Back in February 2014, the Princess Royal asked the Rural Housing National Conference: "Is it really necessary to only think in terms of large-scale developments where you might add 10 or 15 thousand in a block where you require infrastructure to be installed? I'm not sure it is."
Speaking in Cheltenham, she said that by building between six and twelve homes around a village, the local community could thrive.
And she added that research had shown that for every pound invested in new affordable rural homes, there was a "social return" of around £6.50
The then Cameron Government disagreed and was in favour of “New Towns” However, since then the May Government has taken the Princess’s suggestion, and gold plated it – with a vengeance.
There are plans to put another 23,500 'homes' into Northumberland to meet government targets. Never mind the views of the local inhabitants, infrastructure or availability of employment – just build houses.
Villages the length of the county are being extended by new estates of carbon copy rabbit hutches on their boundaries, villages that are many miles from the single carriageway A1 road and are connected by winding country roads.
Those 23,500 houses will increase the population of the county by about 55,000. This means an increase of almost 20% on the longstanding 300,000 population. It will still be a sparsely populated county statistically even after that, but an influx of that order will dilute the local culture of each and every town to the extent that it will vanish. In many villages, local accents are already.in the minority
One small town had a 2011 population of 6,000. The new houses already built or with planning permission in place will increase the population by 25%, with more to come nearby. Many villages are also being expanded with new estates.
We are told by those in charge that we 'need' these new houses, but never why. They come with no new employment, no new doctors' surgeries, no new parking in already overburdened village centres, that are further crowded by tourists that are encouraged to spoil the 'unspoilt' nature of the area. Often, if locals take the car out at the weekend, they return to find that there is nowhere left in the entire village to park it. The historic nature of the place means that there is no rear access and no drives to park on. In some cases, the houses are being built 30 or 40 miles away from any prospect of employment for the incomers. There is no new industry or business promised. What will all the new inhabitants do for a living?
And to cap it all they've removed the accident and emergency from local hospitals such as Ashington, Hexham, and Alnwick that were already a long drive from many parts of the county and concentrated it in a shiny new hospital in the extreme south-east of the county only a handful of miles from Newcastle. The new hospital has difficulty in receiving the air ambulance that is needed so often at remote road traffic accidents because they've built it on the flight path of Newcastle International Airport.
This story is not unique to Northumberland but is repeated from Lands End to North Berwick and from Beccles to Birkenhead.
How much more of our glorious countryside needs to be covered in housing before Governments get the message? More people means more houses, more pollution, more flood plains concreted over, less countryside and less food production.
We have to stop this madness. Maybe we should listen more carefully to the Princess Royal.
We in UKIP need to be campaigning against this uncontrolled concreting over of our green and pleasant land – today! Tomorrow could be too late.
By Pat Bryant, with acknowledgment to friends.