Population Matters has released a report entitled More People, Less Food by London School of Economics and Political Science graduate student Diandian Chen in which the author analyzes the perverse impact of population growth in England during the past 20 years on housing, food production and amenity land.
In 1994, the population of England was approximately 48 million, of whom about 250,000 were “statutory homeless“. If the population had been stabilized at that point, then only approximately 5,200 hectares of land would have been required to house all of these people and they could have been housed in two years on land used for commercial purposes that was changed to residential use in 1994 and 1995. Conversion of undeveloped or agricultural land would not have been required.
In practice, because of rapid population growth since then the housing shortage has worsened; about 26,400 hectares of farmland and 3,600 hectares of undeveloped land have been converted for residential use; approximately £63 million (US $95.5 million) worth of annual food production has been lost; homelessness has remained acute; house price inflation caused by demand exceeding supply has continued; and food self-sufficiency has been further reduced.
Looking ahead to 2050, by which time the Office of National Statistics of the United Kingdom projects that the population of the country will have increased by between seven and 46 more Manchesters, local authorities anticipate that more than 700,000 houses will be built in the countryside, including almost 200,000 in undeveloped or agricultural land.
“When England is already the most overcrowded country in Europe, our houses are already the smallest, and our polls show that 80 per cent of us would prefer a smaller population than we have now, this is a truly pathetic situation,” said Population Matters Chair Roger Martin. “This shows what happens when the national debate is all about increasing supply in our small island and totally ignores any idea of reducing demand, whether for housing, energy, water or anything else. Until we have a clear national objective of stabilizing our numbers and then frankly reducing them, all of our efforts will be to catch up with population growth while congestion, overload and quality of life steadily worsen.”