradise

As the Queens speech today brings in the government’s stated intentions to encourage the building of an extra 3 million homes we find all manner of folk crawling out of the suburban under growth to defend the status quo.

They will, hell or high water, defend pavlova paradise. That place where little Johnny goes to a ‘good’ school, big sister does Brownies and ballet and where Dad gives the Mondeo a good rub down on the driveway every weekend. Meanwhile Mum has time to gulp down the finest of new world wines with a little Tesco’s salad for lunch most week days and do her little bit for her local charity in the afternoons before the school run. It couldn’t be better than this could it; pavlova paradise, soft (familiar), chewy (indescribable) and very sweet (inoffensive).

Now that soft chewy sweetness is under threat. The bulldozers are coming and they in suburbia don’t like it. Under threat is the greenbelt , that protector of birdsong, broccoli, river side walks and house prices. Yes, the greenbelt throws up a whole potpourri of emotions and images.

Lawson Fairbank: Your Guide to Green Belt Land

Today Radio4’s You and Yours allowed the masses from suburbia their 15 seconds of fame. And how they howled and stamped their feet with indignation that anyone could possibly think of building more houses like theirs. That other people may want what they have already got.

The greenbelt policy was finally enshrined in an act of parliament in 1938. That link also shows arguements for greenbelt preservation.

Approved Green Belts, based on Structure Plans and Local Plans , Sept 1993, total 1,555,700 hectares, as outlined roughly within the map above.

A Royal Town Planning Institute study carried out with Manchester University found the drive for suburban sprawl has a detremental effect on commuter behaviour. The commuter belt as it is known disrupts family life with more time spent in the car than with the kids and increases energy use.

Clearly, as the National Trust smugly says (as a significant owner and protector of greenbelt land) a debate must be had. Now, what shall we do about all those second homes? First time non-buyers you go first ….

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12 Responses to Pavlova paradise

  1. earthpal says:

    When Shelter say that 1 in 7 children wake up in bad housing every morning and that 20,000 new social houses need to be built to tackle the crisis, then something has to give.

  2. Dave On Fire says:

    Energy intensive suburbia must not be extended. We certainly need more social housing, and probably need a lot of new homes building too (although a law against owning multiple homes and keeping them empty could go a long way), but it needs to be qualitatively different, promoting efficiency and community instead of isolation and sprawl.

  3. matt says:

    A lady called into the radio programme to put forward the idea of more apartment living. She had just returned from Hong Kong she said where plenty of people live in apartments and they even build swimming pools into the basement. As she spoke you could hear the birdsong from her garden.

    Having been to HK a couple of times I would never agree to HK-style tower block living however, there is a very important case for building more of the 5/6 storey apartment blocks that are well architecturally designed and have good shared gardens and facilities. Done properly this can provide good and sustainable community living within urban areas.

    I’m not entirely surprised people are opposed to giant Barret Home style developments within the greenbelt. They’re just so ugly and badly catered for regards amenities. As to second homes, they are clearly a problem in small villages as the life of the village disappears and first time local buyers have no chance of a purchase so, they need to be dealt with, by law or by other means.

  4. the Grit says:

    Hi Matt,

    Seeing as how our farm is in the local Green Belt program, I really enjoyed this post. Of course, said program is quite different over here. Ours is a tax incentive program where agricultural land is levied at a much lower rate to allow farms to stay in business as the surrounding land values go up due to urban sprawl. This is a good thing as, without it, there would be almost no agriculture in the county. For instance, the property tax on our 130 acres of farm is slightly less than that for our house and it’s three acre lot. Without the break, we’d have to sell it all and watch it turn into another tacky subdivision.

    the Grit

  5. matt says:

    I lived in a ‘subdivision’ converted from farm land out in kiwi land. A soulless place if I ever saw one. Having the sea at the end of the property was kinda nice though. Good to hear the tax system is working in your favour as it does sound like you’re surrounded Custer. πŸ™‚

  6. Pete Smith says:

    Matt, I found myself confused after reading your post. You’ve conflated at least 3 ‘definitions’ of suburbia:

    The traditional concept of expansion and migration from an urban core, which the Green Belt was intended to inhibit.
    The idea of the suburban building form, with front and back gardens and quiet residential roads, which is now the norm for new estates, because that’s what people want (or have been convinced they want).
    A stereotype of suburban lifestyles, which I thought had died out with ‘Terry and June’. You’ll be quoting ‘Pleasant Valley Sunday’ as a reference next πŸ™‚

  7. matt says:

    There is diffinitely different perceptions of what ‘suburbia is but generally I take it to be the less condense layout of housing and services. Driving to a block of shops for the newspaper and a pint of milk is a classic symptom of this.

    Sorry Pete, didn’t realise I’d hit a raw nerve with your own suburban lifestyle. πŸ™‚

  8. Pete Smith says:

    You didn’t. The idea that everyone who lives in suburbia drives to the shops for paper and milk is yet another stereotype. One which, by the way, could never apply to me because (a) I don’t drive and (b) I still have the use of my legs. But this is just a distraction.
    I can’t make out from your post who is supposed to be the villain of the piece. You blame ‘suburbanites’ for selfishly fighting development in the green belt. Yet the vast majority of suburbs, in the traditional sense of the word, are on the outer fringe of large urban areas and by definition are not green belt. Most of the people who live there are too busy fighting garden grabbers to waste their energy opposing green belt development.
    I think you’re mixing them up with the inhabitants of areas where development is threatened, who seem to you to have suburban lifestyles and values. It’s a bit rich to condemn these people for fighting external forces that threaten the character and individuality of their own neighourhoods. I didn’t hear much of the ‘You and Yours’ program unfortunately, but there was one bit where a councillor from Crockham Hill in Kent spoke against a proposed development on farmland that separates his village from Swanley. If that goes ahead, Crockham Hill will be absorbed into Greater Swanley, and character, community and ‘sense of place’ will be permanently altered just to build swathes of cruddy little tick-tacky boxes hated even by the people who buy them.

  9. matt says:

    Pete, people in suburbs that come up against greenbelt don’t want (for some bizarre reason) to see more houses built next to them on greenbelt. If I want to have a dig at such selfish morons I will! As to being against ‘boxes’ being built on greenbelt, yes I think everyone agrees with you there. New communities need to be better designed, like Hampstead Garden suburbs for example and the homes themselves can easily be of better design.

  10. Pete Smith says:

    “If I want to have a dig at such selfish morons I will! ”

    I know, you just did. I’m really confused now :-/

  11. the Grit says:

    Hi Matt,

    It had to happen eventually. Of course, I suspect the Karmic drain of having tax law work in my favor is why I have yet to win the lottery πŸ™‚

    the Grit

  12. matt says:

    The lottery … that’s just another sly tax!

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