Population: should CPRE say more?

I receive more letters on population than any other subject.  Most accuse me of dodging the issue.

In response I explain that I am perfectly willing to discuss it and acknowledge the importance to the environment of our rising population.  But what then?  CPRE could say at every turn (as we are asked to do) that population is important and that almost any environmental problem is made harder to solve by more people and easier with fewer.  But sooner or later someone will ask, ‘if population is so important, what do you think we should do about it?’

And that is where the difficulties start.  An organisation with our charitable remit really cannot get into family planning.  We will not, for instance, be joining Population Matters in enthusiastically promoting World Vasectomy Day.

Nor is CPRE well-placed to contribute to debates on immigration.  I regret that we were not bolder eight or ten years ago in pointing out the consequences for land use of the then Government’s growth-driven support for higher immigration.  Part of the problem was that the Government did not acknowledge that it was rapidly increasing the country’s population – possibly it did not fully realise that it was doing so.  But we should have spoken out and said ‘if you pursue this policy, we will need more houses, more energy, more food etc.’

We would not, however, have campaigned against the Government’s policies, because the rights and wrongs of immigration go far beyond CPRE’s remit.  It would be perfectly in order for a government to acknowledge the environmental impact of immigration and still conclude that it wanted more immigrants – for economic reasons, perhaps, or because it concluded that the free movement of people was the natural corollary of the free movement of capital.  Others might argue for British jobs for British workers.  Some people welcome diversity, others hate it (some just hate foreigners).

And so on.  These issues go well beyond the protection of the countryside, and I know from several debates on the issue (yes, we do debate it) that it divides our members.

Population Matters is an effective and respectable environmental lobby.  I do not mind that its answer to any question is ‘reduce the population’ – single issue groups are like that – but I do not share their apparent view that CPRE should become the Campaign to Protect Rural England by Means of Population Reduction.

Now Population Matters has scored eight environmental NGOs on their record, and judged CPRE the third least bad of a bad bunch.  Only Friends of the Earth gets any sort of praise, for developing a progressive position on population.  Two of Population Matters’ demands go far beyond CPRE’s charitable remit – that we should endorse a Royal Society report which is concerned almost entirely with the impacts of global population growth, and that we should support the principle of universal access to family planning for all women in the world.  But the full report suggests that the real problem is our unwillingness to do more to highlight the issue, in particular by ‘including the population factor in all relevant communications and policy pronouncements’.

In fact we increasingly mention the fact that England’s population is rising – but turn swiftly to the question of how to accommodate people without unnecessarily damaging the countryside.  That is where our expertise lies and where we think we can have most influence.  For while it is clear that every extra person adds a burden to the planet (Shakespeare, Jonathan Porritt, my children – all polluters) so it is clear that a population of 80 million could, with the right policy measures and ethos, live far more sustainably than a population half the size.

Numbers are important, but so are patterns of consumption, as the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution concluded in one of its last reports before it was abolished.  For instance, while the population has risen by 7.5% since 2003, road traffic levels have, for a variety of reasons, not increased.  And higher housing densities and more use of brownfield land can save a good deal of countryside even as we build more houses.

CPRE’s main concern is how people live, not how many people are doing the living, and I am concerned that if we bang on about population at every turn we risk detracting from our message and undermining our influence.

I expect to discuss many of these points at a Population Matters residential conference tomorrow.  The last book on population I read, Stephen Emmott’s Ten Billion, concludes with the following passage.

We urgently need to do – and I mean actually do – something radical to avert a global catastrophe.  But I don’t think we will.

I think we’re fucked.

I asked one of the most rational, brightest scientists I know … if there was just one thing he had to do about the situation we face, what would it be.  

His reply?

‘Teach my son how to use a gun.’

I am sure we will have a more hopeful and constructive couple of days.

49 Responses to “Population: should CPRE say more?”


  1. 1 Katy Harwood-Lane March 11, 2014 at 8:42 am

    You are absolutely right to stay out of the population argument. If CPRE starts to make statements concerning how many children people should be ‘allowed’ to have or immigration, I for one will stop supporting you. There are many and varied arguments linked to population but with or without draconian measures linked to reducing the number of children couples have etc., our population will grow anyway and we need to have grown up conversations about where homes are built. If you want politics then we could discuss the artificial housing price bubble brought on by ‘Help to Buy’ and developers being allowed to ‘bank’ land until the housing market improves and makes it more valuable…we could talk about developers not having to build enough ‘affordable’ housing for the hundreds of thousands of young people and those on low incomes who can’t afford anything (our local council having just persuaded a developer to build less affordable housing out of sheer snobbery) because they have been given virtually free rein over our communities to just make themselves money and nothing more (both sons in law have flats in new developments that they now have to let because they are both, still, in negative equity…London being virtually the only area where property prices are increasing)

    I support CPRE to fight for decent buildings, built on appropriate sites with minimum impact on greenfield sites and AONB or SSI and with maximum input from local communities who need to live somewhere. Flood plane discussions, flood defence discussions, brownfield site discussions, preserving wildlife, historic views and woodlands discussions but if CPRE starts to makes statements about who should live in Britain or who should have children then I for one will stop being a member.

    There are plenty of forums for discussions like those for the people who want to debate them but CPRE should, in my opinion, stay well away from them.

  2. 2 Tim Lund March 11, 2014 at 8:43 am

    Well said, Shaun. Thinking about Evan Davis’ BBC 2 2-parter on cities and agglomeration, I asked an Indian demographer yesterday what the impact of moving to big cities was on fertility rates. As I guessed, it makes it drop. Why not ask Population Matters to help CPRE campaign for better planned, more environmentally sustainable world cities, where people want to live modern lives, and where they don’t need to depend on having so many children themselves for their support?

