Tag Archives: planning

Is it OK to build on Green Belt land?

In which the Wartime Housewife draws your attention to GASP, a pressure group in Buckinghamshire, and offers explanation and discussion about what Green Belt and Brown Field sites really are.
Recently, Sister the Second announced that she had been on a Demonstration.  Now, I spent large chunks of my late-teens to mid-twenties marching, demonstrating, campaigning and generally sounding off about a variety of political and social issues, but Sister the Second has never had an obvious militant tendency.  I beat her over the head with a placard and demanded to know what it was about.

The owners of Wycombe Wanderers and London Wasps Rugby Clubs want to leave Adams Park (their current ground) and build a new stadium development. Wycombe Air Park is their preferred site. This is Green Belt land next to an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.  Wycombe District Council is proposing to support and part-fund the project through substantial ‘enabling development’ i.e. selling off land owned by WDC for housing development – possibly 2000 homes. The project is likely to cost tens of millions of pounds.

Group Against The Stadium Proposals (GASP) was officially formed on Monday 15th November 2010 when concerned representatives of independent groups representing some 13,000 residents came together to unite against the stadium proposals by Wycombe District Council and private enterprise. Groups include parish councils, residents’ associations, sports clubs and conservation bodies from both the local and wider area.

Whilst each group has their own individual concerns, many are shared by all groups, including loss of countryside in the Green Belt, concerns about access to and from the stadium and housing development.  To learn more about their campaign, log on to http://www.gasp-no.org
 

What does Green Belt actually mean?

A Green Belt is an allotted space of land that is held in reserve for an area of public open space and for recreational purposes. Greenbelt land is normally undeveloped or sparsely populated land, which has has been set aside to enclose developments, prevent towns from merging and provide open space.

The beginning of the Green Belt was in 1935 and was established by the Greater London Regional Planning Committee. It was not until 1947 that the Town and Country Planning Act allowed Green Belts to be included in their development plans and it was not until 1955 that the whole idea was beginning to be used throughout the UK.

There are a few set purposes for these greenbelt areas which include preventing large areas from getting larger and keeping them in one area, to keep neighboring towns from growing together, to protect the countryside from development, to preserve the character and history of smaller towns, and to help with the rebirth of derelict areas within the urban area.

Green Belt map of England

13% of England is Green Belt, the largest being the London Green Belt, at about 486,000 hectares. The smallest Green Belt is the Burton-Swadlincote Green Belt at just 700 hectares. There are around 14 Green Belts throughout England.

Green Belts were necessary because London and other major cities kept on expanding, and there had to be intervention to stop the countryside being concreted overIt has been said many times that once an open space has been built, on it will almost certainly be lost forever – no-one is ever going to look at a housing estate and say “Let’s knock this down – we could grow barley here”. 

There are five purposes for  designating Green Belt land: 

  1. Check the unrestricted sprawl of large built-up areas
  2. Prevent neighbouring towns from merging into one another
  3. Assist in safeguarding the countryside from encroachment
  4. Preserve the setting and special character of historic towns
  5. Assist in urban regeneration by encouraging the recycling of derelict and other urban land 

 There are also five threats to Green Belt land:

  1. Short term planning gain – over-riding the permanent nature of Green Belts by shifting the boundaries enabling towns to expand.  The 2005 draft Milton Keynes and South Midlands Plan produced for the ODPM (Office of the Deputy Prime Minister) talks of shifting the Green Belt to enable existing towns to expand.
  2. Housing pressures.  For example, in the South East of England (Kent, Surrey, Sussex etc) the government is asking for 500,000 more houses.
  3. London overspill.  People who currently live and work in London and are finding it too expensive and too crowded to live in London which is reducing their quality of life.  As a result, they are moving out of London to live in surrounding towns.  This is increasing the pressures for more housing in the Home Counties
  4. It is easier and cheaper to build on green field sites because brown field sites can be expensive to decontaminate.  Technically, developers have to demonstrate ‘special circumstances’ to build on Green Belt.
  5. Inappropriate development which reduces the openness of Green Belt land.  For examples, click here for appeals against refusal of permission to develop on Green Belt land

Between 1 April 2009 and 31 March 2010 there has been a net decrease of 80 hectares when compared with the latest 2008/09 estimates. This is due to two authorities who adopted new plans which resulted in a real net decrease in the area of Green Belt.  Since these statistics were first compiled in 1997, there has been an increase in the area of Green Belt, but this is because a huge chunk of the New Forest National Park was redesignated as Green Belt in 2005.

