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In praise of the older ‘nimby’

By March 25, 2018February 18th, 2021No Comments

To arms, Nimbys! Only we can save a green and pleasant land

This is Peter Hitchens’ Mail on Sunday column

25 March, 2018

The homeowners of Britain are being lied to, and unfairly smeared to try to get us to accept a hideous and irreparable destruction of green space in suburbs and the countryside. They are also being blamed personally for a problem they did not cause, in a nasty war on the middle-aged. They should resist this.

It is garbage to claim that liberating grabby developers to build thousands of nasty box homes will bring down the price of housing for the young in any important way.

House prices are madly high, but for quite different reasons. First, there is the mass immigration that nobody can mention without being defamed as a ‘bigot’.

Next, there is the destruction of stable family life. The epidemic of divorce created a huge need for more houses, as formerly married parents both sought to offer homes to their children.

Then there’s the concentration of so much employment in London and the South East, and the destruction of jobs elsewhere in the country.

On top of these, there was the foolishly praised decision to sell off council houses. As well as breaking up hundreds of settled and civilised communities, this released billions of pounds into the housing market just as it was exploding anyway.

And, finally, and perhaps most crucial of all, house prices are the only true measure of the inflation of our currency. In a country where money is shrivelling in value daily, cash savings are eaten up by targeted inflation.

Targeted? Yes. The virtual abolition of interest on savings forces those with any money ether to shove it in risky investments, spend it, or put it into the only asset normal people can easily buy – land and property.

Assets are the only guard against the death of money. So people sensibly put as much of their cash as they can into them and so they go up in price.

Ten thousand hideous new ‘executive estates’ blighting villages will not suddenly make houses cheap in areas where people want to live.

Nor will the bulldozing of old-fashioned spacious suburbs to make way for high-density flats. Nor will the concreting of what is left of the Green Belt.

All that will happen will be that the developers will make a lot of money, house prices will stay high and large parts of the country will come to resemble the suburbs of Istanbul, an endless vista of brick, concrete, plastic and exhaust fumes in which people may exist but not live.

I heard last week of a new ploy being used by powerful landowners anxious to cash in on the new boom. This Greed Lobby long ago invented the term ‘Nimby’ (Not In My Back Yard), to abuse those who wished to preserve their neighbourhoods. They lied that such people were selfish and obstinate, refusing to make sacrifices for the common good.

Now they are accusing them – me, if you like – of selfishly sitting on the gains of charmed lives, cruelly depriving the young of homes.

I have heard of immensely rich landowners seeking to build on the Green Belt, openly sneering at their opponents for being middle-aged. Though their motive was plainly to make lots of money out of developing farmland, they sought to make out that those who stood in their way were the selfish ones, keeping young families out of the housing market.

It’s not true. If our children are to inherit anything, we need to stand up against this pressure. If we cannot preserve the savings of years of work in our homes, then where can we preserve them?

I know of people in my parents’ generation who died almost penniless, with no heritage to leave behind, because they had invested their modest savings on the stock market, instead of in housing.

Worse, the rape of the Green Belt and the overdevelopment of the countryside will mean our children inherit a blighted country, almost unrecognisable as the beautiful, civilised place my generation inherited from our forebears. Don’t be bullied into being ashamed of your thrift.

Don’t be abused by oily land-grabbers, whose only real interest is their own wealth, into thinking that by giving into their demands you are helping the young. You won’t be. Let us fight for our back yards, and not be ashamed that we own them.