How Built Up Is Your Local Area?

New Local Authority Data Provides the Answers Online

Britain needs more homes, but many are concerned about new developments encroaching on the countryside. Just how built up is your local area? The real facts might surprise you!

When Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond told BBC1’s Andrew Marr Show that the UK needs to build more than 300,000 new homes every year, it caused more than a few raised eyebrows in a number of quarters.

While some were arguing over the numbers, with even a university professor claiming that Hammond had “plucked them out of thin air,” most viewers were simply feeling baffled about exactly where all these homes are supposed to go.

For villagers and city dwellers alike, the sight of construction firms laying foundations and professional building surveyors taking measured building surveys has become an accepted part of the landscape. But it is in rural areas that residents have the biggest concerns about England’s “green and pleasant land” turning into a concrete jungle.

There can be no doubt that when anyone returns years later to the area where they grew up, they are almost always shocked by the amount of growth and expansion. Where there used to be fields and woodlands, they now see housing estates, bypasses and industrial parks.

Are we really losing the British countryside forever under all this construction? Or are we over reacting to a normal phenomenon that every generation experiences? A new online tool using data gathered by the EU’s Coordination of Information on the Environment (CORINE) project provides the answers.

Using the tool

How built up is Bath and North SomersetBy simply entering your postcode into the online tool, it will pull up your district council area and provide statistics on what proportion of the land falls into each of four categories: Farmland, Natural, Built on and Green Urban. At last, anyone in the UK can break through the rumour, political spin and scaremongering to get the definitive answer on exactly how construction has affected their area. And the results might just be surprising.

At the moment, Bath and North Somerset consists of 81 farmland, 5% natural land and 4% green urban – only 10% of the region is built upon. While the centre of Bath is a very different story, this acts as a reminder that still much of our land is green.

Mostly farmland

Looking at the UK as a whole, more than half of land is farmed, and the vast majority of what’s left is natural countryside – moors, woodland, grassland and so on. Less than six percent of the UK’s land is built on – and that includes roads, airports, quarries and the like as well as buildings themselves. The remaining 2.5 percent is given over to green urban space. This means man-made parks, golf courses, sports fields, etc.

Of course, there is significant variation from one area to another. Look at the City of London, and it is almost entirely built on. Westminster is 75 percent built on with the remaining 25 percent devoted to parkland (green urban).

Travel just 70 miles or so north to mid Suffolk, however, and the numbers are reversed. Here, 95 percent of the land is used for farming.

The same old story

Of course we have a duty to protect the natural landscape, but with every project highjacked for political point-scoring, it is important to focus on the facts. Every generation has seen urban development, and this is not going to change.

The real difference is that today’s planners pay more attention to adding urban green space and designing with the natural environment in mind than previous ones ever did. Perhaps we do not live in such terrible times, after all.

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