Barlow's Beef: Affordable Housing.... I think not


Remember when politicians trumpeted high-rise tower blocks as the solution to Britain's housing problem?

You may have been part of one of those communities bulldozed to accommodate a cluster of skyscrapers. Perhaps you were one of those people wondering what would happen when the elevators failed or antisocial tenants wrecked the building?

If so your protests were swept aside by the political elite as the ramblings of a Luddite. Concerns expressed by young mums and the elderly regarding access and isolation were of no concern compared to the 'Big Picture' seen exclusively by politicians. Their 'vision' of the future trumped all dissent. Communities disappeared overnight as the wrecking ball swung from town to town.

Well, we all know the end of that story. Before the paint dried on the first tower the fallacy of their doctrine began to show. Isolation drove some to suicide. Stinking communal balconies, arson and vandalised lifts drove out proud homeowners leaving gangs of thugs to intimidate those who remained.

The public's worst fears were exceeded and successive governments had no option but to eradicate both the buildings and the policy. It was a social catastrophe.

Wind forward to 2015. Regardless of public opinion the sanctity of the greenbelt is no more. Ugly brownfield sites will remain untouched while bulldozers invade virgin land.

Does that sound like a sensible sustainable policy? No it does not, unless you are a developer exploiting the current dogma. It's simply the latest political doctrine forced upon a protesting public.

Can anyone defend the policy of invading the greenbelt BEFORE utilising every available brownfield site? If governments can compulsory purchases homes surely they can compulsory purchase ugly brownfield sites?

But no such policy exists. Similarly greenbelt purchased for development may be 'banked' for years easing the so-called housing crisis not one iota.

Politicians claim Britain has an urgent need for affordable homes. (Considering the haste with which councils sold their housing stock is it any wonder?)

A cursory look at any new housing development in your area will give the lie to that particular theory. Builders hate erecting affordable homes and will do anything to minimize their commitment. Politicians simply do not have the will to enforce it. As long they can claim house building (whatever and wherever it is) on the increase they will claim success.

First time buyers and those on minimum wage will gain very little from this Build it and They Will Come policy but for developers it will be a gold rush the likes of which lay beyond their dreams.

The problem is ... unlike the tower-block fiasco of the 70's this policy is irreversible. Once you invade the greenbelt you can't re-lay the turf. When a copse or meadow disappears it's gone for good. It can never be recreated.

For some local communities this policy will be a disaster the effects of which will remain long after politicians and profiteers have moved on.

Trees, ponds, fields and wildlife will disappear while hideous brownfield sites remain.

How will you explain this to your grandchildren?

The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of

Barlows Beef, Vic Barlow


Here's what readers have had to say so far. Why not add your thoughts below.

Toni Fox
Tuesday 17th March 2015 at 5:09 pm
Couldn’t agree more Vic.

The proposed North Cheshire Growth Village site in Handforth, 100 acres of strategic Green Belt land separating the villages in the north of the Borough from the expanding Greater Manchester and Stockport conurbations, is a case in point.

Cheshire Wildlife Trust has been requesting permission from Cheshire East Council to conduct a survey of the site since 2013 - they think it may merit becoming a Local Wildlife Site.

One of Cheshire East Council’s commissioned reports states “A suitable habitat occurs throughout the site for UK BAP (Biodiversity Action Plan)….”

Great Crested Newts, a protected species were relocated to the area as a result of the construction of the A34 bypass. Have they or their habitat been protected in their new location? No they have not.

Have Cheshire East Council prevented trespass by off road bikers, quad bikers, four wheel drive vehicles, overnight campers and fishermen? Do they clear up the mountain of associated litter left behind? No and no. They have not and they do not.

Cheshire East Council own this prime piece of land – never mind that it has a biodiverse habitat that supports an enormous amount of flora and fauna – it’s worth money.

Anyone who would like to read the detailed Ecology Report of the site, commissioned by Handforth Parish Council, it can be found on their website at
Mark Goldsmith
Tuesday 17th March 2015 at 11:16 pm
'Build it and they will come'?

More like...

''They come, so we have to build it'

With far more people coming to live in the UK than homes being built, the housing crisis will never be resolved anytime soon.

Currently any attempt to make housing more affordable will just encourage more immigration into the UK.

First the UK has to restrict immigration numbers to below new homes capacity to have any hope of easing the current housing crisis.
Jon Williams
Wednesday 18th March 2015 at 9:49 am
Well said Mark
Kenneth Williams
Wednesday 18th March 2015 at 1:41 pm
We all know it is profit lead but green belt sites should not be built on OR banked for later. Use up the brown field sites intelligently and there should be enough room for every one.
Maria Quin
Wednesday 18th March 2015 at 2:15 pm
Totally agree with you, Vic. It's outrageous the way the residents have no power whatsoever over what the planners do with our land and environment. Even vast numbers of objections to their actions make not a jot of difference - which is bully boy tactics and it seems to me that money is the root of all this disgraceful behaviour! The people need a stronger voice!
Wednesday 18th March 2015 at 3:24 pm
Kenneth - "use up brownfield sites intelligently". There has to be the will to use up Brownfield sites - both on the part of the developers and the Council. Whilst the developers can be forgiven - it is their job to maximise profits, the Council, on the other hand, can't be forgiven. They know exactly what they are doing and they are trying to extract as much money for themselves from it. Now you could argue that this is in every council tax payers interest, - but not if the money is used at whim or to retain an inefficient organisation to the detriment of existing and future residents.