National Planning Policy and Immigration

Population density

Planning and zoning are facts of life in every modern country, even in the USA, New Zealand, Canada and Australia where at population densities of 89, 37, 8.5 and 7 per square mile respectively, one might think they have plenty of space.  Even if you allow that only about 10% of Canada and Australia’s superficial land area can support Western-style living, these 4 Anglo countries have more than 10 times per head the space available for England’s population of around 52 million.  These 52 million live on 50,000 square miles or 32 million acres.  That is just over 0.6 acres each (a space 55 yards by 55 yards).  This is for everything: housing, schools, roads, university campuses, railways, hospitals, shops, offices, factories, reservoirs, electricity substations, power stations, farms and recreation areas – including all national parks, stately homes, forests, upland and coastal walking areas.  At 1040 people per square mile (growing at 5 per square mile every year), England is the most densely populated of the world’s top ten economies, much more crowded than Japan (870) and Germany (600) and more crowded even than the two Low Countries – the Netherlands (1033) and Belgium (933).

National Planning Policy Framework

This document is exclusively about England because land use planning is a devolved power to the rest of the United Kingdom.  84% or nearly 6 out of 7 British residents live in England.  An extraordinary feature of the proposed National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF)[1]is that, far from starting from this overwhelming population density reality, it completely ignores it.  With the population of England having grown by 3 million since the last published census in 2001, almost entirely by immigration from Eastern Europe, Africa and Asia, and with the National Statistical Office predicting a further 7 million in the UK by 2031, almost entirely in England, already the most congested country in the Western world, one would have thought that any rational, serious approach to land use (which is what “planning” is all about) would call for a complete halt on immigration for settlement and tight restriction on work permits in order to stop congestion getting any worse.  However, the only (oblique) reference to population is in the Minister for Communities and Local Government’s foreword where he says that we (i.e. you and me) must house a rising population which he attributes to our “living longer” and “wanting to make new choices”.

Congestion is a consequence of population

Everyone in England experiences the population density effects of congestion on the roads every day and experiences or knows directly its effects on schools, hospitals, housing, railways and recreation areas.  There is no single “planning” issue which would not be made easier with fewer people or made worse if the present population should grow more.  But as everyone knows, immigration is the one word that the authorities won’t utter even when the evidence of its deleterious effects are right there in front of their noses, as in the current agonising about the over-stretched maternity services.

How we experience congestion

Congestion is experienced when two or more people want to occupy the same space at the same time.  A traffic jam or lights at a crossroads are classic examples.  The authorities’ response is always to restrict access to whatever facility is being used.  Thus parking restrictions are extended, access times are reduced and prices increased, rush-hour periods on trains are extended so that much higher fares can be charged for the same or worse service, minimum sizes for houses are reduced down to shoe-box sizes (850 square feet for 3 bedrooms now – less than in the Netherlands).  While pressure on land for dwellings is broadly proportional to population, pressure on road systems is proportional to something like the square of vehicle population.  Thus the 3 million (6.1%) population increase since 2001 results in something like a 13% increase in congestion.  A further rise to 60 million in England by 2031 (or 22% since 2001) would bring an increase in congestion of nearly 50% making England feel intolerably overcrowded whatever nuances of planning policy are introduced.

The housing non-problem

The principal non-problem which the NPPF is attempting to “solve” is the alleged requirement for 7 million extra homes to be built by 2031, i.e. just under 300,000 per year, a figure last achieved on a sustained basis by Harold MacMillan in the 1951-55 Churchill government to cope with a genuine need deriving from 5 million war damaged properties.  Where has this 7 million figure, representing an increase of over 25% in the number of houses and flats we currently have, come from? 

It was first dreamed up around 2005 in the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, created by Tony Blair to give John Prescott something to do.  The previous government “allocated” East of England 585,000 housing units, which the late unlamented East of England Regional “Assembly” divided between the 50 or so local authorities.  It seems to have been based on four main ingredients:

(1)  net immigration continuing indefinitely at around the 250,000 per year mark, which was Labour government policy;

(2)  a continued drop in the number of people per household due to divorce and “partners” breaking up;

(3)  a small natural increase in the British indigenous population of about 100-150,000 per year due to people living longer;

(4)  the need to build an unspecified number of starter homes for young couples to get a first foot on the “property ladder”.

Reality Check on (1)-(4)

(1)  Immigration  This can be reduced to zero by not issuing residency visas to non-patrial non-EU people and by either leaving the EU or seeking a derogation from the “free movement of people” principle on the grounds of supreme national need (which it certainly is).

(2)  Divorce  The idea that people who can’t organise their private affairs properly should be rewarded by taking more precious countryside into development is absurd (akin to paying for cosmetic surgery on the NHS) and should be simply disregarded.

