Thursday, 12 November 2015

The RoadWatch Debate in Context

For months Enfield RoadWatch has been collecting signatures on a petition opposing Fairview's plans for houses and a school on Green Belt land. Yesterday it presented the petition, now with 4,500 signatures, to Enfield Council. A debate followed.

If we strip out the repetition and political point-scoring we find the following arguments:
  • Green Belt: Everyone agreed that the Green Belt is vital for recreation, to clean the air, provide habitats (especially for rare species) and preserve Enfield's special green character.
  • Brownfield sites:  The Tories said that there are 280 acres of brownfield land in Enfield that should be developed instead of encroaching on the Green Belt. Labour said there is not so much and some is needed for recreational use.
  • Population:  Labour said that the population of Enfield is expected to rise by 100,000 in twenty years!  The Tories said 'don't be silly' - it will be much less. *
  • The Tories said that the Green Belt is sacrosanct and no-one should ever be allowed to build on it. Labour said that building on some Green Belt land might be the least bad option.
 Several things were not said:
  • Backlog:  Like most of the UK, the borough is already short of houses and flats. It needs a lot more just to meet the needs of the current population and our children and grandchildren.
  • Housing policy:  The only way that the backlog can be dealt with is by public investment in homes that will not then be subject to 'right to buy'.
  • Population:  The forecast growth is partly the result of national and regional policies and different policies would have different results. (Actually one Tory did say that leaving the EU would reduce the growth but even he didn't seem to be serious.) Different policies could produce a city that was less unequal, healthier and had lower population growth.
Enfield Green Party remains opposed to Fairview's plans both because of the loss of Green Belt and because they involve a church-sponsored so-called 'free school'. But this is just one proposal. One point at which numbers and quality of life conflict.

Continued economic and population growth are not consistent with the protection of the natural environment either locally or globally. And the destruction of the natural environment will ultimately be disastrous for the health and well-being, and ultimately the survival, of much of humanity. The loss of two fields in Enfield is a small matter compared to deforestation in Brazil or famine in the Horn of Africa. But the drivers - fetishisation of growth, rampant consumerism and corporate greed - are the same.

Only Greens see these connections. That's why we need a Green government.


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* Notes on population:
  1. Official forecasts here and here are for much small growth numbers than Labour claims. Perhaps 40,000 extra by 2032. That's still quite a lot.
  2. Given the confused and highly unsatisfactory state of policy on migration, affordable housing and housing benefit, the likely long-term increase in the number of people wanting to come to northern Europe and the near certainty of at least one change of government in the next twenty years no forecast is reliable.

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