An Environmental Viewpoint

The population of the UK currently sits at around 65m and is estimated to rise to 70m by 2024 (the equivalent of 5 more Birminghams) and 75m by 2039.  We currently import 48% of our food requirements which continues to rise as fertile farmland is given over to new warehouses and housing to accommodate the annual net migration of 336,000 per annum (2014 figure) and continuing population increase.  The UK would currently require 3.6 UKs to be self-sustaining (and this figure also continues to increase).  In addition, the Government’s commitment to reduce carbon emissions and restrict global warming to 2 deg C can never be achieved with an increasing population.  As the cost of importing food increases (due to scarcity of supply and inevitable increased transport costs) the importance of being more self-sustaining in terms of food production becomes paramount.  If the UK continues on its current course of uncontrolled population growth and the paving over of our countryside with facilities that are constructed solely to distribute mostly imported goods to an over-burgeoning population, our farmland, which is ultimately our most important natural resource, will be lost forever under concrete and tarmac.  In the not too distant future, when we desperately need it, it will no longer be available.

A report from DEFRA in 2011 relating to the loss of farming land stipulates “the total area of rural land lost to urban use between 1945 – 1990 was 705,000 hectares – an area the size of Greater London, Berkshire, Herefordshire and Oxfordshire combined. The loss of agricultural land to development is continuing with about 11,000 hectares developed from 2001 – 2009 (Department for Communities and Local Government, 2011). This loss of rural land may reduce the long-term capacity to produce food in an environmentally sustainable way and compromise the ability of the countryside to produce environmental goods, such as landscapes, natural habitats and tranquil areas.”  More than 7,000 hectares of forest, 14,000 hectares of agricultural land and 1,000 hectares of wetlands were converted to make way for urban development between 2006 and 2012.

If  Speculative Rail Freight Interchange, Gargantuan Central Gateway, is consented we will lose a further 1160 acres of fertile agricultural land and natural habitats.  The sad irony is that the warehouses they want to build may well be used to import food that was once grown in the soil below them. In the medium term to long, further reducing this country’s agricultural productive capacity is the least sustainable and most short-sighted thing that can be done.