Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Enough space to live in

I took two large sacks of garden cuttings to Midhurst tip today to be recycled. Midhurst tip is useful but I'm struck with the contrast with the French tip I sometimes use in Ernee in the Mayenne. There you drive up a ramp with your car and can, with the assistance of gravity, throw your recycling / rubbish down into the correct lorry sized skip. By contrast, you have to climb up steep steel stairs at Midurst dragging a heavy load behind you. You then need to find the energy to lift at shoulder height and tip into the lorry sized skip without loosing your sack - something of an art.

I thought about why we didn't have the French system here as it is infinitely superior and makes recycling a pleasure rather than an effortful chore. The only answer I can come up with is a lack of space. The area of the Midhurst tip is about a fifth of the one in Ernee (the towns are a comparable size) and much more space would be needed for a French style tip.

It brings home just how short of space we are even in this part of Sussex, probably the most rural part of the South East. We all feel constantly constrained by sheer weight of people now living here and it is much worse elsewhere in the South East. The roads are too crowded, the towns are too crowded and increasingly the countryside is too crowded. This lowers the quality of life for everyone. Some would say the solution is simply to build more houses and give up on preserving countryside in the South East. Unfortunately this will do nothing more than lower everyone's quality of life still further as well as destroying those green fields that still make England much more pleasant than much of the rest of the world.

Instead we need to have a conscious strategy of reducing the population in the South East by saying no to any new commercial development on greenfield land, thereby forcing the more entrepeneurial parts of our society to set up operations in less developed parts of the country such as Wales or run down former industrial areas such as the east of County Durham. In this way prosperity would be spread and our quality of life would improve. 100 years ago our national population was about 38 million ( and we have now just passed 60 million. That's more than 50% more crowded - and much of the growth is in the South East.

GDP growth stats don't capture the loss of happiness caused by overcrowding, in fact they don't measure wellbeing well at all. If we want to create a more content and happy nation we need to take urgent action to reduce population growth and to provide incentives to British citizens to distribute themselves more evenly around the UK, not simply try for ever more economic growth in the South East because the Treasury says so.


Post a Comment

<< Home