This basically is a corollary to the two pieces on Ireland preceding it. Originally it was intended as a letter to the Northern Ireland Tourist Board, but as immigration seems to have taken hold, I think it could apply to a lot more. In effect I am writing to the NI Board and if it rings a bell in your manor, so be it. There will be some explanations for the general benefit which our Board will be aware of.
We live near Groomsport, what was a fishing village, but with fish quotas, it has become merely a small tourist backwater. It is at the mouth of Belfast Loch, with extensive views of the North shore, a neat little harbour, and small sandy bays. When one stood on the harbour wall, all one saw was the odd tastefully designed house, the Copland Islands, the Town front, and grassy slopes overlooking those bays. Now, there is ribbon spec building on those grassy slopes, that have commercialised beauty for the profit of individuals, at the expense of generations. In this high tech, high speed world that we have generated, beauty in any visual form, and especially long vistas are not just ‘nice’, they are an essential for the health of the mind. This is not psycho-babble 2007, it is a fact that has been recognised since I was a boy, and is why people stream to the coasts and airports every holiday, driven by an inner need they are not aware of.
We used to build two-up-two-down houses at 70 to the acre, from the days of the industrial revolution, up’ until the late 20s, when affluence was beginning to filter down the class ladder. Now we build them at 12 to15 per acre for spec building and about half that for posh estates. It doesn’t take an Einstein to work out what went into one acre now needs 7 to 8 when the roads and verges are taken into account. Remember in the old days, and I’m talking 1930s and 40s, there were often 6 to 9 people per tiny house, now it averages 3. The government is talking of us now needing a vast housing project, and intends building 3m houses in 13 years, 3m houses equates to 500,000 acres of land, plus revamping arterial roads to accommodate commuting, which means more land. We seem to be getting about at least 100 000 immigrants pa. At even 3 to a house, that means another 4,700 acres pa.
Farmers are suffering for a number of reasons that most of us know, Many are giving up, and the price of land for building being what it is, others could be tempted. I sometimes wonder, like architects and engineers might, if, when politicians are talking housing, they are forgetting sewerage, drainage, electricity and phones, the mummy run which clogs arterial roads, the shopping traffic, shops and all the rest of the infrastructure, which takes up more land, was never properly thought of initially, and then becomes a headache. It is one thing to put down an estate, but it can become a town, we have all seen it. Then the effect on the landscape is different to the original planning approval, and wars start about Sites of Special Interest, and all the other ecological concerns.
Tourist Boards are interested in preserving the heritage for visitors, the tourist industry generally, and income. I kneel before them beseeching, that they are well placed for an overview of development and should not only have a greater say in planning policy and decisions, they should be fighting for this green and beautiful land against the onslaught of commercialism.