Dust or Magic, Monday, November 29 2010

How little is your England?

New atlas shows we're being crowded out by the rich

Britain is tiny if you are poor, but enormous if you are wealthy - and the wealthy like to keep it that way.

In The Atlas of the Real World, Danny Dorling and Mark Newman reveal that one third of Britain's population now lives in just 3 percent of the land area: a densely-packed belt running from London to Liverpool. If everyone in Britain lived this way (and most of us approximately do) this would indeed be a "tiny, overcrowded island": only slightly larger than Wales. It is even smaller if you are poorer: for the young men interviewed in a Rowntree Foundation study in 2008, Britain was a bleak part of Peterborough measuring just 200 metres square. Beyond that, the world felt hostile and dangerous.

This is partly due to the privatisation of public space. Whole city centres are being handed over to private corporations, like the ones that own Liverpool One and other "shopping cities". Cities have fewer and fewer places where people can even sit down without handing over money. Children, women and the old are confined to their homes as the streets are surrendered to the auto industry.

The cause is a kind of "flooding" Migration Watch never mentions: not by immigrants, but by the likes of Migration Watch founder, Sir Andrew Green, whose Britain includes large, comfortable homes in Oxfordshire and central London and, for some of his allies, truly vast ancestral estates. Since 2007, "smart money" has poured out of Wall Street and into land, driving up prices and restricting access worldwide. Nearly half of Cambodia has been bought and fenced off by foreign speculators. In Britain, the global super-rich drove up the the price of agricultural land (doubling it in places) in their search for privacy, golf-courses and grazing for polo ponies.

This is the real face of "flooding" - and it's visible wherever you see a private security firm.

First published in Who is Illegal? (No One Is Illegal, October 2010)

Posted by Bob Hughes on Monday, November 29 2010

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