Planning in the media

Crossrail may be the largest infrastructure project outside China but its approval by the government has been greeted with disdain by media commentators.

Leading the attack was Ross Clark in The Times, who branded it "another project for the rich, not the poor". He noted that the green light "would not raise so many eyebrows were it matched by a commitment to public transport investment in towns and cities less wealthy than London", adding that the government has "turned its back on light rail schemes outside the capital". John Kay in the Financial Times unfavourably linked Crossrail and the 2012 Olympics as candidates for white elephants. "There is a real danger that through two schemes whose costs are disproportionate to their benefits, London will have spent £25 billion by 2020 without getting the infrastructure that a 21st century city needs," he argued. The Guardian cast doubt over the completion date, reporting that "talks between the Treasury and the Department for Transport as to whether to defer construction of the south-eastern part of Crossrail, which includes Canary Wharf, will continue until 2020".

This month's edition of Reader's Digest ranked the world's eco-friendly countries and its findings are not easy reading. The UK only rates 25th in a list of the most desirable countries in which to live, but the picture was steadily worse in individual categories contributing to the score. We are 35th for environmental health, 41st for air quality, 77th on greenhouse gas emissions and a lowly 93rd for energy efficiency, despite achieving a respectable 15th for water quality. The top five nations were Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden and Austria.

The UK also has an unenviable rating among consumers. According to research by the New Economics Foundation reported in The Guardian, the country is second to the USA in using up natural materials. If everyone in the world lived like the British, "three more planets like Earth would be needed to sustain the population, while consumption rates in the USA would require five more Earths".

The row that is surrounding the Severn Barrage caught the eye of Ben Macintyre in The Times, who argued that it is only such schemes that will tackle global warming.

"Human engineering caused the problem. Only human engineering on a massive scale will begin to tackle it."

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