A number of bloggers seem to have seized on the report in 2012, the UK National Ecosystem Assessment. Aha they say ‘only’ 7 % of the UK is urban! We can easily cover more of the UK with development. Perhaps they should have read the full report. Some extracts below:
The UK is a small, densely populated island nation, the first
industrialised country in the world. Eighty per cent of its
inhabitants live in towns and cities. For some of them the natural
world is something ‘out there’, whose existence they may value,
or not, but which apparently has little to do with their day-to-day
lives. In fact, we humans are an integral part of the natural world,
ultimately dependent on a functioning biosphere and its
constituent ecosystems for our survival.
Changes in the urban environment have had a direct impact on the
very high proportion of the population living in cities and towns.
There has been a marked decline in the condition and accessibility
of urban greenspace: around 10,000 playing fields were sold
between 1979 and 1997, while allotments are now down to 10% of
their peak level, with an estimated total area of around 10,000
hectares, compared with over 100,000 hectares in the late 1940s.
Despite improvements, many ecosystem services continue to
decline or have shown little improvement. Expert judgement
indicates that, assessed across the broad range of terrestrial and
aquatic habitat types, about 30% of services are currently
declining and many others are in a reduced or degraded state. The condition of many soils in the UK – absolutely
fundamental to continued productivity and support of
biodiversity – is considered degraded, mainly because of
atmospheric deposition and inappropriate management.
Urban areas in the UK cover just under 7% of land area. They are home to 8 out of 10 people, often living at extremely high population densities. Green space is very limited in extent, and access to it is unequally distributed; it thus assumes disproportionate cultural significance. Urban areas depend very largely on other habitat types for provision of most of their ecosystem services.
Comment Not quite a ringing endorsement of continuing urbanisation! The people living in the urban areas do not generally enjoy the quality of life that we should as a society provide. The last sentence rightly illustrates that the urban areas depend on the wider environment for their ecosystem services. And all that ‘unused’ land as some people appear to view it? Quite a lot of it is needed to produce food – yes this may be a surprise and shock but food does not miraculously emerge in your local Tesco! And by the way nearly a fifth of UK land consists of mountain, moorland and heath – neither suitable for food production or urbanisation!