  3. 3 Katy Harwood-Lane March 11, 2014 at 9:19 am

    …I would just like to add that on a global level, as a genome, if we don’t start addressing how we populate and treat this finite resource, planet earth, I agree wholeheartedly, we probably are ‘f*cked’ but as a charity with a remit to protect as much of our treasured ‘green’ (not all ‘green’ is worth saving, some is unremarkable and usable) as possible I don’t think it should be asking heavy, politically weighted questions about who should live in this country and who should have more than 2 children.

    Just my opinion 🙂

  4. 4 Sean Traverse-Healy March 11, 2014 at 10:08 am

    As one who sought to interest CPRE some ten years ago in the environmental damage caused by immigration I have never suggested that we should make policy recommendations beyond our charitable status.
    However it is generally believed by environment NGO’s and some in the development industry itself that housing and its attendant infrastructure poses the greatest single threat to the countryside. A key driver of this is migration.

    In my opinion we should research and document this damage and potential threats and make a clear public policy linkage between migration and the need for robust brownfield first, urban renewal, city intensification and regional policies to help mitigate this damage. These are policy areas well within our charitable status and we should not dismiss this very important political lever in our armoury for fear of being wrongly labelled xenophobic or worse.
    In other words the clear message from us should be if the H.M. Treasury wants the economic benefits of migration then it should be prepared to pay for the mitigation measures.

  5. 5 Robert Flunder March 13, 2014 at 10:49 am

    CPRE must surely acknowledge that there is a link between an ever growing population and environmental degradation.
    As for people threatening to leave CPRE if this link is mentioned, but then claiming to want to have “grown up conversations” there is surely some contradiction here – which is it to be ?

    • 6 sspiers March 21, 2014 at 5:04 pm

      Thanks, everyone, for the thoughtful responses. It’s curious that this is the issue that I get most letters on, but that this blog has provoked relatively little interest (not that I’m generally overwhelmed by responses to my blogs). I suspect that my correspondents are older and less likely to be on Twitter or to look at blogs. That’s not a bad thing, and may reflect the wisdom of age or the legacy of the time when population growth was widely seen as one of the most pressing environmental issues. But it is interesting that younger people seem less interested in the issue.

      On Robert Flunder’s point, of course there is likely to be a link between an ever growing population and environmental degradation. But it may not manifest itself in the short term if we take the right decisions on land use and other issues around consumption. Thus the argument, well made by Katy Harwood-Lane that we should stick to our main remit.

      Thanks to Tim and Sean, too, for your points.

      Shaun Spiers

  6. 7 Alex Hills March 22, 2014 at 10:13 am

    I am fed up with people who claim to be environmentalist avoiding the population argument. If you are a environmentalist you know the population in England needs to be reduced and thus should be doing something about it. England it is already the most densely populated country in Europe. CPRE can tackle this issue and still stay within its remit by;
    1. Using the sustainability argument. We are importing 40-50% of our food from countries where supply is at risk from climate change, foreign ownership, and political unrest. Also more and more countries like India are restricting exports to make sure they can feed there own population. With the point of peak oil production past and weakness of mono culture agriculture coming to light the odds are we will need more not less land to feed each person. Taking the above points it is clear we need to protect agricultural land not build on it. the higher the population the bigger the problem.
    2. To point out the impact of increasing demand is perfectly reasonable.
    3. Most people except that the population in this country is too big so not to comment on it is very damaging to our credibility.
    4. CPRE has long commented on the impact of tax changes on the environment. Extending this to measures the encourage people to have more children would be sensible as the more people in the country the greater the environmental damage.
    5. It is a bad joke to say that if the CPRE makes any comment on population it must come up with a solution. Everyone who has looked at this problem knows the solution is a combination of immigration control, education and tax changes. The problem is finding the political will!
    It is time the people within CPRE who are anti combating population growth faced up to the reality that man is breeding its self to distinction. Humans need the planet to survive the planet would survive much better if humans were not living on it.
    A final comment THERE IS NO ENVIRONMENTAL PROBLEM THAT WOULD NOT BE EASIER TO SOLVE IF THERE WERE LESS PEOPLE.

  7. 8 Robert Flunder March 22, 2014 at 10:31 am

    Shaun, you seem to be using the responses of this blog on Population as ‘evidence’ that younger people are not so interested in the issue.
    Of your 40 blogs on ViewPoint over the last 12 months, only 5 subjects have drawn a greater response than that of ‘Population’ and 34 have drawn a lower response.
    Do you therefore similarly draw the conclusion that younger people are ‘less interested’ in your views on the majority of subjects ?

  8. 9 Henry Best March 22, 2014 at 12:04 pm

    Question: “If population is so important, what do you think we should do about it?” Answer: “Call on the government to have a policy first to stabilise our population an then to encourage its reduction.” I don’t think it’s the job of CPRE to suggest how stabilisation and reduction should be achieved any more than CPRE has ever, so far as I know, advocated means of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, though it has accepted the need ti do so.
    We know that as population has grown so has the destruction of “countryside” increased. Certainly such destruction could be reduced if people consumed less. We have a government that promotes economic growth, which seems to involve growth in consumption, and believes in building “garden cities”, surely the most extravagant use of land for housing that anyone could conceive. What’s CPRE doing about that?
    About sticking to our remit, what does that mean? My dictionary (Shorter Oxford 1959) only has “remit” as a verb, to do with forgiveness and payment. Our task is surely to protect rural England.

