Saturday, November 9, 2013

A Wail Of Two Cities

As a conservationist there are times when I simply despair and wonder what is the point (and how much is a small croft away from it all on Muckle Flugga).  The Times today carried an article by Matthew Parris, the former Conservative MP and now journalist and self-styled political pundit.  He claims that not only do we 'need' HS2 but HS3 to Scotland as well.  Barmy enough but fairly safe ramblings as the case for HS2 is being universally questioned, never mind its extension.  Then comes the really scary bit, or rather bits.

Firstly he proposes that our already populous isle should have two new cities squeezed into it, and he knows just where they should go.  Cambridge is one, and it does not matter that it is already a city, for Mr Parris thinks it should be expanded to a metropolis of two million people (from its present population of just 125,000!).  The vast amount of land that this would swallow up is also not a problem for Mr Parris as he has noted that the land around Cambridge is "...treeless, featureless, brutally drained fenland."  He would rather see it covered with "...houses, offices, and workshops."  He includes an aerial photograph of Cambridge for us to see and presumably therefore agree with him (reproduced below). 

Let us just point out a couple of things to you Mr Parris before we go any further.  Those numerous big green blobs in your picture are things called trees.  Where trees are it is usually not referred to as 'treeless'.  That big wet winding feature is the River Cam, whose meanderings are quite an important feature of the area, as are those water-meadows you can see alongside it in your picture.  Some of these, like Sheep's Green for instance, are famous as some of the finest examples in the country.  Again where such features are is not normally descibed as 'featureless'.  The 'Visit Cambridge' website seems to think the countryside surrounding Cambridge is rather full of features, describing "...a land of lazy waterways, rolling countryside...quaint villages...rides through the fens...picturesque pubs...and a taste of bygone days."  So 'Why should Cambridge not expand to become a city of two million people?',  er, well rather why should it Mr Parris!

As if Parris' myopic misconceptions about Cambridge were not ridiculous enough, he goes supersonic with his next target - the land between Derby and Nottingham.  This he declares is "...undistinguished flat countryside..." and as HS2 will go straight through the middle of it (will it?) we may as well build out from it in both directions to join Derby and Nottingham into a super-city.  A thing called a map may be of use here Mr Parris.  A good one will show that the area between these two cities has a name, its called Derwentdale.  A particularly attractive dale with the River Derwent winding its way from east to west through its floodplain (which tend to be 'flat' as I recall from high school geography).  There are several country parks here as the area is rich in natural history, and some very rich farmland, making it easily 'distinguished' from, say, a giant conurbation.

The worrying thing is that Mr Parris is not alone.  This is how the authorities seem to think, always short-term, never looking ahead.  In an apparent sop to conservationists Mr Parris advocates planting even more saplings in the so-called National Forest to balance these two new cities.  This he exhorts could "...change up a gear, millions more trees need to be planted and new land acquired."  It seems beyond his capability to comprehend that the land underneath where his two cities and giant forest would go is farmland, where we grow our food.  Perhaps Mr Parris does not eat food, maybe he is a breatharian, living on his own hot air, but the rest of us do.  Already Britain has to  import about 40% of the food we eat.  A few schemes like Mr Parris' and we will be having to import vastly more than we can produce, because there is nowhere left to grow it.  We will pay through the nose too, as clearly we would have no choice. 

This is the obvious endgame of Mr Parris' and his ilk's plans.  He describes them as "ambitious, bold, and brave".  I prefer 'short-sighted, stupid, and ignorant'.  When he has concreted over all of Britain and feels a little peckish he may care to visit Muckle Flugga, I'll sell him a sack of potatoes.

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