Within 2.5 miles of our house, in just one direction in fact, the green belt is disappearing at an alarming rate. Developers and the local council are taking three bites. The first is ribbon development, a half mile wide strip between the dual carriageway and the river. “It was only a matter of time”, I heard someone say in apologetic justification, given the proximity to “a major arterial pathway”. Well that dual carriageway is built on a Roman Road: it’s managed without ‘light industrial units’ for two millennia, it can manage a bit longer. But no. The second bite is more tragic. The greenest of greenbelts; strings of old hawthorn hedges peppered with nests, before the Spring you can see them like currants in a bun rolled like an éclair. And lovely, misshapen old trees – all deciduous, 150, 200 years in the main by the look of them, twisted and leggy and all the more beautiful for it. The buzzards love them, crows too: the whole place cackles with sound on crisp Summer mornings. But no. They’ll be grubbed up – and no doubt replaced with juvenile cherries and rowan as a sop to ‘The National Forest’ sympathies hereabouts. The third. Well, that’s on “The Marina” (old gravel pit, connected to the canal via a short cut). I mean, St Trop it ain’t, and there may be sand banked here but it’s no Sandbanks. It also happens to be green belt – a term – a status – so redundant, so meaningless now it might as well be formally retired. The site is a quarter of mile from the river, parallel to the dual carriageway, yet it is deemed ideal for ‘starter homes’. And now the repugnant alliance of turncoat land owner and sebaceous housing developer want to ‘consult’ with us, so that we, ‘the community’, can ‘determine the character of their development’. So that’s alright then. No.
The issue here is the innocuous term, ‘green space’. A euphemism, a weasel word, the writer-illusionist’s sleight of hand. It parcels and chunks, portions and cuts up our land as an object to be traded – bit one imbued with naturality. Yes, we will build on this green space, but fear not, we will provide another green space in its stead.
But this land isn’t a tradable commodity. It is living memory, imbued with the marks of the past. Build on one, clothe it in concrete and it has gone. Another will not replace it. And this land is home to the other inhabitants of our world. Those without a voice. They don’t know what a green space is. All they know is that the apes have ripped up my home, grubbed up my nest and burnt it on a pyre. All they see is a concrete desert devoid of food, of sites, raped of the necessities for existence. They don’t get a voice in the consultation.
The myth of our ‘housing crisis’, our push for new homes on virgin land, the greed of the new landed gentry will have an untold cost. For the truth is, once the green space is gone, it can never be green again.