  9. 10 Robert Flunder March 22, 2014 at 1:04 pm

    Shaun, In your blog you set up false alternatives stating if CPRE highlight the issue of ever increasing population with greater prominence it will eventually have to state views on matters such as Vasectomy and Immigration – this argument is false and you are using it to soft peddle and underrepresent the degree of exposure from CPRE the subject warrants in view of its potential harmful impact on the countryside.
    CPRE could legitimately say its remit finishes with prominently highlighting the link between an ever growing population and harm to the countryside.

    For an organisation like CPRE to have so much to say about the NPPF and Planning issues, but not to prominently highlight the fact that the NPPF requires local authorities to conduct an Objectively Assessed Needs exercise for required Housing Numbers of which ONS Projected Population Growth figures are a major input, is to be obtuse to the point of deliberately ignoring unwelcome information.

    The degree to which CPRE should draw attention to Population Growth should befit and acknowledge its fundamental ‘driver’ significance to ever growing housing production with consequential harm to the countryside.

  10. 11 Tim Lund March 22, 2014 at 7:12 pm

    CPRE needs to support the sustainable densification of cities and suburbia – which AFAIK, it does.

  11. 13 Nigel Pike May 31, 2014 at 3:33 pm

    Out of the blogs so far, I am with Alex Hills, Henry Best and Robert Flunder on this issue. CPRE does not need to get involved with family planning and immigration, it simply needs to say that overpopulated UK urgently needs a population policy – which is blatantly obvious by any objective measure – and leave the method and the implementation to government.

    You say CPRE’s expertise lies in “how to accommodate people without unnecessarily damaging the countryside.” So that implies that you condone “necessary damage” then? Is CPRE’s role simply to mitigate the damage caused by all the various consequences of growing population? I think it is, and always has been. It has simply mounted a rearguard action against relentless urbanisation of our land, addressing symptoms and not causes, winning mini-battles and losing the war.

    I think CPRE needs to get more aggressive. For a start, how about cutting all the touchy-feely countryside appreciation features? These have nothing to do with countryside protection and there are plenty of other organisations that do that. Let’s cut to the quick. Let’s highlight just how bad and how rapidly our rural environment is deteriorating, let’s show people the facts, let’s address the big issues, let’s address the causes of this never-ending destruction of our countryside, and let’s do what government seem incapable of doing and start helping it to develop joined-up policy-making – population, employment, transport, land use, and environment. Let’s get more militant! Who knows – CPRE might even attract young people to replace cantankerous old b*stards like me, and I suspect, most of the contributors to this blog!

  12. 14 Alex Hills June 2, 2014 at 9:18 am

    The population issue need not be a difficult one for the CPRE. My district group Dartford and Gravesham is on the front line protecting the greenbelt. Gravesham council was told by the planning inspector to increase housing numbers to provide home for immigrants and people from London or have the plan rejected. this led to a new call for sites. The press release is what I put out in the branch’s name and shows how I feel the CPRE can tackle the issue without having to say how population numbers should be reduced.
    Hope this helps the debate.
    Alex Hills

    GREENBELT THREAT PRESS RELEASE

    CPRE Protect Kent Dartford and Gravesham branch

    Many people thought the threat to Gravesham’s greenbelt had passed but nothing could be further from the truth. The government appointed housing inspector is demanding that GBC build more houses to meet predicted demand for housing not from local people but from people living outside the borough. This has forced GBC to call on people to put sites forward for consideration as housing development sites. Out of 78 sites put forward early indications are that a massive 32 are in the greenbelt, with these sites proposing upwards of 6000 homes. This shows greedy developers are after cheap sites rather than tackling eyes sores like the old Lord Street car park site (see the attached photo).

    Gravesham is already facing a massive increase in housing development. Parts of the borough are already suffering transport congestion, poor air quality, long waits for doctors, dentist and hospital appointments. If you think this is scare mongering just look at the problems at Darenth hospital, especial the parking problems, will another 20,000 housing ease the situation? The paramount theme park will be a welcome addition to our area but it will put even greater strain on services especially the transport links. There is also concern about schools, water supply, sewage treatment, and waste disposal. Remember this is all for people from other areas, is it not time that London etc. sorted out their own housing problem and not expect areas like Gravesham to provide for its needs?

    This country imports 40-50% of its food, much of it from places where future supply is very uncertain so we should be protecting our agricultural land for food production. There has already been a major increase in food prices in recent years, with much worse to come as demand out strips supply due to the world population continuing to increase. For greenbelt think country’s larder, don’t let the cupboard be bare, help protect our greenbelt.

    On top of this call for sites there will be a greenbelt boundary review which could see many very valuable sites removed from the greenbelt. Now is the time to start taking action!! Write to your MP, write to your local councillors telling them building on the greenbelt should not be an option. CPRE is the country’s leading charity on protecting the greenbelt with over 80 years of expertise in protecting our countryside and is entirely funded by people like you. Join today and help make a real difference to your area.

    • 15 sspiers June 2, 2014 at 11:05 am

      Alex, thanks for the comment. You’ve done a great job protecting the Green Belt, and one of the ways you’ve done so is by highlighting the availability of brownfield sites in the borough and the desirability of using those sites before letting development sprawl into the countryside. That is core business for CPRE. It’s where we have expertise and where we can come up with practical solutions that command respect.

