Friday, July 13, 2007


Daily Express
Friday July 13,2007

JOHN Prescott, Labour’s buffoonish and unlamented ex-Deputy Prime Minister, had a unique talent for mangling the English language.
One of the many laughable statements from his time in office was a comment about protecting the environment. “The Green Belt is a great Labour achievement and we intend to build on it,” he said. Yet for all its comic element, this verbal slip may have revealed the Government’s true intentions.
Thanks to Labour’s policies, England is rapidly being turned into one of the most over­crowded places in Europe, full of soulless developments and urban sprawl. There barely seems to be a corner of the South-east that is not vulner­able to more housebuilding. 
Our once green and pleasant land is increasingly covered in concrete and red-brick.
And the problem is about to become worse, if Gordon Brown has his way. He has just announced proposals to build an extra three million homes by 2020, while the annual total of new properties is to rise from 185,000 a year to more than 240,000. In addition, planning restrictions are to be removed to encourage more development.

Labour policies have driven an explosive demand for housing

These steps have been presented as necessary to ease our chronic housing shortage, particularly for young people trying to buy their first home. A major extension of the building programme, say ministers, will lower the pressure on an overheated market, thereby improving affordability.
But the crisis has been driven by a cocktail of naked greed from the developers, who have a vested interest in pushing up property prices, and woefully misguided Gov­ern­­ment policies that have helped to manufacture an explosive demand for housing.
And those problems are not going to be solved by Stalinist bullying of local authorities, the bulldozing of our rural landscape and yet more collusion with the avaricious house-building lobby.

The bastardised socialist agenda of the Government has played a central role in exacerbating the housing crisis in three key ways. The first has been the wilful destruction of our borders and the promotion of mass immigration on an unprecedented scale. It is ­little wonder that there is such pressure on the housing stock when our country is allowing 500,000 foreigners to settle here every year, most of them in the South-east of England.
No advanced society can accommodate this kind of influx without putting the physical infrastructure under unbearable strain. Even if the Government were to double the annual housebuilding plan, it would still not meet the needs of immigrants. More­over, because many newcomers are out of work or impoverished, they severely increase the demand for social housing.
Second, while the middle and working classes are hammered by this Government, super-rich foreign tax exiles are given an easy ride. And the eagerness of these parasites to buy property in the South-east, often solely for investment purposes, keeps driving up prices to grotesque levels. Plutocrats and the jobless do well under Labour but ordinary people find themselves squeezed.
Third, the Government has stoked housing demand by advancing the breakdown of the traditional family unit. For a decade, ministers have been saying that marriage is an irrelevance in the modern age.
“Families come in all shapes and sizes,” goes one of the mantras of New Labour. But far from being neutral about the married family, Labour has discriminated against the institution through the tax and benefits system, handing out extra money to lone mothers, giving new rights to unmarried couples and making divorce far easier.
As a result, we have by far the highest rates of teenage pregnancy, family collapse, divorce and lone parenthood in Europe. And all this familial chaos, with couples separating and individuals living on their own, only adds to the pressure for more homes.
I have recent direct experience of the aggravation wrought by unceasing development. A few months ago my wife and I moved to a small 19th-century house in the village of Westgate on Sea on the Kent coast. We were attracted to the property because it was in a conservation area, at the end of a terrace in a quiet, leafy street.
But on the day that we moved in we received a letter from the local council informing us that our neighbours, who owned a large Victorian house with a substantial garden, had submitted a planning application to demolish their home and put up three large apartment blocks in its place.
On any rational grounds, such a proposal would be thrown out. It would not only mean the demolition of a fine piece of architectural heritage but it would also damage the environment.But I fear that under the guise of meeting local housing need, the plan will be approved.
Even if the council rejects it, the Government will probably force it through to meet housebuilding targets for the area.This is happening all over the south of England. The relentlessness of housing growth is unsustainable. I sometimes feel that we are living in a madhouse, paying welfare handouts to millions of able-bodied British citizens to do nothing, then importing millions of migrants to fill the jobs that the benefit claimants could easily do, then bleating about the lack of affordable housing because of the phenomenal population growth. We seem to be trapped in a vicious downward spiral. And the way to break free is not by pouring more concrete over the Green Belt but clamping down on mass immigration.


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