(3)  This figure of natural increase is more than met by the current rate of new house building which has been depressed like everything else by the recession, but now shows increases in each comparison quarter from February-April 2009 to a current annual rate, according to the National House Builders Certification, of around 135,000, compared with 149,000 in 2007.  There are additionally over 300,000 unused house building permits currently in the system.

(4)  Sure, build starter homes within the present figures.  Don’t give in to the threats or blandishments of the big builders’ lobby which is well represented in the NPPF proposals.

What we actually do need land releases for

We do need more motorway-standard roads.  The old West Germany with a population today of around 65 million on 95,000 square miles – almost the same as the United Kingdom – has double the motorway network and about 50% more national (i.e. trunk roads) than the UK.

The methods used by the Transport Department to predict need are extremely suspect – largely based on extrapolation of existing traffic data.  Britain is a long, narrow island, which clearly calls out for a ladder like road system – basically two routes North-South with East-West links.  What we have is a radial system based on London in the South-East corner with nodes at Birmingham, Manchester and Glasgow.  Why not complete the A1(M) botch-up, dual the East-West A66 from Scotch Corner and put a motorway along the South Coast to carry freight traffic direct from Dover and Folkestone to the South-West, instead of going up to London along the M20 and then out along the M4 and then down the M5?  Switzerland published its 25 year motorway plan in 1979 – all completed by 2004 – why can’t we do the same?

It is not only space, but energy too

Our innumerate government ministers are not only incapable or unwilling to confront the effects of immigration on land use, they seem incapable of relating it to the energy needs of the country as well.

Having adopted a series of unrealisable, but hugely costly, emission reduction targets in the Climate Change Act 2008 (recently made even more onerous and costly by the Climate Change Committee’s latest recommendations to halve emissions by 2027), no member of the government seems capable of pointing out to the Minister for Energy and Climate change, one Chris Huhne, that immigration, which Liberal Democrats and some Conservatives favour (on Human Rights grounds apparently), acts directly against emissions reductions, through putting up the demand for energy, the bulk of which for the next 25 years will still be fossil-fuel supplied (see Averting Energy Catastrophe in the Energy and Environment section on this site).

Liberal moralist mindset leads to irreconcilable goals

In fact the whole Coalition government and the liberal moralist mindset which animates practically the whole political class, is one huge car-crash of contradictory policies – government by yearning one might say.

So Cameron’s desire to repair the troubles of the world – particularly Africa and Asia – crashes into the vital need to stop spending money his government doesn’t have.  This, in turn, crashes into the desperate need to eliminate our enormous fiscal deficit.  The major result of the fiscal cuts so far has been to emasculate the armed forces by scrapping the Navy’s one remaining aircraft carrier.  Thus in order to mount a modest aerial bombardment in Libya, airfields in Southern Italy have had to be hired costing more money than has been saved by pensioning off Ark Royal. 

The obvious need to reduce immigration (which some in the government now belatedly acknowledge) crashes into their obsession with belonging to the European Union.  This membership insists, among other things, on the rights of Poles, Hungarians, Latvians, Lithuanians, Estonians, Romanians, Bulgarians, Croats (soon), Serbs and Turks (not too far away, if Cameron and co have their way), to come in unlimited numbers at will to this country, send their children to our schools for free education, receive free medical services and non-contributory benefits exactly on the same terms as British citizens resident in Britain.  These facts crash into the very proper and natural wishes of British citizens to preserve their overcrowded country for themselves and not to provide free international health, education and social security benefits to all and sundry.

This internationalisation of our country goes on everywhere.  It is actually a peculiarly English officialdom disease, not a virtue at all.  It springs from a shameful lack of pride in our country and a gutless refusal to defend its people’s rights to the quiet enjoyment of their land and the heritage built up and handed down from father to son, mother to daughter, over 40 generations (a continuity unique in history) – now threatened as never before.



[1] A proposal, welcomed by the British government to require planning authorities to decide applications on the basis of a “presumption in favour of sustainable development”.  “Sustainable” is undefined, but is basically a euphemism of approval like “good” and “inclusive”.  It is a document for public consultation (which closes on October 17th) at the following link

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2 Responses to “National Planning Policy and Immigration”

  1. B Shout says:

    We are told that we must have 1 million plus new homes by this Government to meet the current shortfall. Many of these will have to be on greenfield sites, some on good quality agricultural land, much needed when we import 60% of the food we need. This is very contentious with many people. With the indigenous population basically static, it is clear that this housing is solely to meet immigration. Why are UKIP not making more of this issue?

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  2. Gillian Bush Gillian Bush says:

    UKIP’s policy for the 2010 General Election was a total moratorium for 5 years on all immigration for settlement, followed by a referendum on any immigration after that.

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