      It’s fine to point out that if the population rises, the country will have to accommodate more people and that this has environmental consequences, but this clearly isn’t a clinching argument against net immigration. There are lots of arguments for and against immigration. It’s a complex matter with many dimensions (economic and cultural, as well as environmental) and it raises issues well beyond the competence of a countryside protection charity.

      We can make the obvious point that if the country’s population grows, we will have to find ways of accommodating the growth sustainably. You might also be able to argue that Gravesham has reached its environmental limits and that any further growth is unsustainable. But that would be a difficult argument to make, and I don’t think it’s what you are saying. Rather, you seem just to be saying that any new housing should be for locals and that people – particularly Londoners – should stop moving around the country. I don’t think that’s a plausible argument. People will move about for lots of good reasons, and you can no more say ‘Kent is full’ than you can say ‘London is full’.

      Shaun Spiers

      • 16 Nigel Pike June 26, 2014 at 3:00 pm

        “It’s a complex matter with many dimensions (economic and cultural, as well as environmental) …” Agreed, but… “it raises issues well beyond the competence of a countryside protection charity”. Yes it does, but it’s not the job of CPRE to deal with any issues except “environmental”. Migration Watch can tackle a single issue successfully, and so could CPRE.

  13. 17 Alex Hills June 4, 2014 at 9:14 am

    I fully agree with Shaun’s comments, I hope we can now all move on and refine our response. Population growth is a political decision as is how we respond to it. Our population could be stabilised or reduced if there was the political will. All parties have agreed to allow our population to increase. So far all the political parties have done is to say we must build more houses. CPRE’s role should be to say okay but how are you going to cope with these new households? We could move to a hydrogen economy, we could stop building 70’s style housing, we could itroduce food rationing. First law of the universe is every action has a reaction. The trick is working out which action has the best reaction.
    Alex Hills
    PS
    It is a fact that there is no environmental problem that would not be easier to solve with less people

  14. 18 CPRE Local Supporter June 23, 2014 at 8:51 am

    It is significant that responses to Shaun Spiers’s original opinion continue to be posted three months after his article (dated 11 March 2014). This shows the extent of concern and the real sense that the population growth is really threatening the countryside.
    Shaun Spiers has been Chief Executive for ten years. He now writes, ” I regret that we were not bolder eight or ten years ago in pointing out the consequences for land use of the then Government’s growth-driven support for higher immigration.” This is disingenous. Migration Watch and others concerned with this subject such as the demographer David Coleman pointed out the dangers of allowing population growth due to immigration in 2004 and before.
    The truth is that Shaun Spiers joined CPRE with a record as a former Labour MEP, and was not prepared to do anything to upset the then powerful Blair Government on matters of this kind. Migration Watch or others asked CPRE to give some support to their warnings a decade ago, but were rebuffed by Spiers and Neil Sinden. Even if this was informal at that time. A number of CPRE members at Branch level wanted Migration Watch to be given support; National office refused..
    The statement of ‘regret’ now is revealing. Time for a change of Chief Executive as the present one really has not served CPRE well.

    • 19 sspiers June 23, 2014 at 9:17 am

      Dear CPRE Supporter

      You are the only contributor to this blog whose contributions I have refused to post – rude comments about previous CPRE Chairs and chief executives. You are now beginning to show an unhealthy interest in my various sins and omissions as chief executive. On the specific issue of population, CPRE’s position has been discussed a number of times by the board and policy committee, and by the membership more widely. The original version of our 2026 Vision, for instance, supported a national population policy, but this was rejected in a debate at the St. Bride’s Institute, attended by representatives of most CPRE branches and regional groups.

      It is simply nonsense to say that I was unwilling to upset the Blair government: if I had not been willing to upset it, I might have remained an MEP for longer. What I don’t believe in doing is running campaigns that have no chance of success. Nor do I think it is sensible for campaigners to treat all politicians as fools and knaves – they seldom react well.

      On a more general point, if you want to carry on having a pop at me, you should have the courage to say who you are. I think I know, but as you’re various posts suggest, I sometimes get things wrong.

      Shaun Spiers

      • 20 Henry Best June 23, 2014 at 5:49 pm

        I do not wish to be associated in any way with anonymous messages or with any political party.

        Henry Best

      • 21 CPRE Local Supporter June 28, 2014 at 7:05 pm

        National newspapers offer readers the opportunity to comment and ask for a ‘username’. They don’t encourage readers to give real names. Debate on subjects covered by articles benefits because usernames prevent personalisation of comments. Any language that does not meet the paper’s expressed standards leads to readers’ comments being ‘moderated out’. Readers know and accept this.
        This principle of usernames applies at the ‘Guardian’, ‘Telegraph’, and ‘Financial Times’. What is good enough for the FT should be good enough for CPRE.

      • 22 sspiers June 29, 2014 at 9:01 pm

        ‘Usernames prevent personalisation of comments.’ Hmm. Your comments have been the most personal of any on this blog, not only about me (I have allowed those) but about people who long ago left CPRE. Usernames allow people to make hostile comments that they would be too afraid or ashamed to say under their real names, which is why comments on newspaper blogs are often so nasty before they are ‘moderated out’, and why we read almost every day about Twitter ‘trolls’.

        I will look at the posting guidelines for this blog and consider whether they should be changed.

        Shaun Spiers

  15. 23 Robert Flunder June 26, 2014 at 6:53 pm

    I agree with Nigel, it IS CPRE’s job to deal with just the “environmental” aspects of the ever increasing UK population.
    I find Shaun’s statement – “it raises issues well beyond the competence of a countryside protection charity”. so typical of the red herrings he liberally generates.

