'Eco towns': the wrong answer to the over-population question
By Jeff Randall
The Daily Telegraph
Last Updated: 1:28am BST 05/04/2008
It's the oldest trick in the dodgy salesman's book. If the public isn't buying what's in store, simply rebrand unwanted goods with trendy labels designed to create an impression of must-have merchandise.
The really Big Lie is not about the extent to which these towns will be environment-friendly; it's about why we need them at all
In the new-media boom of the late 1990s, old-technology companies baffled us into believing that they had a vision for the future by adopting an internet suffix, eg, a toilet-roll manufacturer became Loopaper.com.
More recently, under pressure from the forces of political correctness, many troubled companies are trying to appear caring, inclusive and green. Never mind that the fundamental business is rooted in pollution or warfare: the addition of a buzzword changes perceptions. So, household bleach is renamed Organic Cleansing Fluid and – hey presto! – it flies off the shelves.
After a fourth consecutive election defeat in 1992, Labour finally cottoned on to the power of rebranding and has been at it ever since. The party machinery has developed a mastery of language distortion to achieve goals that it knows would be rejected by the electorate were they set out in plain English.
Labour became New Labour. The red flag had already been swapped for the red rose. Tony Blair never dismantled our civic institutions: he “modernised” them. Gordon Brown did not sign up for a European constitution: it was just “a treaty”.
The Government's latest fraud, a work in progress, was unveiled yesterday with a shortlist of 15 locations for new towns in England. Ministers will pick 10, with five to be built by 2016 and the other half completed by 2020.
But these will not be just any old towns, they will be “eco-towns” and therefore, in Labour-speak, undeniably a good thing. By stamping “eco” on their plans, ministers expect, indeed demand, universal approval. Woe betide those who reject them; you will be accused of ruining the planet.
Opponents, such as the Campaign to Protect Rural England (patron: Her Majesty The Queen), have already spotted that there are several greenfield sites, including Marston Vale, in what former housing minister Yvette Cooper promised would be exclusively brownfield developments.
And how green will these new towns, the Basildons de nos jours, really be? Even if they are situated on old military bases, will they be connected to new railway lines to limit the build-up of yet more car-based communities? Will there be eco-utilities? Eco-sewage? You would be ill-advised to bet on it.
Clive Aslet, editor-at-large of Country Life, wrote in this paper last month: “The new Brownvilles will be the same old projects that developers have been trying to squeeze through planning for ages, greenwashed to suit the zeitgeist commuter dormitories with low-energy knobs on.” I fear he's right.
The really Big Lie, however, is not about the extent to which these towns of 5,000 to 20,000 homes will be environment-friendly; it's about why we need them and, indeed, if we need them at all. Miss Cooper's successor, Caroline Flint, stated as fact: “We have a housing shortage in this country”.
Do we? I thought we had a population problem. In recent times, we have been building houses at the rate of 160,000 to 180,000 a year, perfectly adequate for a stable society. The trouble is, we are far from that. The United Kingdom, especially England, is experiencing a population explosion.
The number of people living here (officially) has risen by 20 per cent since 1950, from 50 million to about 60 million. If current trends continue, these crowded islands are set to become ever more densely packed. The outlook is shocking.
One reason for this rapid expansion is that, as medical knowledge improves, we are living longer. Boys born in 2006 can expect to live to 88 and girls to 91. But the main cause of Britain's population growth is inward migration. Since 1997, the Government has handed out more than one million British citizenships.
According to the Optimum Population Trust, a charity that highlights the environmental dangers of absorbing more and more people: “Immigration is responsible for at least 70 per cent of the UK's projected population increase, which will take the UK from 61 million today to 85 million by 2081.”
Valerie Stevens, the OPT's chairwoman, said: “The environmental consequences of such a massive population rise are alarming. They include loss of countryside and green space, and all the psychological stresses that come with high population densities, overcrowding and loss of tranquillity.”
This is the real issue, not the Government's bogus bleating about a need for “affordable” housing (code for subsidised).
The immigration boom did not happen by accident. It was not, as my colleague Simon Heffer pointed out on Wednesday, the result of incompetence. There has been a deliberate and coldly calculated effort to transform Britain into a Labour-voting multi-cultural melting pot.
For years, ministers have peddled falsehoods to give credibility to their dangerous social experiment. They insisted that importing lots of poor people would somehow make us rich. They claimed also that these new arrivals would solve our pensions shortfalls and soak up job vacancies.
Warnings about the inevitable pressures that these newcomers would put on social services, education, health and policing were rejected as “scaremongering”. Those who expressed doubts were smeared as “racists”.
Many immigrants are decent, entrepreneurial folk. But the idea that all who rushed through the doors, after Labour had flung them open, are stoking the engine of British prosperity is ludicrous. There are great discrepancies in the economic contributions made by different ethnic groups.
In a study of the British workforce by country of birth, 2005-06, the Institute for Public Policy Research found that, while 71 per cent of Indian immigrants are employed, only eight per cent live in social housing. By contrast, just 19 per cent of Somalis are in work, but 80 per cent of them are in social housing.
None of Labour's propaganda ever passed the commonsense test, as reputable economists, such as Cambridge's professor Bob Rowthorn, kept pointing out. Finally, this week, a parliamentary committee demolished ministers' case for turning Britain into an international JobCentre.
The cross-party report dismissed as “preposterous” the Home Office's assertion that immigrants boost the economy by 6 billion a year, but concluded that the flow of migrants will force up house prices by 10 per cent in the next 20 years. This will make it harder for young Britons to get on the housing ladder.
The full price of Labour's wilful destruction of our border controls is paid in ways that cannot be counted purely in pounds and pence. A diminution of social cohesion in areas where immigrants refuse to integrate is the most obvious. Not far behind is a government-induced housing “shortage”.
Immigrants are not to blame for this mess. If I lived in a Third World hell-hole, and had the chance to come to Britain, I'd be here in a flash. Responsibility rests squarely with Mr Brown and his dodgy salesmen.
Read more from Jeff Randall: Eco-town protest as shortlist shows most will be built in South