John Prescott, a man whom I suspect would rather see his garden either buried beneath decking or paved over for ease maintenance, had a verbal set-to with Zac Goldsmith, the Conservative Party’s very own Green Man, on this morning’s Today Programme. Not unsurprisingly, I wasn’t altogether sure what Prescott was trying to say (was he?), although amidst his incoherent ill-tempered ramblings I did catch phrases such as “same old Tories”, something or the other “for the privileged few” and “need more houses” (I’d hate to be the old buffoon’s ghostwriter).
Well, one of the most striking features of home ‘architecture’ in recent years, particularly under Tony and Gordon, has been the fact that as many people like Mr (oh dear, where are my manners, I meant to say “Lord” (sic)) Prescott have experienced a significant enhancement in their girth, homes have grown smaller. Such homes may be fit for people of diminutive stature, but for you and I (not that you or I are fat of course) they must surely be viewed as nothing better than desperate halfway houses between renting and real home-ownership. Nobody surely aspires to live in one of these high-density dwellings that to my mind bear all of the aesthetic appeal of a battery farm or a prison.
Goldsmith, naturally, can afford to be Green with a capital ‘G’, and enjoy a garden which I suspect may be as large as Richmond Park (maybe Richmond Park is his garden?), but he is nonetheless correct to highlight the fact that in recent years many property developers have engaged in the ruse of building on gardens and passing off such homes as having been built on ‘brownfield sites’. Where this has taken place the quality of the local environment has suffered and developers have heaved a sigh of relief that they have not had the rather less enviable task of developing genuine brownfield sites. Why clear up derelict industrial land when you can build on large gardens? Well, such is their rationale, but it is not mine, for I am all in favour of preserving gardens. The well-tended garden is after all one of the characteristics of English life, and it is a shame that so many of these delightful urban havens of birdsong have now been lost beneath Prescott’s barracks-style houses.
Goldsmith rightly stated that developers should build on genuine brownfield sites and that gardens should therefore be reclassified and protected from the predation of the property developer. Prescott, au contraire, ranted in a rambling fashion about this being a class issue (I think that was the gist of it, despite the fact that this confused portly gentleman has long since become a member of and apologist for the plutocracy) and there being a need to build everywhere because of the chronic housing shortage. Housing shortage? Yes, there is one. Why’s that then? It couldn’t have anything to do with the skyrocketing population brought about by deliberately-engineered mass immigration could it? Surely not?! I’d sooner have gardens than sheds in Slough containing Somalis, Afghans and Pakistanis. Sheds are for pottering and raising seedlings, not for nurturing suicide bombers.
Whilst on the theme of the urbanite’s desire to maintain a link with the soil and the country I thought that you might appreciate listening to the Kinks in wistful bucolic mood. Here follows their song Village Green taken from their much underrated album The Kinks are the Village Green Preservation Society.