    • 24 sspiers June 29, 2014 at 8:50 pm

      David Johnson makes an interesting case for accepting that a growing population may be necessary and can be accommodated if ‘we tread more lightly and respectfully’. It’s a pity that his post has been ignored and that subsequent comments have simply hammered home the message that the population is rising steeply (true), that this will have consequences for the English countryside (true) and that therefore CPRE must concentrate its resources on this issue.

      That conclusion is highly questionable because the issue really does raise issues well beyond CPRE’s competence, not to mention our charitable objects.

      What should we say about birth control? Or ‘natalist’ subsidies such as child benefit?

      And what of immigration and emigration (much less discussed, but British people go abroad to work or settle, and take advantage of EU rules on free movement)? Should we be campaigning to leave the EU, or just to change its rules? Should we welcome global free trade or, as population campaigner Colin Hines has argued, campaign for protectionism and against the WTO?

      If we accept that a growing population has environmental consequences and that immigration is an important cause, what immigration policy should we advocate? And what asylum policy? What do we say in the face of the (inevitable) pain of families separated, or people fleeing war or persecution whose lives are put at risk because we refuse them entry?

      How do we weigh the benefits that immigration brings – talent; skills; social diversity; cultural and economic dynamism; crops picked, hospitals and hotels staffed, offices cleaned?…

      The argument appears to be that CPRE should ignore all these considerations and simply say: ‘a growing population will result in countryside loss, therefore we oppose it.’ But CPRE is not a single issue group and never has been. Moreover, our members have a wide range of political and religious beliefs, which would make it very hard to construct a line on any of these issues.

      We have done a pretty good job protecting the countryside since 1926, when the population was much smaller than it is now. We have done so by focussing our efforts where they can have most impact – as I argued on my blog.

      I am perfectly happy to acknowledge the environmental impact of a rising population, and I know that many campaigners think it is important just to break the ‘taboo’ against mentioning population (though I think that taboo, if it ever existed, is long broken). But unlike some contributors to this blog, I continue to think that the question of what to do about it is very difficult, and beyond our competence.

      Shaun Spiers

      • 25 Nigel Pike July 1, 2014 at 12:55 pm

        I still beg to disagree. Why should CPRE be obliged to say anything about birth control or child benefit? Or about the EU or free trade? Why should it be obliged to “weigh the benefits that immigration brings” (or the disbenefits it brings, come to that)? These are matters for government. CPRE should simply say the consequences of uncontrolled population growth are a, b, c, d, e.. (listing food security, loss of amenity, water, infrastructure, etc, etc), which are completely unacceptable. CPRE therefore calls on Government to formulate a population policy with immediate effect to ensure that the population is stabilised at 6x million and not allowed to rise further. That population policy will result from a joined-up series of policies – social, immigration, employment, planning, infrastructure, to ensure that its aims are met, and that’s the job for government, not CPRE.

        The country has never had a population policy because it would interfere with endless economic growth, which all governments apart from that of Bhutan seem to think is important. I repeat that I think the countryside is now in a state of emergency and that CPRE needs to start a population control bandwagon rolling.

        Do you remember our one-to-one correspondence in April 2013 over this, Shaun? Well I tell you what, if CPRE gets serious about population growth I will resume my membership!

      • 26 sspiers July 5, 2014 at 3:21 pm

        I was responding to Robert Flunder’s posting and making the obvious point that population policy really does raise issues beyond CPRE’s expertise and charitable remit. Of course, you could say that about a lot of things, e.g. housing or transport policy, and the question is how far you can go into the policy details before straying beyond CPRE’s remit or expertise. I think it’s credible for CPRE to say ‘the consequences of population growth for the countryside and environment are x, y and z’, but I do not think it credible to jump from that analysis to say ‘and therefore the Government should ensure that the population is stabilised at 6x million’ (you’re coy about the actual number) because we are not in a position to weigh the benefits of population growth (they do exist) or, indeed, the non-environmental downsides, and we are not in a position to weigh the social and economic impact of capping the population.

        I understand that you disagree with that analysis and think the whole question is much simpler. I’m sure the debate will continue within CPRE.

  16. 27 Robert Flunder June 26, 2014 at 7:09 pm

    Here is the news on the BBC News website today

    26 June 2014 Last updated at 15:04

    UK Population grows by over 400,00 in 12 months

    The population of the UK grew by more than 400,000 last year, according to the latest official figures.

    The Office for National Statistics estimated there were 64.1 million people in the UK in June 2013, a rise of 0.63% on the previous year.

    Just over half of the growth was accounted for by natural change – births minus deaths – while net migration represented 46% of the rise.

    A quarter of the UK population growth was in London.

    The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said the British population grew more last year than in any other EU country.

    While there were 212,100 more births than deaths, the figures show 183,400 more immigrants arriving in the UK than emigrants leaving.

    Last year’s growth was slightly below the average seen over the previous decade.

    The estimated population increased in England by 0.7% to 53.9 million, in Scotland by 0.27% to 5.3 million, in Wales by 0.27% to 3.1 million, and in Northern Ireland by 0.33% to 1.8 million.

    European average

    The estimates showed the population of the UK had risen by more than the average seen across the European Union, exceeding the growth rate in its four most populous member states.

    The ONS said the UK population had increased by about five million since 2001 and by more than 10 million since 1964.

