Has England’s green and pleasant land become concrete-grey and overcrowded?
With the nation’s ever-rising population and the double whammy of people generally living longer, as each year goes by, there is increasing strain on public services and in particular housing.
It’s no wonder some people are saying things are at crisis point regarding infrastructure and housing. I hear it all the time – people complaining that Ashford looks like a building site and that we are packing people in like sardines into our Ashford homes. So I thought I’d find out exactly what the truth was compared to the rest of the country.
For the UK as a whole, there 698 people per square mile; in England there are 1,103 people per square and finally Greater London with 14,587 people per square mile … these all sound quite awfully high numbers, until you drill down and realise that a square mile is quite a large area – there are only 93,600 square miles in the whole of the UK and that includes the wilderness of Scotland!
So let’s look at more modest areas of land …and start with the most traditional – the acre. To those born since the mid-1970’s, an acre is roughly half the size of a football pitch (or a square of roughly 63 by 63 metres) and there are just under 2.5 acres in a hectare.
The population of Ashford is 74,733 and the total area of Ashford is 4,707 acres, giving 15.88 people living per acre in Ashford
So, how does that compare to our neighbouring towns…
As you can see, just under 16 people a living on each acre in Ashford, interesting when compared to Greater London, which has density of 23.26 people per acre and London’s most crowded suburb, Pimlico at 92.32 people per acre. Yet even Pimlico is nothing to the Collblanc district in Barcelona, which has an unbelievable 214.8 people living it per acre.
So, is Ashford over populated? Well, it can seem that way at school time or rush hour when we are sitting in traffic; yet the stats seem to show – we just aren’t!
Without doubt, we are never going to have a perfectly even spread of population as can be seen from the figures in the table, and more remote parts of the Country would not be able to withstand high densities of new people without enormous investment in infrastructure .
Yet could we accommodate a much larger population in the UK (and Ashford) although there would be trade-offs? Look back to the 17th and 18th century certain sectors of society were warning about population growth. The population of the UK in 1801 was 10.5 million and even with the growth of the population since then, only 1.2% of the UK is currently built on for housing purposes.
The question, it seems to me, is not can we manage but how would a larger Ashford population change our way of life, both for better and possibly worse?
The planners have a responsibility to ensure Ashford provides its fair share of the new homes needed to accommodate population growth over the coming years. The local authority has a responsibility towards adequate provision of the infrastructure of roads, hospitals and schools etc., to match the growth in housing.
This is not a political topic and I hope once the ‘B’ word is finally sorted the Government can get on with addressing the shortage of affordable new homes for future generations.