So what is a Brown Field site?

A Brown Field site

Brown Field land development is previously developed land that may or may not have been contaminated. Today, you will find literally thousands of Brown Field sites that were previously used for industrial use. Because of this, these sites potentially present dramatic risks to people’s health, along with the environment.

With the problem of these sites being so significant, the UK government has stepped in, initiating programs to help redevelop Brown Field sites, calling these cleaned up areas Green Field sites. The program defined by the government is to take up to 60% of Brown Field sites and use them for new housing developments. The goal is to eliminate stress on green belt areas of the country.

Land that has not had industrial activity on it does not usually have contamination issues and its use is dependent on the regional councils having the will to use it and the impetus to encourage and incentivise developers to move into these areas.

One of the problems with Brown Field land development is that the public are much better informed and understandably wary about the potential liabilities associated with building a new house on previously industrial land.

Brown Field land development could be successful if waste and chemical risk is removed, making the land stable. Although new processes are being reviewed, the current steps involve redevelopment through a planning process for both environmental and economic relief and growth. This must include stringent surveys to ascertain the history of the land, groundwater testing, subsurface soil testing, and so on.

Landfill sites are going to become a huge problem in the future because it is so hard to decontaminate the site to use the land for anything useful.  Have a look at this previous post for more information.

Ultimately, we have to decide whether we are happy for our green spaces to be slowly but surely eroded.  Once they’re gone, they’re gone.  No going back.  No reclaiming land for agriculture or farming, no knocking down of stadiums to build a nature reserve or a green space to stop us all going bonkers.  And no more back-handers for corrupt planning officials.  Now there’s a thought….

9 Comments

Filed under Community and shopping, Environment, Politics, Science and Technology

Some Last Minute Christmas Tips & Ideas

Balls

If, like me, you’ve left everything to the last minute, here are a few Christmas tips and ideas for food, cards, presents and activities.

If you’ve only just made your Christmas Cake, feed it with a teaspoon of brandy three times a day for the next week, then apply the marzipan.  Leave it overnight to dry.  Buy a ready mix packet of Royal Icing Mix and spike it all over.  Supermarkets now have some super and classy-looking ready-made decorations, so pop one of those on the top.

If you’ve left it too late to post your Christmas cards abroad, go out with your camera and take a photograph of something Christmassy.  E-mail this with a short note, and a grovelling apology for your wretchedness, to all your foreign or ex-patriot friends and family.  This could also work with other friends if you’ve really messed it up.

If you’re really stuck for a present for someone, most supermarkets now have a fantastic range of gift cards for both local and larger High Street shops.  I think vouchers are a great gift, especially for difficult teenagers for whom there is absolutely no chance of getting it right unless they’ve given you a list.  Monsoon, HMV, iTunes, book shops, cinemas, restaurants etc – you can’t go wrong.  Click on these links to High Street Vouchers and  The Gift Card Centre and see what’s out there. Fed up with buying expensive wrapping paper that just gets ripped off and thrown away?  Wrap your gifts very neatly with newspaper and tie up the parcels with thick brightly coloured ribbon.  The ribbon can be rolled up and used again and so can the paper.

Can’t think of a gift for an older female friend or relative?  In this cold weather, skin really suffers.  Some really nice hand cream, eg. Crabtree & Evelyn, Molton Brown, Aveda, Floris, and The National Trust does a lovely range of flower scented hand creams and co-ordinating products.  It will be well received, I can assure you.

Men can be terribly difficult to buy for, particularly if the chaps in your life don’t have any discernable hobbies or interests.  Again, vouchers for HMV or a favourite clothes shop will never go to waste, but the following sites have some good ideas.  Presents for Men or Find Me a Gift could give you some clues or what about buying them an activity gift to get them interested in something?  Also a decanter and a bottle of something nice to put in it would surely bring a smile to any bod’s face.  A local antique market would be a great an inexpensive place to start or many high street jewellers sell them now.

Don’t be afraid to ask people what they want.  My family doesn’t see enough of each other to know what we have in our houses and we want to spend our money carefully on something the person really needs or would like as a treat.  Get everyone to make a list and then you know you’ll get it right.  This isn’t cynical and horrid, it’s practical and sensible at a time when people want to spend their money wisely.