    • 28 Nigel Pike June 27, 2014 at 9:35 am

      … and the consequences of these projections are spelt out in the MigrationWatch website: “Growth of 400,000 in one year is the equivalent of adding two cities the size of Portsmouth to our population. If immigration is allowed to continue at current levels it will add four million to our population in just one decade, or the equivalent of adding four more Birminghams, Britain’s second biggest city “(http://www.migrationwatchuk.org/)

      There is no way that much of these four new Birminghams are going to be accommodated on brownfield sites. I would suggest that the risk to the English countryside is now an EMERGENCY, and CPRE should map out a strategy and concentrate its resources on the population growth issue.

      • 29 Robert Flunder June 27, 2014 at 3:14 pm

        I would agree with Nigel, the sheer MOMENTUM of the Population growth means this is an EMERGENCY situation in terms of the threat to England’s Green Belt land.
        London increased its population by over 100,000 in the last 12 months.
        Here in Brentwood, Essex, immediately abutting the Great London area our “Objectively Assessed Needs” exercise as part of our 2015 – 2030 LDP exercise shows that 5430 homes will need to be built in this period, of which
        over approx. 2500 will have to be built in Green Belt. The remaining approx. 2900 will have to be built in Brentwood central urban areas, completely choking up the town.
        Come on Shaun Spiers, you’re just conforming to old time Political Correctness and just flailing around grabbing whatever rag bag of smoke screen arguments you can lay your hands on to justify your own political prejudice against making Population Growth a major CPRE talking point.
        Now is the time for leadership, not for keeping your head down.

      • 30 sspiers June 29, 2014 at 8:53 pm

        As previously explained many times in this blog, I do not make CPRE policy unilaterally. I am happy with CPRE’s line on population, but it has been discussed by the board, the Policy Committee and the membership many times.
        Shaun Spiers

  17. 31 CPRE Local Supporter June 28, 2014 at 7:09 pm

    Shaun Spiers wrote on 11 March 2014: “I regret that we were not bolder eight or ten years ago in pointing out the consequences for land use of the then Government’s growth-driven support for higher immigration ….. we should have spoken out and said ‘if you pursue this policy, we will need more houses, more energy, more food etc.’”

    But CPRE has turned down those who pressed it to do just this ever since 2004. The retrospective justification offered by Shaun Spiers is that, “Part of the problem was that the Government did not acknowledge that it was rapidly increasing the country’s population – possibly it did not fully realise that it was doing so.”

    This was not true then and the facts were available to CPRE then. The ‘Daily Telegraph’ report of 4 October 2004 by Philip Johnston, Home Affairs correspondent, summed up the situation well. See: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1473266/Immigration-warning-vindicated.html

    Johnston wrote that Migration Watch’s calculations of the impact of net immigration were privately admitted by the Home Office to be accurate: “Internal Home Office memos obtained by Migrationwatch using data access laws have shown how Whitehall officials objected to the way the organisation’s research was being traduced. One e-mail said: ‘Can we stop saying that Migrationwatch forecasts are wrong . . . Migrationwatch assumptions are often below the Government Actuary’s Department high migration variant’.”

    It can be argued that, from 2002 when Migration Watch was founded until October 2004, the implications of immigration were uncertain. But once the ‘Telegraph’ revealed the truth 10 years ago, there was no reason for CPRE not to have spoken out about the consequences for land use and resources of the then Government’s policy – from October 2004 onwards.. Now this is admitted, after the damage has been done. The posts above this one are good evidence of the effects for the countryside of CPRE’s inaction over the last ten years.

    • 32 Robert Flunder June 29, 2014 at 10:28 am

      I do not know who CPRE Local Supporter is and have no connection with him or her.
      However I do think they are providing an invaluable service to this debate by giving even greater focus to things that Shaun Spiers has said, and so I would like to refer back to Shaun Spiers statement of 11/3/2014 which CPRE Local Supporter has highlighted.
      Shaun Spiers said (and here I am just cutting and pasting from above) :-

      “I regret that we were not bolder eight or ten years ago in pointing out the consequences for land use of the then Government’s growth-driven support for higher immigration ….. we should have spoken out and said ‘if you pursue this policy, we will need more houses, more energy, more food etc.’”

      But if Shaun Spiers thinks he should have spoken out much louder 10 years ago, why doesn’t he try to mitigate his then failure of judgement and speak out much louder NOW, after all the UK Population has grown ENORMOUSLY since 2004 ? – perhaps Shaun could advise us by precisely how much the UK Population has increased since 2004 when he admits he commenced downplaying this issue which has now matured and erupted into an actual overt destroyer of countryside.

    • 33 Henry Best June 29, 2014 at 12:52 pm

      Why should “CPRE Local Supporter” be anonymous?

      Henmry Best

      • 34 Robert Flunder June 29, 2014 at 4:34 pm

        Its not a problem for me Henry. The important thing is what someone says, not who they are.
        If CPRE and Shaun have chosen to set their blog mechanism up with this facility to remain anonymous, they must have had their reasons, and I don’t see they can complain when ‘CPRE Local Supporter’ uses the facility.

    • 35 sspiers June 29, 2014 at 9:09 pm

      As I say, I wish we had been bolder ten years ago in pointing out the environmental consequences of a rising population – thought that would not have amounted to campaigning against the Government’s policies, because other issues were at stake. But ‘pointing out the consequences’ would hardly have transformed the political debate. The Conservatives fought the 2005 general election partly on this issue, and that didn’t transform the debate either. Nor did campaigns by the Telegraph, Mail and Express. So I think you may be exaggerating CPRE’s influence in this area.

