Little boxes everywhere (even the cows look alike)

John Gummer rails against the monotonous condition of a too-neat Britain

The drift to uniformity in town and country epitomised by the housing estate home of Ford Mondeo man and fields of oilseed rape came under scathing attack yesterday at the launch of a new map charting the character of England.

John Gummer, Secretary of State for the Environment, railed against the orderly and the neat, and said children were being left a "terrible legacy" by volume housebuilders.

"If you were taken blindfold to the centre of most recent private developments you would find it impossible to know whether you were in Carlisle or Chatham," Mr Gummer said. Any difference would not be due to a sense of place but "merely connected with the marketing strategy" of the builder.

More biting criticism came from Richard Wakeford, chief executive of the Countryside Commission, one of the two government agencies which combined to produce the map.

Decisions taken from the marketplace and the debating chamber were causing a "creeping and insidious trend towards uniformity", Mr Wakeford said.

"Modern, mass-produced housing - with just a touch of the vernacular if we are lucky - is a backdrop to the Ford Mondeo parked outside, by the cupressus leylandii hedge. Every high street seems to contain the same stores.

"In the countryside, the colours of cows now give no clue as to where they are munching; the crops that are planted owe more to Brussels than to our regional differences in England. We are losing our diversity."

Lincoln Reds are almost a rare breed now in the fields of their native Lincolnshire. And other cattle with county associations, such as the Hereford, are going the same way.

The map, produced by the commission and English Nature at a cost of about pounds 100,000 each, ignores county boundaries and divides the country into 159 areas with a common wildlife, landscape, and to some extent, cultural characteristics.

Some areas, such as the South Downs, Fens or New Forest might be thought to be readily identifiable without a map. But the agencies point to others such as the Southern Magnesian Limestone Ridge which might not. It runs north from Nottingham for about 100 miles yet is only eight miles wide.

It is typified by rolling hills cut through by river gorges, more woodland than surrounding areas, limestone villages and plants such as lily of the valley and bluebells. The limestone is also a source of the clean water needed by the renowned regional breweries at Tadcaster and Masham.

Defending the map against doubts about its practical value, the agency heads maintained it would be an important tool in making better decisions about guiding landscape change and protecting wildlife. Both agencies began separate work on maps in 1994 but joined forces two years ago on realising the scope for confusion.

Mr Gummer insisted the map was "not a means of getting out of the proper protection of special places", and that statutory landscape and habitat designations would not be affected.

However, the map is likely to be used in formulating planning guidance - to help reinforce local identities and perhaps fire the "passionate sense of local loyalty" which Mr Gummer regretted the English did not share with the French.

Suggested Topics
News
Kenny Ireland, pictured in 2010.
peopleActor, from House of Cards and Benidorm, was 68
News
A scene from the video shows students mock rioting
newsEnd-of-year leaver's YouTube film features staging of a playground gun massacre
Travel
travel
Environment
View from the Llanberis Track to the mountain lake Llyn
Du’r Arddu
environmentA large chunk of Mount Snowdon, in north Wales, is up for sale
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Voices
A family sit and enjoy a quiet train journey
voicesForcing us to overhear dull phone conversations is an offensive act, says Simon Kelner
News
i100This Instagram photo does not prove Russian army is in Ukraine
Arts and Entertainment
The cast of The Big Bang Theory in a still from the show
tvBig Bang Theory filming delayed by contract dispute over actors' pay
News
Morrissey pictured in 2013
people
Arts and Entertainment
Sydney and Melbourne are locked in a row over giant milk crates
art
Life and Style
The director of Wall-E Andrew Stanton with Angus MacLane's Lego model
gadgetsDesign made in Pixar animator’s spare time could get retail release
News
peopleGuitarist, who played with Aerosmith, Lou Reed and Alice Cooper among others, was 71
News
people
Sport
England celebrate a wicket for Moeen Ali
sportMoeen Ali stars with five wickets as Cook's men level India series
News
Field of broken dreams: Andy Bell visits Passchendaele
news5 News's Andy Bell visited the killing fields of the Great War, and his ancestor - known only from his compelling war diary - came to life
Travel
travel
News
i100  ... he was into holy war way before it was on trend
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

VB.Net Developer - £40k - Surrey - WANTED ASAP

£35000 - £40000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: .Mid Level V...

Digitakl Business Analyst, Slough

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Competitive Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Dig...

Mechanical Estimator: Nuclear Energy - Sellafield

£40000 - £50000 per annum + Car, Medical, Fuel + More!: Progressive Recruitmen...

Dynamics NAV Techno-Functional Consultant

£50000 - £60000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: An absolutely o...

Day In a Page

Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In my grandfather's First World War footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during the war. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

Commonwealth Games

David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end