There is much discussion in the U.K. of where to put "four (4.5) million new houses" - whether on 'brown' or 'green' field sites. Wherever they go considerable damage will be done both directly and indirectly.

However, the debate is misdirected and has missed two important points. Despite the interests of the developers, there is, and could be, less need for these houses - and land - than most believe. When the original Where Shall We Live? came out it gave the 'shock' figure of 4.5 million, but both the message and the figure of the document was understood.

Misunderstanding of the Message

# A fundamental point: the document was a WARNING, not a prediction. Where Shall We Live? was a call for urgent debate. It was not saying that we must build these houses but rather. WE MUST CHANGE OUR LIFESTYLES AND EXPECTATIONS. Because it was our lifestyles that is leading to a 'need' for more houses. It identified three main lifestyle issues: the splitting of families, the increasing number of elderly and that more young people are living singly away from home earlier.

# While recognising that we cannot ignore these pressures for housing, it also stated clearly that we cannot merely acquiesce to them either (even though the developers might wish us to do so). Here are some pieces of the original document, from the Foreword by John Gummer:

"To produce a large number of houses like this on such sites, concentrated in the most popular areas, is simply not sustainable."

"We need to do that in the context of our determination to leave for the next generation something better than we received. The wholesale destruction of the countryside is not an option."

"It is therefore essential that we continue the public debate which I began with my speech to the Royal Town Planning Institute in June. We need to examine every option and explore every possibility."

"Even though we are a small island we have been less willing to live in flats and have been prepared to travel further to work .."

"It is however necessary for us all to face up to the cumulative environmental impact of the way in which we have each chosen to live. We cannot make one decision for ourselves but reject the consequences of others doing the same."

# Therefore, if we are not to sacrifice and destroy much of our land unnecessarily ways must be found to change our lifestyles and expectations.

# There is evidence that lifestyles and expectations are changing in a way that will reduce the figure, and even more that significant numbers of people are willing to have them changed if given leadership. For instance, many people are now recognising the downside of the individualistic lifestyles they pursued during the selfish 70s and Tory 80s. Many families desperately want help to stay together, rather than split. Small beginnings, perhaps, but the trend is starting.

# (Of course, not everyone will change lifestyles overnight, and some increase in housing must be expected, but it need not be anything like the 4.5 million that was mentioned. And, of course, I am not advocating any dictatorial measures, but I do believe that some stick is needed.)

# One implication of this is that the government, along with the media, the churches and other leaders of opinion, should give this leadership to consider how lifestyles can be changed.

Misunderstanding of the Figure

# Finally, a technical point about the figures: it warned of 4.5 million new HOUSEHOLDS, not houses. Therefore the number of houses can be much less, especially if well-tried continental methods are adopted. And since many of these new households will be small the houses built can be smaller, so less land is consumed, whether green or brown field. (Some of this point seems to have been recognised by the Royal Institute of British Architects, but by few others.)

A Brief List of Damage from Large Development

(Section under construction).

Copyright (c) Andrew Basden 28 January 1998. 7 February 2001 email.