      What we did do in these years was some very effective campaigning to ensure that housing and other development did not unnecessarily damage the countryside – and a focus on immigration, if that’s what you are (retrospectively) advocating, would have detracted from that work.

      Shaun Spiers

  18. 36 Robert Flunder June 30, 2014 at 3:39 pm

    Shaun, you say you will review the blog ‘anonymity’ feature.
    CPRE provided the feature originally and I think it would be wrong to remove it simply to muzzle one individual – ‘CPRE Local Supporter’.
    It’s not as though they have done anything with the feature like committing a hate crime, and their only transgression appears to be to pass critical opinions with which you and possibly others disagree.

    This morning on the ‘Road to 2015: Time to hear from UKIP’ blog you told me CPRE is a ‘progressive’ organisation.
    Although that word ‘progressive’ always momentarily conjures in my thoughts an illiberal body that will not tolerate dissenting views, I appreciate CPRE is not of that nature, and I hope it never becomes so as I have previously complained to my MP Eric Pickles about a Ministerial colleague of his referring to CPRE head office staff as ‘Communists’.

    • 37 sspiers June 30, 2014 at 3:46 pm

      Robert, You’re probably right about retaining the right to anonymity, but I’ll discuss it with colleagues. Re the word ‘progressive’, I use it in the sense that David Cameron and other Conservatives (including, I think, Eric Pickles) used it before the election, not in any party political sense. I would be intrigued to know which Minister refers to national office staff as ‘Communists’, and who he or she has in mind (in case I want to start a witch hunt)!
      Shaun Spiers

      • 38 Robert Flunder June 30, 2014 at 3:59 pm

        Shaun, it was Bob Neill, I’m surprised you’re not aware, it was in the
        national press – but see below

        —————————————————————————————
        North West VSNL Voluntary Sector North West
        Environment Link

        • Green Bullet

        7th September 2011

        The aim of this bulletin is to keep NWEL members and wider networks up to date on important events and issues that will be of interest to or have an impact on environmental voluntary sector organisations in the North West.

        Members should send any items for inclusion in the next bulletin to me at pwilson@lancswt.org.uk and should forward these bulletins throughout their own networks to ensure maximum coverage.

        CONTENTS

        Included in this Bulletin:

        National Planning Policy Framework

        Campaign
        The draft National Planning Policy Framework is out for consultation until 17th October. Initial reaction from NGOs has been highly negative – to the extent that Planning Minister Bob Neill has accused those well-known Communist agitators the CPRE and the National Trust of orchestrating a left-wing smear campaign!

        • National Planning Policy Framework –lots of info and a chance to campaign!
        • Forthcoming Events
        • Inquiries & Consultations – please make your voices heard!
        • Local Enterprise Partnerships – latest news.
        • Local Nature Partnerships – briefing
        • Manchester Airport Enterprise Zone – CPRE Report on its potential impact.

      • 39 sspiers June 30, 2014 at 4:22 pm

        Thanks, Robert. I remember something along those lines being attributed to Bob Neill.

  19. 40 CPRE Local Supporter July 5, 2014 at 9:25 am

    To review what has been said:
    Shaun Spiers has stated in his original article: “I regret that we were not bolder eight or ten years ago in pointing out the consequences for land use of the then Government’s growth-driven support for higher immigration ….. we should have spoken out and said ‘if you pursue this policy, we will need more houses, more energy, more food etc.’”

    The post-hoc reason for not doing so offered originally (in March 2014) is “Part of the problem was that the Government did not acknowledge that it was rapidly increasing the country’s population – possibly it did not fully realise that it was doing so.”

    But Philip Johnston’s significant article in the ‘Telegraph’ was published 10 years ago. It disproves the validity of that defence for not acting; the facts were clear at the time. It begins:

    “Immigration will add six million to Britain’s population over the next three decades, according to new figures. The estimate, by the think tank Migrationwatch UK, is based on the latest forecasts from the Government Actuary’s Department (GAD). They appear to confirm claims made by Migrationwatch two years ago, when the group first sprang to prominence by calling for a debate on immigration.”

    The article said that Migration Watch’s figures were confirmed by released Home Office internal e-mails to be correct. To continue from Johnston’s October 2004 article

    “Even so, the projection means that the population will increase by 6.1 million between 2003 and 2031,” says Migrationwatch. “Eighty-four per cent, or 5.2 million, will be due to new immigrants and their descendants.” The group maintains that when failed asylum seekers are included, the annual immigration assumption rises to 145,000 a year. “This would cause an increase in population of 5.75 million over 28 years or an average increase of two million per decade purely attributable to immigration,” says the report.”

    There were other press articles on this at the time, but Johnston’s is the clearest. See: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1473266/Immigration-warning-vindicated.html

    The consequences for the countryside which are now so serious (see other posts above) could have been specified out ten years ago. Had CPRE done which it now says (through Shaun Spiers) that it should have done, it would not have been necessary for CPRE itself to take the matter further into campaigning itself against immigration at a political level. By “pointing out the consequences for land use of the then Government’s growth-driven support for higher immigration”, CPRE would have enabled other bodies, groups and lobbies to pick up the political baton. Those bodies and lobbies would have been able to quote what CPRE Had set out, and themselves caused the changes in Parliamentary attitudes, and as a result in immigration policy, much earlier than has happened. (If it has happened under the present Government – opinions on how much it has done may differ).

    At least the serious error has been admitted by CPRE. The new Trustees will need to face up to the consequences, which include the ONS household forecasts now being imposed on local planning authorities as ‘Objectively Assessed Housing Need’, and loss of countryside (by panicked planning decisions) on a scale not seen since the 1960s.

