Save a village, concrete over a field

Pretty much every day in every local newspaper outside the big cities, it's the same headline; "Local school to close". As a lifelong rural resident, this drives me nuts because the reason is always the same, and the answer is always the same: Not enough children. Find more children.

Now if you've grown up in an urban environment where every street corner is full of loitering youths, and the supermarket is forever plagued by screaming brats, this may sound alien. Also, in a city where there is a convenience store every fifty yards, you may wonder why villages need schools at all; the answer is that the presence of a school in a rural area means the presence of economically active families. A village without a school indicates a dead village. Old folk and single adults just don't do enough to support a shop, a garage, an industrial estate, a village hall, a society. In rural areas, old folk and single adults just tend to sit at home watching TV. They aren't convenience store consumers, restaurant foodies and nightlife concert-goers like their trendy urban counterparts. They're static.

Static is the problem. Out in the sticks, we have something called Village Action Committees, and they are the death-knell of every rural society. They go by many names. Neighbourhood Watch. Parish Magazine. Residents' Association. All of which spell only one thing; NIMBY. The whole ethos of these organisations is to keep everything as it already is.

Unfortunately, children are the one thing they can't keep as it is. Children grow up. They need jobs. They have children of their own. They need somewhere to live.

With today's aging society, rural residents can no longer rely on old people dying off at a sufficient rate for young families to take their place. There just aren't enough dead people's houses. This means that if you want to have a steady supply of children - not an increase, but merely keep the numbers ticking over - you need to build more houses (or, increase the supply of dead people's houses, although this is generally considered to have an undesirable side-effect).

So the answer is the exact opposite to the NIMBY attitude of the Village Action Committees. The answer is a bloody great housing estate full of cheap box houses every ten years, regular as clockwork. Not even a couple of new houses every year - small developments make for expensive houses. You need a whacking great slice of tarmac and Bovis. If you've ever flown over England on a clear day, you'll know that regardless of what the Village Action Committees tell you, rural villages are not going to run out of spare countryside any time soon.

Save a village today - concrete over a field.

Public Domain - Andrew Oakley - 2006-01-17

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