Nuts & Bolts #7 – A Green and Woolly Land

N&B#7 - Green & Woolly Land

According to the Chinese Zodiac 2015 is the Year of the Sheep, and its coming was not without herald: these even-toed ungulates have recently been the subject of both big data and the big screen. Now, another ovis aires omen reveals itself – sheep are a major (countryside) tenant demographic.

According to Jon Neale, 25% of the UK is grassland used by sheep. This impressive bleat – sorry, feat – is mentioned in a (re)tweet shown below, in which I responded with insightful commentary becoming of a housing professional a baaaaaa-d pun:

As the Homes for Britain campaign clings to the perilous precipice of political preoccupation, talk of supply invariably leads to talk of land – however, politicians would much rather talk about land that is brown rather than green and pleasant. This is odd as over 94% of England’s land has no development on it. But despite the pressing necessity to build more bloody houses, people still believe that developing into the countryside is the thin end of a dangerous wedge which would see our illusory, postcard-perfect Tolkien Shire caked in cold, callous, cantankerous concrete.

It’s not Christmas but we’re still kinda talking about members of the order Artiodactyla so baaaaaa-humbug. Building 245,000 homes a year requires just 0.05% of total land in the country, a mere 1% of England’s land over 20 years – building on the green belt will no more smother our countryside with a 2000 AD mega-city than lifting heavy weights will make a woman ‘look like a man’ (which has nothing to do with housing but is likewise a dumb myth that needs to die.)

Increasingly, solving the housing crisis is ‘not credible’ without building on the green belt…but the green belt is sacred, a golden fleece praised in right-wing broadsheet verse despite the ubiquity of that luminous lamb’s lesser lackeys grazing on almost 5.6 million hectares of rough, undeveloped grazing land.

The notion that the green belt is sacrosanct is a myth. It is not alone in housing; despite what the media would have you believe benefits are not encouraging people to choose spawning unsustainable litters of children over employment (only 8% of those on out-of-work benefits have 3 or more children.) But myths are stories, and stories are potent weapons in an ideological war. I fear it will take more than facts to lift such wool from people’s eyes.


Challenging 12 myths and stereotypes about low income families and social security spending, Save the Children, Online:, Available: May 2015

Grassland in the UK – an introduction, UK Agriculture, Online:, Available: May 2015

Improving the land market is central to increasing housebuilding, NHF, Online:, Available: May 2015

‘Not credible’ to solve Cambridge housing crisis without building on green belt, Cambridge News, Online:, Available: May 2015

Wi-fi connected SHEEP and BADGERS to help connect rural Wales – by turning fields into digital hotspots, Wales Online, Online:, Available: May 2015

Art (ahem…) copyright of Neil Jackson, 04/05/2015


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