Planning in the media

The Office for National Statistics' projected rise in the UK population to 75 million by mid-century sent the media into a flutter.

The Sun pointed out that the increase is "the same as another London and Birmingham added together". The paper added: "Where will they all live? Where will they go to school? And can our welfare system cope? Will they all find jobs? How will they get to work on gridlocked roads? How will the NHS cope? Nobody knows and nothing is being done to prepare for this demographic time bomb. The silence from ministers is disgraceful."

Brian Reade in The Daily Mirror noted that "our tiny island will soon be packed tighter than the crotch in Terry Wogan's slacks" before warning that the projections will be used "as vindication by right-wing doom mongers" that immigration has brought the country to its knees.

As if on cue, The Daily Telegraph ran a piece by Migrationwatch UK chairman Sir Andrew Green. "The new projections imply that we will have to build 260 houses every day of the week for the next 20 years just to house new immigrants. Put another way, of Gordon Brown's much vaunted three million new houses by 2020 one and a quarter million will be needed for immigrants," he maintained.

But Boris Johnson's column, also in The Daily Telegraph, considered that the single biggest challenge facing humanity is "the reproduction of the species itself" rather than global warming. "It is time we had a grown-up discussion about the optimum quantity of human beings in this country and on this planet," he wrote. "Do we want the South East of the UK, already the most densely populated major country in Europe, to resemble a giant suburbia? This is not an argument about immigration per se, since in a sense it does not matter where people come from and with their skill and their industry, immigrants add hugely to the economy. This is a straightforward question of population and the eventual size of the human race."

Even without taking account of the extra population, other parts of national policy are already under strain. The Guardian warned that the home building drive will "not be enough to meet the deepening housing crisis". Quoting the National Housing and Planning Advice Unit, the paper said 250,000 more homes "might be required to ensure that a generation is not prevented from getting on the property ladder due to high prices".


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