Britain’s countryside is under threat.
A satellite survey conducted by a research team at the University of Leicester between 2006 and 2012, found that between those years, 22,000 hectares (54,000 acres) of green space in Britain was converted to “artificial surfaces” – mostly housing, but including the roads and other infrastructure required to support the houses themselves. More than 7,000 hectares of forest was felled, 14,000 hectares of farmland concreted and 1,000 hectares of precious wetland was drained to make way for urban sprawl.
That’s a landscape twice the size of Liverpool, transformed forever, in just six years.
Britain has always experienced population growth. It is one of the hallmarks of a healthy and prosperous country; when people are disinclined to emigrate for work or quality of life, and feel socially and financially secure enough to start a family, the population will grow.
Britain has always needed to build houses. Yet in the last decade the rate of population growth has accelerated rapidly, and this has been due not to an unexpected explosion in the rate of reproduction. Every day in Britain people are struggling to buy houses in the areas where they were born. Every day more young people are forced to move back into their childhood bedrooms as the cost of renting skyrockets.
These problems that are being faced at a local level begin well away from our communities at the level of national policy failure. They lie in the failure to control the growth of our population through immigration, including immigration from the European Union.
Last year, net immigration into Britain amounted to over 350,000 people, with EU nationals making up about half of that number. This figure is growing, and at an alarming rate. It has already more than doubled since 2012, and February’s ‘renegotiation’ did nothing to slow this rise or even to dissuade people from coming. Without reform in the EU, there is no way to stop the rise, and the EU has proved itself to be unreformable.
At current levels of immigration, the Office for National Statistics project that our population will continue to grow by around half a million a year – the equivalent of a city the size of Liverpool.
This will mean that, in England, we will have to build a new home every six minutes, or 240 a day, just to accommodate the additional demand for housing from new migrants. That is before we take into account the needs of those who were born here.
Across the country, communities with no spare school places, saturated GPs surgeries and overstretched road systems will be asked to absorb large numbers of extra houses, without any prospect of money to fund the required infrastructure.
Without a substantial change in policy, the same thing will happen again and again and again. My message, especially to the young and those with young families is this; if we remain in the EU, if we have uncontrolled migration year after year after year after year, you will find it harder to get a home of your own. You will find it harder to see a GP or you will find it harder to get a school place and you will see our green spaces disappear at an even greater rate.
There are potential economic benefits of immigration, but we cannot stand by while towns and villages across our country suffer from real social upheaval. The people of Britain are crying out to be given a say over who arrives, and in what numbers.
As Conservatives, each one of us should wish to preserve what is best about this country. Britain’s green and pleasant land may be a clichéd image, yet it is an emotive one, close to all of our hearts. If we do not vote to leave on the 23rd, it may become nothing but a memory.
(Image: Kathryn Yengel)