The greenbelt has untold social and, yes, economic benefits. We shouldn't need reminding

The think-of-the-kids banner always heralds some unwise and unpopular Government policy, proposals to build on the greenbelt are no exception


When politicians trot out the “for the sake our children and grandchildren” line, it is best to be wary. They will be trying to push through an unwise and unpopular policy by implying that anyone who opposes it is selfishly indifferent to the needs of the yet unborn.

Nick Boles has been flying the think-of-the-kids banner while proposing this week that Britain, whose countryside has been more built upon than any other country in Europe apart from Belgium and Holland, should urbanise even more. Another 3 per cent of green space would solve our housing crisis, the minister has said.

This keening conceals a rather more immediate, money-based concern. When Boles cheerfully tells us we “shouldn’t obsess about the fact the only landscapes that are beautiful are open – sometimes buildings are better”, he has his beady, ambitious eye on George Osborne. His idea that everyone has “a basic moral right… to a home with a little bit of ground around it”, a weird conflation of Thoreau and Thatcher, is designed to distract from the plan to launch an unconstrained building bonanza to jump-start a flat economy.

It is bizarre that, in Britain and in 2012, one has to point out the value of nature, landscape and tranquillity. The British countryside was central to our self-promoting pitch to the world at the recent Olympics. There is no end to TV series which exploit in one way or another a general yearning for life in the country. Every survey into happiness confirms what common sense already tells us: that we need access to a natural world which offers an evolving connection to the past and the future, not to mention untold psychological, social and probably economic benefits.

Even the Government’s own Natural Capital Committee, set up earlier in the year to assess the market value of our natural environment, is making this glaringly obvious point. In a speech to the Royal Society this week, the chair of the committee, Dieter Helm, argued that we need to quantify the worth of a habitat that has taken millennia to develop. Taking the ancient chalkland of Twyford Down as an example, Helm recalled the controversial extension to the M3 in 1993 which destroyed a swathe of it at a cost of £90m. “If a proper valuation had been done, a tunnel would have been built,” he said. Perhaps putting a price tag on the rural landscape will help Boles, and the similarly unimaginative, to understand that to sacrifice it for short-term gain, when brownfield sites for 1.5 million potential new homes already exist, would be the true betrayal of future generations.

French men are  different too

A website created to help British women living in France behave like French women seems quite likely to be getting a few hits over here. Some of the tips offered by Géraldine Lepère on Comme une Française are basic good sense. Wear something “simple, sober with great fabric and a beautiful cut” when going out. Avoid being too punctual. Never bring a bottle of obviously cheap wine. Other advice may take a while before it is assimilated into British culture: women should be keen to chat about politics over dinner, apparently.

The area of sex, predictably, is where the gulf seems widest between the French and the British. Men complimenting women on their looks have no ulterior motive, says Miss Lepère. “If a man in the street says, ‘You are very pretty mademoiselle’, this doesn’t mean he wants to sleep with you.” The trouble is, over here, it does.

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Day In a Page

Read Next

Errors & Omissions: how to spell BBQ and other linguistic irregularities

Guy Keleny

South Africa's race problem is less between black and white than between poor blacks and immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa

John Carlin
NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own