House Building Wars!
(report from SCHNews 23.04.98)
"House building will be the second eco-war"
Quote from Builders Trade Paper
Last Saturday three thousand people held a rally nr. Stevenage in the latest battle to stop a new 10,000 house development.
The houses are due to be built by Persimmon Homes, the third largest house builder in the country. If they get the green light it will be the largest release of land for a new town in the UK since the end of the 1950's, and will destroy the Langley Valley, which is set between rolling chalk hills with ancient woodlands, hedgerows and green lanes. Persimmon are clearly worried about the protests - on Wednesday they moved its AGM from York to Edinburgh- and hired everybody's favourite Brays Detective Agency as security! Tim Akeroyd of the Campaign Against the Stevenage Expansion said "We know new housing is needed, but not in the green belt. We must regenerate decaying cities instead."
Meanwhile in Newbury anti-bypass protestors are having their worse fears released. with the council are planning to build some 21,000 in-fill houses on the land alongside the bypass.
But it's not all doom. In the sleepy village of Peacehaven, Sussex it wasn't yer usual rent-a-mob dole scrounging tree huggers who had come to save the day! NO...It was the Mayor, teachers, families and veterans in their 80's all pledging to "Lock on and be arrested" if governments proposal to build commuter homes in their valley went ahead. They decided upon direct action as the only option and got in touch with local Earth First!ers inviting them to a meeting to discuss tactics, where a unanimous decision was taken for a bulldozer pledge. Outraged by John Prescott overruling the council, they took their battle to the High Court, where a judge ruled that Prescott had failed to abide by his Governments own guidelines. This is the first time the government has faced and lost a High Court challenge to a greenfield housing decision.
So, is this the second eco-war?
According to Urgent! magazine one thousand square miles of countryside are under threat of being covered in concrete. Four Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) have already disappeared under new housing developments and small sites such as allotments, common land and wildlife habitats all over the country are being trashed unnoticed by anyone other than locals. But unlike road protests where you are often up against government, green belt campaigning is against individual companies and although they may spend a couple of million on one campaign, multi-site campaigns could seriously damage their pockets.
According to the Empty Homes Agency there are 804,000 plus empty properties in the UK