Friday, May 11, 2007

There you go...

... was it only the other day I said I didn't agree with everything Johann Hari wrote? Yesterday's column in the Independent (read it in full here) is an example where I'm left spitting feathers. In assessing what Brown needs to do, Hari writes, "The rumours that Brown will launch a massive home-building strategy led by the excellent Housing Minister Yvette Cooper would be a good start, to deal with the millions of people piling up just out of reach of the housing ladder. "

That's fabulous Johann. We already have too much concrete in this country as it is. Where will you build all these houses, exactly? Never mind my environmental concerns about swallowing up more and more of the countryside, how about the following ever-so-tiny problems to consider? One, lack of drainage - with nowhere to go, it's no wonder flooding is on the increasing (farmers could have told you the dangers of all this back in the 80s when they embarked on a mass drainage programme that resulted in flooded fields whenever there was above-average rainfall). Concreting over yet more of the countryside isn't going to alleviate that problem. Two, lack of resources - in the south east there are already too many people competing for water in the country's driest regions. It may have escaped people's notice, but last summer's drought is a sign of things to come - unpredictable weather patterns with hotter, drier summers becoming the norm.

House building in this country is already a shoddy industry, with corners cut and environmental regulations ignored - how is building yet more going to fix the problem? Yes, housing is too expensive, but this is something that can't be fixed by building loads more properties - if you're desperate to put a brake on house prices (and I have no complaints with that - until you leave the market and move abroad or into rented accomodation it's not "real" money anyway), find some other means of doing it. Better still, encourage people to rent by making it a more viable option.

I didn't expect Brown to win me over, but if his first act is to accelerate the ridiculous numbers of houses being thrown up in double-quick time, he'll have lost my vote before he even takes office.

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