Wednesday, 2 November 2011

butterfly paradises

For a few years I have noticed areas of land in London where buildings have been demolished but nothing has been built in their place. The land has just been left vacant but fenced off. I call them 'butterfly paradises' because often they are completely overgrown with Buddleia. This bush has many small flowers that provide plentiful nectar for insects. Buddleia is often called 'the butterfly bush'.

There is a big one at the southern end of London Road in Croydon where a hospital used to be. I see it when I am going past on the top deck of a bus. It is anoying because all it would take would be the addition of a few bee hives to make the land productive. I often have a fantasy of a local beekeeper trying to find who owns the land and visiting them in their offices in a tower in Canary Wharf or somewhere. I don't think people who earn millions would be interested in a few jars of honey though.

What seems to be happening is something called 'land banking'. Someone buys land with no intention of building on it or using it for some productive purpose. They intend to hold on to it until they can sell it for a big profit. It's an investment. They could keep it for years. I suspect that a plot of land might be sold over and over again by different speculators.

I think this is a very good example of when the free market does not work in the interest of society. Land should be built upon to provide affordable high density housing. It's funny how only poor people are thought of as antisocial. This week the global population has passed an estimated 7 billion. Recently half the world's population has become urban. We can't afford not to use urban land.

There are other uses for this land. Some of them are temporary and wouldn't cause a problem for land bankers. Car parks, dog exercise areas, community parks and food producing areas are some alternatives. Or maybe space is needed for a market.

I used to go to a branch of Lambeth College in West Norwood. This branch was closed down and the land sold. Half the land was use for a self storage warehouse, even though there is another one in West Norwood. The other half was just fenced off and left. I go past it often on the bus.

Not any longer though. An eco-camp has been set up. I read in the South London Press that a group has set up the 'Knights Hill Ecological Peace Camp' and they plan to clear rubbish and make a garden. They have something on YouTube about the eco-camp.

There will be a court case this month. The owners will try to remove the eco-camp. Why? They're not using the land. It should make no difference to them if the eco-camp is removed now or when they're ready to sell. Let the eco-camp stay.

The photo below I took myself yesterday when I went to have a look.

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