We're continually told that housing in London is expensive just because there's no land to build upon. And of course we can't let the place expand outwards because green belt. Thus, well, everyone should just get used to it. It's not entirely obvious that this is the true cause as this little story shows:
Anyway, once seen, the beauty of the wetlands turns you swiftly soppy: 11 hectares of reedy heaven, all cherry trees and tufted grebes, warblers and thrilling mid-air dust-ups between gulls and geese. Plus an education centre and nice caff in the former dining room of Thames Water’s staff.
The wetlands are the fruit of the labours of more than 50 local volunteers spearheaded by the London Wildlife Trust, whose representatives showed round the press and the project’s patron, David Attenborough, on Saturday. And the bill?About £1.3m, half of which was met by lottery money, with Berkeley Homes and reservoir landlord Thames Water chipping in about 20% each, and Hackney council 10%. Just to reiterate: the company whose skyscrapers overlook the wetlands, whose newly released range of apartments is called the Nature Collection, and are billed as being “set on the banks of an abundant nature reserve and animated by urban wildlife year-round” has contributed about half the cost of one of its cheapest flats – which apparently paid for the boardwalk.
Is it naive of me to assume that companies whose coffers are set to swell enormously might have an obligation to invest in the surrounding landscape for everyone? The initial stages of the redevelopment were signed off years ago, and did involve the fulfilment of various section 106 agreements – the bargaining chips for greater-good improvement councils can demand in return for consent.
11 hectares of that oh so expensive land in the middle on one of the world's great cities must be a wildlife haven? More than that, the people building the houses on other land must cough up to pay for it?
If you further restrict the supply of land and then load the costs of non-housing related issues onto housing itself then housing is only going to become more expensive, isn't it? And yet the argument now is that we should demand even more of these things in order to what? In order to make housing cheap again?