Green Belt Land and the Incompatibility of Freedom of Movement

It is now less than a couple of months until we leave the European Union.


We’ll see…

There were a great many reasons as to why the UK voted to leave (yes, we did vote to leave) and I’m not going to list these all again here. However, one of the main issues was freedom of movement and our ability to set our own controls upon levels of immigration, the context for which is the influx of low-skilled workers flooding the UK employment market, but also that our population density has risen to unprecedented levels.

I live in a small town on the western outskirts of the Black Country. I moved there when I married my wife a decade ago and now have two young children who are settled in a local school. Four years ago we moved house to one of the more sought-after roads in the neighbourhood (nice houses, close to the primary school, etc) and invested money in a property that we knew needed work but in which we intended to be in for a long time – in other words a real family home.

We exist right on the edge of the suburbs and despite the traffic to the east being heavily congested (i.e. my commute to work and the general direction of the rest of the country), the Worcestershire / Shropshire countryside (i.e. open green belt) is literally right on our doorstep. The A449 runs nearby and within a short drive we have the villages of Kinver and Enville and beyond that Bridgenorth and Ludlow. I am always discovering new places to visit with the children and more selfishly new outdoor pastimes. It is the rarest of things: un-spoilt land of yesteryear.

Last year I was added to a group on Facebook called “Friends of Ridgehill Woods.” Ridgehill Woods is a stretch of woodland to the rear of our property that can be seen for miles. Despite being a public thoroughfare it was actually owned privately and when the individual passed away it was sold to developers, who immediately started felling vast numbers of trees. By all accounts there was a legal agreement that many of these had to be replanted within five years, but in the meantime plans have been cynically drawn up for a huge development of 20k houses which will include the woodland. Naturally, this is being fought against, but we are not hopeful of success…

In the decade since I moved to the area, the traffic has continued to worsen as more housing developments are built and yet no new transport systems are added to cope with the level of demand. The increasing population does not merely place a burden upon the road network, but also of course schools, the health service and other services. There are never plans for new rail lines or road-widening projects: only new houses. 

Whether or not this development goes ahead, I dread to think what the future holds when it comes to the population density of the area as a whole – and indeed of many areas across England. It is frustrating to say the least when “debating” with remainers on social media who are ardently pro-freedom of movement that they point to research into immigration finding that it returns a net gain to the economy. How many of these studies factor in quality of life? How many of these studies look at the stretching point of congestion on the road, pinch points in traffic, demand for the best schools, etc? These are immeasurable in term of a quantifiable pound note value but of huge significance when it comes to how ordinary people feel.

I mention immigration not because I believe this to be the complete cause for the demand for new housing but because our population density is already among the highest in Europe and so it stands to reason that the people in this country want to have a say in controlling this. Supporters of the European Union seem to think that a set of common philosophies can and should be applied verbatim across all member states and that any opposition to this is the result of right-wing nationalism. The reality is however that quality of life in the UK has been eroded for a considerable amount of time by a stream of left wing federalist policies and if we fail to break free of these shackles at the end of March this year I dread to think where we will end up.

Another 20,000 poorly-built modern houses might seem of little consequence to others but I suspect that the issues on my doorstep are more than prevalent across the country. We are constantly informed that something like only 10% of the UK is “built on,” but that to me seems an extraordinarily dangerous mindset to possess. When one considers the sweeping highlands, moors, lakes, rivers, hills and mountains, not to mention farmland, parkland and playing fields, the remaining 90% is far too abstract a figure to throw around in the name of progress. At what point does that percentage become something to worry about? When all the towns, cities and villages of the UK are literally joined together? When the population density eclipses that of even Bangladesh or Taiwan? When the road system is so supremely gridlocked that we cannot pour cement into the gaping chasms of our countryside fast enough to assuage the growing mass of vehicles? When the entire landscape from north to south is awash with inefficient windturbines in a futile attempt at transferring our energy production to something our politicians feel is “the way forward?”

An economy and by extension a society should in my opinion be largely self-sustaining. That does not mean entirely cut off from civilization (trade, movement of people, politics, etc) but it does mean self-governing, self-regulatory and concerned with the quality of life of its citizens in all senses verses supporting the ideological drive of organisations such as the EU, whose aims ultimately mean the acceptance of a gradual and terminal decline of standards in the futile name of progress.

Between now and the 29th March I expect very few of the 650 MPs in Westminster to have this in mind when it comes to their actions and intentions; I can only hope that our destination is not reliant on their squabbles and we can finally set about governing our own land in accordance with our own needs.