In this month’s edition of The Land magazine, George Monbiot draws parallels between the struggles of indigenous people stripped of their tribal land by unscrupulous corporations and the road protesters at Twyford Down in the nineties who fought to protect chalk downland and Iron Age remains against an unscrupulous government intent on handing out road building contracts to their development buddies.
As Berengrave Nursery, an area of scrubland on the edge of my town, home to some of our rarest and most endangered wildlife, is granted planning permission for 120 houses. It strikes me that we are in a new era of land grabbing.
As a child growing up in an East London suburb my love of nature was created by exploring the former airfield and quarry at the end of my road. A world of wetland, scrubland and hedgerow now designated a SSSI. Yet everywhere I look these urban nature reserves are being cut down and concreted over to make way for completely unaffordable housing which no one trying to get on the housing ladder can buy.
These housing developments are doing nothing to solve our countries supposed problems which rest in inflated housing prices, lack of affordable rent in London and the 90,000 houses which are owned by foreign investors and sit empty for most of the year.
They provide nothing for local communities other than tailbacks caused by temporary traffic lights and more cars on unsuitable roads yet they take away our precious edgelands full of hedgehogs, badgers, nightingales and turtle doves. They take away the countryside on our doorstep and move it to somewhere else. They take away spaces which generations have used to walk their dogs, let the kids run wild, pick blackberries for jam.
It strikes me that our edgelands are the new commons, places which exist in our shared culture which are being surrounded by steel fences and destroyed for massive financial gain by wealthy land speculators.
Berengrave will be destroyed as every other scrubland in my area has been destroyed. Rich men will get richer and some environmental consultancy firm will get fat off of helping the developers to remove the wildlife and dump it elsewhere.
I’m pretty sure this is happening in your area as well as mine and with each piece of scrubland that vanishes we becoming more divorced from our countryside, more urban, more cut off from wildlife.
This land is our land and we are loosing it faster than every before.