    • 41 sspiers July 5, 2014 at 3:30 pm

      Philip Johnson is a good journalist and I’m sorry I overlooked his article ten years ago. Perhaps I was reading other articles that questioned Migration Watch’s figures. In any case, as I’ve said several times, this policy was not made by me alone. CPRE’s board, policy committee and wider membership have debated the issue many times, and concluded that we should not involve ourselves deeply in the issue. Some members disagree and I have received many letters on the subject. I’m not sure if I’ve received any from you. If you sent me any in 2004, perhaps you could resend them. Anyone can google articles from ten years ago that now seem wise and prophetic, just as anyone can google articles and statements from ten years ago that seem the opposite.

  20. 42 Nigel Pike July 5, 2014 at 1:32 pm

    Almost four months and we don’t seem to be getting anywhere. CPRE has made it clear that it is not going to deal with the elephant in the room, and my last comment (on economic growth) got “mediated” out. So I’m off someplace else where this issue is taken seriously. Best of luck, guys.

    • 43 sspiers July 5, 2014 at 3:10 pm

      Nigel, I didn’t censor your previous comment, merely overlooked it. The only postings to this blog that I’ve ‘mediated out’ have been by ‘local CPRE supporter’, insulting people no longer closely involved in CPRE.

      You say ‘we don’t seem to be getting anywhere’. I think you mean that you haven’t persuaded me. Sorry about that. You are now ‘off someplace else where this issue is taken seriously’. Good luck. Population Matters will welcome you and it’s an organisation I respect, though I think its tone can sometimes be a bit offputting to people who like people. But you’ll struggle to find another mainstream environmental body willing to discuss these issues so openly.

      I have responded to the posting I overlooked.

  21. 44 Nigel Pike July 6, 2014 at 3:45 am

    Thanks for the clarification, Shaun.

    • 45 Robert Flunder July 6, 2014 at 11:48 am

      Nigel, please don’t leave.
      Getting the present myopic CPRE policy on Population Growth directed onto an appropriate course is like trying to turn the Titanic at full speed thru 180 degrees.
      It cannot be done in 4 months – but with enough like minded people in the membership it can be done.
      However I agree this is an emergency and does need emergency action.
      But come the moment of truth CPRE is ‘culturally’ unable to measure up to what is required at the moment to protect the countryside..
      But things change with time.

  22. 46 Nigel Pike July 7, 2014 at 4:55 am

    Thank you, Robert. All right, I’m still here. I’m too passionate about the English countryside not to keep an eye on CPRE, and I have signed the Population Matters petition.

    In an effort to turn our Titanic a few degrees, I propose a different idea. How about forming a coalition of environmental organisations under a new banner, The Population Lobby (or preferably something snappier with “emergency” in the title)? What I have in mind is for Migration Watch, FoE, Population Matters and CPRE to join forces under such a banner and mount a media campaign, celebs on board, etc, thereby having a much greater impact than the three (note I exclude CPRE) campaigning individually.

    We must not forget that even if we turn Titanic, we have a further uphill task in turning sister ship Britannic, in the shape of a largely apathetic 90%+ urban population, as well. But right now, with this issue still reasonably hot in the media, is a good time to start trying.

    • 47 Robert Flunder July 7, 2014 at 9:30 am

      Nigel its sounds a good idea to me, but i think the CPRE ‘establishment’ would be absolutely phobic to the idea of CPRE doing anything jointly with MigrationWatch – it would be like you had suggested they link up with the BNP.
      Unable to dispute MigrationWatch’s information, the CPRE establishment probably don’t like the ‘tone’ of MigrationWatch’s message.
      But I think you might put your idea to Population Matters who would be the obvious choice to try to get something rolling

  23. 48 Nigel Pike July 19, 2014 at 2:34 pm

    I have analysed the above comments. The question posed by Shaun was “Population: should CPRE say more?” If I take out Shaun’s contributions, and comments that are not directly on-topic, the results are as follows:

    No: 2
    Yes: 22

    If I now take out multiple comments and count just the number of individuals who are for and against, the results are as follows:

    No: 2
    Yes: 6

    So it’s quite clear that a majority say, Yes, CPRE should say more. Is it going to do so? If not, there seems little point in asking the question in the first place.

  24. 49 Nigel Pike September 6, 2014 at 6:19 am

    I hope it was not my last message that stalled this debate. In the hope of re-starting it, I invite you all to watch Sir David Attenborough’s 2011 RSA speech on population (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1sP291B7SCw). In particular, I would like to refer CPRE towards the passage on NGO’s at 18:30 min:sec which I will repeat here:

    “There seems to be some bizarre taboo around the subject. “It’s not quite nice, not PC, possibly even racist to mention it.“ And this taboo doesn’t just inhibit politicians and civil servants who attend the big conferences. It even affects the environmental and developmental Non- Governmental Organisations, the people who claim to care most passionately about a sustainable and prosperous future for our children. Yet their silence implies that their admirable goals can be achieved regardless of how many people there are in the world or the UK even though they all know that it can’t.”

    I would also like to refer members and commenters to the following passage.

    “But what can each of us do – you and I? Well, there is just one thing that I would ask. Break the taboo, in private and in public – as best you can, as you judge right. Until it is broken there is no hope of the action we need. Wherever and whenever we speak of the environment – add a few words to ensure that the population element is not ignored. If you are a member of a relevant NGO, invite them to acknowledge it.”

    Which is what I am doing…


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