Rural land lost to urban sprawl

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The Independent Online
YORKSHIRE and Humberside's area of town, city and suburb has almost doubled since 1945. The region has experienced England's fastest relative increase in urban area in the post-war period, according to the Council for the Protection of Rural England.

Its report, published yesterday, also reveals how people are becoming more thinly spread over the nation's expanding urban area, as car ownership increases and roads and suburbs are built.

Since 1960, the number of people supported by each hectare (2.5 acres) of urban land has fallen from 31 to 25.

The report's key claim is that the landscape is changing much faster than government figures would suggest. Rural land lost in England between 1945 and 1990 was 2,721 square miles (7,047 sq km) - an area greater than Greater London, Berkshire, Hertfordshire and Oxfordshire combined.

But the countryside is not only being eroded by cities. Swathes have been converted from traditional landscapes such as rough pastures rich in wildlife to intensive arable farming areas. Almost 30 per cent of England's rough grazing has been lost since 1945.

South-east England has had the greatest absolute increase in urban area - 725 square miles. Yorkshire and Humberside's increase is only half this amount, but it started from a smaller base and the relative increase - 88 per cent - is much larger.

The council's latest report gives a breakdown of changes in rural land, based on data from the Ministry of Agriculture, the Forestry Commission, the Department of the Environment and other government bodies.

A 1991 government report said that by 2001, 11 per cent of England would be urbanised. Geoffrey Sinclair, author of the council's report, says this was exceeded years ago.

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