The Countryside is Disappearing

BY MERVYN SEAL

There is a belief that the real world exists in the countryside, where nature goes about her quiet business, bringing us the greatest pleasure. However, swathes of pristine countryside and vital green fields are as in the past, and now, forever, in extreme jeopardy in Britain.

My childhood education included the writings of the 18th Century born poet William Wordsworth. Family would often require me to recite his poem, “I wandered lonely as a cloud”. It was only much later that I discovered Wordsworth’s very pertinent quote: “Is there no nook of English Ground secure from rash assault?”

Over two centuries later, Wordsworth’s concerns are more than ever applicable. Living in Bath, I recall one day 70 years ago, walking around, my father with passion in his voice talked of these built up areas he fondly remembered as green virgin fields. Today, decades later, I have the same thoughts, recalling valuable coastal verdant fields and farmland around Devon, remembering it was unbelievable to me that “bungaloid” development should be permitted, in such prominent areas of unscheduled outstanding natural beauty.

Human settlements are like living organisms. They must grow, and they will change. We don’t have to scatter development all over the countryside ruining our farmland. I recall the deprivation, the lack of food in WWII when Britain was under siege. On our small island with then only 47 million inhabitants, and more farmland than now, we could not feed ourselves. Rationing of food continued for nine years after the War ended in 1945.

Before the end of the War, plans were being prepared for the future of the Country. At 15 years I was very interested in proposed green belts around developed areas, I still have a plan drawn for Weston Super Mare, with a green belt, staying undisturbed by building. My forecast was totally wrong – all my preserved farmland is lost, now totally developed. My analysis was just a young teenager’s wish, the reason for relating my concerns, is “our ever-expanding population”.

What can Britain of 1945 have in common with the Britain to be in 2045?

Nothing.

By 2045, the United Nations expects a vast explosion of world population to about 9 billion, especially in the countries already regularly migrating to Europe. Experts predict a world shortage of food, water and energy. How will Britain source its food to feed a population twice the number that existed in 1945? Surely despite technological advances there will at some point be a dire wartime-like situation, exacerbated by the future policy to increase the loss of valuable farmland and countryside?

Bill Bryson – the ever-perceptive American writer living in England – stated, “Britain has the most reliably beautiful countryside of anywhere in the world. I would hate to be part of the generation that allowed that to be lost.”

Since Bryson’s statement of concern, this generation is without question the generation allowing the countryside to be lost. Development is now being allowed on Green Belt areas, Planning Controls are being relaxed, and recently policies to expand development in the Countryside have been rubber stamped, for the aim of increased housing due to the rapidly increasing UK population.

Increasing the population is not sustainable for self-sufficiency and our precious environment. Compared with the vast open spaces in Europe and other countries we are causing ourselves to live in the most densely populated country in Europe. The reasons? Because of the highly controversial issue of immigration, and membership of the EU.

Fifteen to twenty years ago I read an article with a prophetic title “Africa will walk into Europe”. Derided by some at the time, it is now true. A recent TV interview with an African in Calais was frank. He believed he would have a house and money when he arrived in Britain. Within 3 days he had succeeded to illegally arrive in the UK. He was interviewed again, compared with needy UK people still seeking accommodation, now he was the only occupier of a modern flat, not allowed to work, receiving money to live. Many immigrants seeing such situations are choosing to trek over 6,000 miles through a multitude of countries that are safe, with compatible religions, and plenty of space. The majority with a determination to reach their believed lifeboat destination of Britain, the English Channel is not a barrier, it’s easy to illegally arrive in small island, borderless Britain.

Figures recently released state there are eight million foreigners living in Britain, many were the jobless in Europe, encouraged by Europe to move to Britain for a job. Now thousands of migrants from Syria today, are seeking to be classified as EU citizens, permitting moving eventually in unlimited numbers to the UK. No wonder housing continues to be expensive, and wages kept low. Omitting the many children born to the millions of foreigners, in local context, 123 conurbations the size of Torquay have already devoured the countryside.

Other countries the UN forecasts, due to rising temperatures, sea level and population explosions, will eventually over time suffer pestilence, war and famine. Consider, immigration will increase year after year, for the next 50 to 100 years, Most decades have a severe economic slump causing unemployment, deprivation, benefits, and austerity, that with an increasing population will cause hardship to Britons already here. There is a positive benefit from immigration diversity, but only in balanced moderation for such a small island.

Those born today may find, later in life, problems of an apocalyptic world struggle. My personal concerns as an elderly man are the same as the sentiments of William Wordsworth’s prophetic writing two centuries ago. The never-ending assault on English ground, continual loss of England’s oxygen, the capacity to be self-sufficient, the rapid disappearing, and inspiring, verdant countryside, of meadows, hedges, woodlands, forests, wetlands and productive farms. The demise of the islands’ essential balance of nature.

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