CHRISTMAS FOOD

Don’t tear your hair out worrying about making Christmas Lunch for the family.  Think of it as Sunday Lunch XL!  It doesn’t have to be a great extravaganza; after all the point of having people over is to share Christmas with them, not to show off how clever you are in the kitchen.  Planning is the key and prepare as much as you can in advance. 

Starters – an unusual soup can be prepared the day before and reheated. Smoked Salmon with some coloured salad leaves and a twist of lemon will never be sneered at or failing that, buy some pre-prepared salmon mousses wrapped in smoked salmon and pop them on a bed or rocket.  Lovely. 

Pudding – Christmas Pud can be reheated in the microwave then served with fresh cream or brandy butter.  If some people don’t like Christmas Pud, make a trifle or make/buy a special ice-cream dessert.  A good cheese board with nice savoury biscuits and fruit takes no effort and can be brought to room temperature while the dinner is cooking.  More importantly, allow people to help you.  There are no prizes for being knackered and grumpy because you feel pressured and put-upon.

Christmas Tea – most people will still be stuffed from lunch so don’t go overboard.  Have a cold collation prepared: cold turkey, nice ham, a bowl of salad and a choice of dressings, some good bread, crisps, Christmas Cake, Mince Pies.  Alternatively buy a selection of party nibbles from a shop and dig in.  Again, get people to muck in and help.

If you’re going to be flying around in the style of a fly with a blue bottom, the trick is to think ahead.  Make (and freeze) or buy a curry sauce and make sure you have some rice in, then on Boxing Day or the day after, if you can’t face any more cooking, a turkey curry can be knocked up in 20 minutes.

ACTIVITIES

Christmas can be a time when people can get grumpy and dyspeptic if not carefully managed.  Think about having a walk before it gets dark to allow the grown ups to walk off their lunch and to let the children run off a bit of steam.  Everyone will feel better for it and it breaks up the day.

Have some games planned that everyone can join in with and have a laugh.  Charades or Give Us a Clue can involve the whole family as can Trivial Pursuit.  Heads, Bodies and Legs is easy for little ones and more fun than you’d think, likewise Consequences, where everyone writes a line of an agreed story and then passes the paper round and everyone writes the next line etc.  Kerplunk had us all in  stitches last year as did the game where someone sticks the name of a person on your forehead and you have to ask questions until you guess who it is.

I would also suggest that you discourage the children from sitting in front of their new computer games all day.  It’s rather bad manners to ignore everyone else like that, the game isn’t going to go away.  Take the opportunity to make the day something out of the ordinary and have a bit of fun!

10 Comments

Filed under Christmas, Community and shopping, Family and Friends

Suffolk Grumbly

Many Years Ago, Sister 2 and I used to work at a pub that specialised in regional English dishes.  Suffolk Grumbly was always a massive hit and we served it with chips and salad.  I tend to serve it with a selection of vegetables, but a moderate portion of chips would certainly help to fill a chap up or make it stretch a little further.  It serves 4 hungry people comfortably, and apart from the sausagemeat is made from storecupboard ingredients.

Suffolk Grumbly 18.09.09If I’ve been really good and planned in advance, I make this the day before and re-heat it as it tends to have a firmer texture if it’s been left to rest.

A note about ovens.  Don’t put the oven on just for one thing.  If you’re putting something in for an hour, pop in a cake or a tray of biscuits.  A plain sponge can be produced in minutes and cooked in 20.  Don’t waste energy. I’ll do an article on Basic Sponge tomorrow.

Utensils:

1 x blender or chopper for making breadrumbs *
1 x lasagne type dish (min. 3″ / 7cm deep)
1 x chopping board
1 x cheese grater
1 x large mixing bowl
1 x medium saucepan

Ingredients:

1lb / 500g sausage meat
1 medium onion – finely chopped
2oz / 60g wholemeal bread crumbs
1 teaspoon mixed herbs
2 eggs
Paprika

Cheese sauce
2oz / 60g butter
2oz / 60g wholemeal flour (or 2 really heaped tablespoons)
4oz / 120g cheese – grated
½ pint / 300ml milk
1 pinch mustard power / ¼  teaspoon ready made mustard

Method:

Heat the oven to 180 /350 / 4
Melt the butter in a pan then slowly stir in the flour to make thick paste (a roux)
Add the milk a bit at a time, stirring constantly
Simmer gently until the sauce has thickened slightly and then stir in the cheese and the mustard
This sauce needs to be thick or it will slop everywhere when you put the sausagemeat on top
Mix all the other ingredients together in a bowl – I use my hands and squelch away like billy-oh
Lightly grease an ovenproof dish and spread half of the sausage mixture in the bottom of the dish
Pour half of the cheese sauce over the mixture
Spread the rest of the sausage mixture over that, followed by the rest of the cheese sauce
Sprinkle liberally with paprika.
Bake in the oven for 1 hour – the top should be well browned.

