Monday, August 08, 2005

UK Land Use Statistics

The following text is taken from a short article by James Woudhuysen, Professor of Forecasting & Innovation at de Montfort University. It appeared in the Housing Forum Newsletter. James tells me that he drew it from The Office of National Statistic. He also tells me to mention his book "Why is construction so backward ?", John Wiley & Co, 2004.

In Britain 57.5m people live in about 24m dwellings. If household growth is to match population growth, 64m people will, by 2030, need a stock of 26.7m homes. But households are getting smaller, so call that 2030 total for homes 29m – five million more homes than exist in Britain in 2005.

Then there is the rate of stock replacement. Today, ordinary flats or houses will just about last 100 years – given lots of refurbishment and DIY. So take it that, over the next 25 years, Britain will need to replace, on a 100-year cycle, stock that rises from 24m to 29m units. That means building an additional 242,000 new homes in 2006, racking up to 290,000 in 2030. Over 25 years, therefore, 6.65m new homes will be needed just to replace worn-out old ones. Add the 200,000 homes required for annual new household formation to the average of 266,000 required for annual stock replacement and one gets an annual output of 466,000 homes –11.65m over 25 years. That’s a little different from the annual average of 171,225 homes built in Britain since 1997.

Wouldn’t the millions of new homes we propose concrete over Britain’s green and pleasant land? Wouldn’t they mean, at the very least, still more urban sprawl? It’s time to lay these myths to rest.

The land cover of Great Britain is 23.5m hectares, used in 2002 as follows:
• 1. intensive agricultural land – 10.8m hectares, or 45.96 per cent
• 2. semi-natural land – 7.0m hectares, or 29.78 per cent
• 3. woodland – 2.8m hectares, or 11.91 per cent
• 4. settled land accounts for 1.8m hectares, or 7.65 per cent
• 5. water bodies – 0.3m hectares, or 1.28 per cent
• 6. sundry other categories – 0.8m hectares, or 3.42 per cent.

If settlements are added to the ‘sundry’ component (largely transport infrastructure such as roads and railways), then built-up Great Britain consists of about 2.3m hectares, or just 10 per cent of the land available. Clearly, considerable growth in both population and household numbers can be accommodated – both in high urban concentrations, and as dispersed settlements integrated into the landscape. Mark Brinkley


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