Labour’s housing legacy and Ecotowns

Posted: August 16, 2009 by newhavenlse in Politics
Tags: , ,


The UK government has announced plans to go ahead with the controversial (which for the most part actually means unwanted) Ecotowns, this includes Rackheath in Norfolk England.

As the situation develops I will post articles highlighting the impact this will have on Norfolk a county already suffering from the governments neglect of coastal erosion issues.

Initially for more information you can see the Guardian website:

Over the coming weeks I will provide links to protest sites, what the Green party has said on the matter, those providing information on the Rackheath scheme and general information on why the so called “Eco” Towns are nothing but a white elephant.

Before we look at the potential Rackheath development and Ecotowns in general, it is important to provide some context on the Labour governments past housing projects.

Labour’s housing legacy

We should first start at looking at England a whole. England is currently one of the most densely populated countries in Europe, covering approximately two thirds of the British landmass and housing some 83% of its population (approx. 51m inhabitants).

Urmee Khan writing for the Telegraph in September 2008 reported on the results compiled by the ONS (Office of National Statistics):

In 2008 the average number of people per square kilometre in Britain was 253, rising to 395 in England.

Latest figures from Holland show that its population density was 395 a square kilometre in 2002 and 393 in 2005. It is estimated that English population density will rise to 464 people for every square kilometre by 2031. – Daily Telegraph

This obviously raises a number of questions with regards to population density and how we plan to cope with this from a housing perspective. Many factors need to be taken into account ranging from infrastructure, jobs, affordability, community cohesion, transport and the environment.

The increase in England’s population density has put a fair amount of strain upon these factors and as a result of this the Labour government have come up with many ill thought out schemes in attempts to address this.

One of the most criminal of these schemes was ex-Deputy Prime Minster John Prescott’s policies in Liverpool and several other Northern English cities.

His plan was to demolished some 90,000 houses in these cities and replace them with new builds. These houses could of course been renovated with Green technology for a fraction of the cost of demolishing the houses, cleaning up the mess and rebuilding from scratch.

The existing infrastructure could have been improved at the same time, social housing issues addressed and of course facilities in inner cities in dire need of redevelopment tackled.

Things were not looking good for these projects when they were announced in 2003 and the UK property market was in a boom. Many young people found the lack of affordable housing a block to getting a foot on the property ladder and council housing was over subscribed in many areas.

The ludicrous nature of Prescott’s project in the face of the above was highlighted on the “Tonight with Trevor McDonald” show.

For the sum of £24,000 a house in the Toxteth area of Liverpool (where 400 houses where slated for the bulldozer) was renovated and valued at £65,000, considerably less than the prices of homes in the South of England at this time. To make matters worst, the cost of demolishing the houses, many of which have survived the Luftwaffe and where a part of Liverpool’s heritage was estimated at £18,000 and the cost of the new houses? Somewhere in the region of £140,000, not exactly affordable to the average Liverpudlian first time buyer.

As sadly seems to be the case with most of the “housing” projects Labour have touched in the past twelve years, matters went from bad to worst. Compulsory purchase orders where issued with many people effectively being forced for their homes, and being offered the pathetic sum of £28,000 for their homes.

And as if to add insult to injury… property developers with an eye for a profit were able to buy up streets of empty homes on the cheap (some houses going for as little as £5000) and make a profit from the compulsory purchase orders, effectively from tax payers money.

Somewhere in the region of £2.2bn was spent on the re-development project, a project not driven by the desires of a local community, nor actually beneficial at relieving the problems for first time buyers, or those looking for social housing.

The legacy of this project by 2007 was approx. 10,o00 houses being demolished, only 1,000 built and another 37,000 derelict caught up in wrangling over planning and demolition.

An article from 2007 on illustrates just how much of a white elephant the scheme turned into and provided much of the information above.

So with this in mind, can we expect any better from Gordon Brown and the proposed Ecotowns soon to be seen springing up across England? Based upon the evidence we have at the moment, it would seem not.

Rackheath in the Media

Below I have included some interesting articles on the Rackheath situation from the Guardian website:


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