DRIVING to the Yorkshire Dales for a short break this summer, it was difficult not to notice the blight on our green and pleasant countryside.
Leaving the cities of Bradford and Leeds behind, it was sad to note the alarming rate at which the gaps between the small towns and villages are disappearing.
Once rural pastures nestling below the wild moorland are now littered with (to borrow a phrase) the monstrous carbuncles of newly-built housing estates comprising row upon row of tightly-packed egg-boxes, ugly shopping centres and prison-like edifices masquerading as supermarkets, and roads to connect each one.
If development continues apace, the dots on a map which represent urban centres will soon all become joined up – just as the developers are trying to do here by building on the green fields around Lindley Moor and over towards Brighouse.
The Government and Kirklees Council tell us that we need to build umpteen thousand more houses and employers are tirelessly urged to create countless new jobs, all to cope with an ever-increasing population.
From 1960 to 2011, the UK population averaged 57.2 million. In December 2011 it reached an all-time high of 62.6 million inhabitants, all jostling for space on a small rock in the Atlantic.
We are like an ever-growing brood of insatiable chicks with our mouths constantly open, but no matter how hard they try, those in charge will never be able to provide enough sustenance... or jobs or houses or welfare.
And as I was driving to the Dales, a radical though struck me: Why?
Why do we need so many people? Why can’t we be a small, unimportant country with fewer people, fewer mouths to feed, fewer jobs to create, fewer roofs to build – and more green spaces?
What’s wrong with being small, rich and independent? Think Switzerland, Norway or Luxembourg or, in terms of people, Canada and Australia where people really have room to breathe.
Before the Examiner is inundated with angry letters, let me say that this is not an anti-immigration rant, although, however unpalatable to our politicians, that thorny issue will have to be tackled soon. Britain’s ethnic diversity and cosmopolitan outlook are two of our nation’s strengths.
It is a simple matter of common sense and bean counting: with more than four hundred humans per square kilometre, Britain is sinking under the weight of too many people.
Do we really want to be a superstar on the political stage?
Why can’t we bumble along under the radar doing our own thing? Like the Swiss, with whom we have much in common, including a healthy financial services sector, precision engineering and stunning scenery.
Admittedly becoming a small country wouldn’t happen overnight. But instead of growing by 200,000 a year as we do now, shrinking by that number would be a good start.
Perhaps Britons could be offered incentives to emigrate, much as they were in the 1960s, or a sliding scale could be introduced for family allowance where parents get more money for having fewer children and a bonus for not having any.
If course, such measures would not be welcomed by all, but think of the benefits. Traffic jams would be a thing of the past, there’d be fewer politicians and bureaucrats, better health care and education for the few who remained and, for me the best thing: big green spaces everywhere.
Now there’s a thought.