Since moving back to the UK at the end of 2014 after 15 years away I’ve been settling back in London in a flat I bought back in 1994. Thank goodness I kept hold of it; given the earning potential of jobs now available to me I wouldn’t have a chance of purchasing a property of any sort in London these days. I can only imagine how hard it is for youngsters trying to get onto the property ladder these days!
It’s great being close to friends and family again, along with opportunities to revisit favourite places and explore the UK more. However, its proving difficult to adapt to changes that have occurred while I’ve been away. Limited job opportunities, a changing political landscape, growing inequality across society, government red tape etc. are all proving obstacles to feeling settled.
The part of London I grew up in allowed easy access to parts of the Metropolitan Green Belt, formally proposed in 1935, “to provide a reserve supply of public open spaces and of recreational areas and to establish a green belt or girdle of open space”. There’s still plenty Green Belt of accessible from where I live, but unfortunately it may be vulnerable with research showing that politicians are allowing much-loved and well-used land to come under threat from development. Alternative brownfield sites are available but I guess prospective developers don’t see themselves making as much profit with such sites!
While overseas I managed to get back home to visit family and friends every few years. In the last few visits the large number of flats being built across London has been very obvious; in the immediate vicinity of my flat there’s been a lot of recent development including blocks of student accommodation.
Most of the development is limited to around 8 – 10 storeys but there is a current proposal that has been submitted that will see the demolishing of existing structures over the road from the estate I live on and alongside the canal running past my flat. In their place blocks of primarily residential accommodation, ranging from 4 to 21 storeys and providing up to 502 dwellings, would be built.
The 10 storey buildings are already quite imposing in the context of the surrounding areas and skyline. 21 storey towers will take this to a new level creating more shadows and obstructions of views, while the extra residences and accompanying parking and roading will put additional strain on infrastructure that is already creaking under the weight of road and tube/rail users.
The existing area may not be paradise but despite the completely rosy picture the developers try to paint regarding impacts there are bound to be impacts on the local ecosystems. With the huge number of flats and supporting infrastructure being constructed in London the sentiments expressed in Joni Mitchell’s Big Yellow Taxi lyrics come to mind.
To try and give myself a better work-life balance I’m getting to meet new people and travel further afield by pursuing my interest in birdwatching, rekindled in New York (2010 – 14), and wider interests in the natural environment. Local groups such as the Wren Wildlife and Conservation Group (Wren website) and the North East London and Havering Local Groups of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) offer trips that allow me to build up my natural history knowledge and meet people with similar interests while visiting locations that are often new to me. The trips are also throwing up some unexpected surprises unrelated to birdwatching, which I’ll be posting on in the future.