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Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Why Build on Brownfield?

Every spiv in and out of government is at some time bitten by the bug that says "Let just a little bit of the Green Belt be used for housing".

Political Economy has a very good answer to that. Homes built are added to the national wealth just once; they can be counted as part of the 'output' of the years in which they are first sold, to occupants or to landlords.

But in every future year that land is out of production for farming, or for leisure activities that can be replaced by farms; as happened to a huge acreage especially in the Second World War.

The facts and figures for High-Speed Two indicate the costs of building railways. In my youth I never understood why the depredations of Dr Beeching were not shown as negative on the national balance sheet. The cost of building railways, per mile, is horrendous: so the loss to the national wealth of tearing them up should have been shown. National income probably showed negative growth in that period.  The same is true of steelworks, dockyards and other installations that had a long potential future existence until they were wantonly destroyed in the pursuit of short-term policies, chiefly under the Thatcher regime.

Inflating the amount of money that can be borrowed per house adds nothing to real national production. The lending officers of building societies and the estate agents with the highest 'productivity' add nothing to real national production: their labour in not substantially productive, regardless of how much 'profit' it turns in to churn on through the consumer-driven economy. This is quintessentially true of resales of houses that were first built on greenfield sites.

Restoration of the many despoiled old urban areas of the UK remains an urgent task; and the need for homes is desperate. Looking to the green belt to provide easy pickings [usually for the better-off members of society] is distracting and destructive.

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