* A word about breadcrumbs.  If you are a family who doesn’t like its crusts, keep them in a bag in the fridge until you have a few.  Using a blender make them into breadcrumbs.  Put the crumbs in a sealable bag and put in the freezer until needed.  They can then be used to coat chicken or Glamorgan sausages, in brown bread ice cream or as a crunchy top on savoury dishes.  Or indeed for a Suffolk Grumbly.

4 Comments

Filed under Food, Recipes

Growing Plants from Seeds – much cheaper than buying plants

Seed trays 08.09.09There are few things more cheering and pleasant than the sight of flowers in your garden or around the house.  Stocking your garden with plants can be very costly but there are lots of ways to obtain plants, pots and ornamental objects for very little money.  I am something of a novice in the garden, so we can have the joy of learning (and falling flat on our faces) together.  I am fortunate to be surrounded by people who are really good at this gardening lark and I’m never afraid to ask questions.

The first step is to have a plan, as a bit of forward thinking gives you time to gather materials and scout around for interesting things.  At this time of year you need to be planning for the Spring and making notes about which type of plants you want to grow and how you can get your mucky paws on them.  Get some books out of the library, draw some plans in a notebook. And don’t feel restrained by conventional ornaments and containers.  Look in skips and go to the tip – make yours the most original garden in the street.

Now go to your garden centre or supermarket and see what seeds they have on sale; the back of the packet will tell you when they can be planted, but I am very much an experimenter.  A reasonable rule of thumb is that if it’s in the garden centre, it’s the right time of year for it.  Back in July I planted trays and trays of seeds, about half of which were washed away or drowned by the positively diluvian weather we all experienced at the time. (Although when the rain stopped I did find a pair of giraffes and a two rather bedraggled cockatoos lurking in my privet).

I let the trays dry out and have been astonished to find that more seeds than I expected have recovered and started to sprout.  But the new problem is that the weather has now turned and is not particularly conducive to bringing on seedlings.

Again, a trip to the garden centre was most profitable as they have their seasonal sales like everyone else.  I came home with a small, 3-shelf plastic greenhouse for £9.00, which, if the worst comes to the worst, can be brought indoors; two trays of fuschias for £1 which I’m going to experiment with putting inside and outside the house as I have no idea whether they are hardy; a tray of pansies for £2.00, 30 small plastic pots for £1.12 and a big bag of end of stock compost for £1.50.  I also bought all the plants for my hanging baskets last month from a sale at the market  (9 plants for £9) and they were as bonny as anything.  I could have done with an extra plant in each basket, but I’ll know for next year.

Regular followers of the Wartime Housewife will remember my scavenging expedition to the municipal tip back in July where I found hanging baskets and pots galore for next to nothing and these are really coming into their own now as I am potting up seedlings left, right and centre.  I’m going to start some more to replace the ones I lost in the rain, despite the time of year, but at between 99p-£1.50 for a packet of seeds, one can afford to experiment. I have been reliably informed by the Aged Parent that garden centres often have dump bins where you can place unwanted pots for recycling.  Recycled straight into my garden as it happens.  Always re-use before you recycle.

Just a little aesthetic extra; I use old saucers under my pots in the house.  Bric-a-brac stalls, antique stalls and car boot sales will often have loads of assorted china and saucers that cost pence, look lovely and are perfect for small pots. Try planting in mugs or cups and saucers as well.

Another way of obtaining cheap plants, is to do a Seed Swap.  Tomorrow evening our local Garden Society is holding a Seed Swap at the village hall but you can buy seeds and seedlings if you don’t have any to swap.  If you don’t have a garden soc., go to your friends and neighbours and suggest it to them – it could also be a lovely way to encourage a bit of community spirit.  Get that kettle on! Take cuttings, plant seeds, cover your windowsills with pots and see what happens. Oh and don’t forget the biscuits.

3 Comments

Filed under Make it yourself, Plants, The Garden, Tips, Skips and Scavenging