POPULATION MATTERS SAYS PLANNING PRESSURE SHOWS NEED FOR POPULATION PLANNING
The controversy over the announced changes to the
planning framework is just one example of the difficult choices
increasingly forced upon the UK by an ever rising population in an
already overcrowded island, itself just one example of the global
problem of population growth.
Population Matters believes the UK government should urgently
consider establishing a population council, as advocated by the
Committee for the Economic Development of Australia (CEDA), to
address population growth and seek ways of reducing it and of
mitigating its impact.
England is Europe's most densely populated large country, alongside
Holland, and has one of the highest population densities of any
sizeable country. Yet its population is growing at its fastest rate
for 50 years and accounts for fully one third of all European
population growth. A combination of increasing longevity, a rising
birth rate and historically high net migration means that the
population is projected to rise by ten million over the next 25
All these extra people have to live somewhere, and Britain already
has gross residential overcrowding and a long waiting list for
social housing. The results of population growth are evident in
other areas, too: a shortage of primary school places; traffic
congestion and transport overcrowding; significant air pollution,
especially in London; and the greater impact of low rainfall.
Global population growth is also making its effect felt, in rising
fuel, energy and food prices and of course in climate change.
The recent comments of CEDA's chief executive, Stephen Martin, on
Australia therefore hold some resonance for us in the UK. These
included: 'Public unease with the population debate is often
centred around government policy or planning failures, from
inadequate service provision to poor infrastructure planning and
that is why our nation's leaders must not shy away from a robust
discussion on our future demography and its implications for public
policy.'And: 'How we manage population change will ultimately
impact on the living standards of all Australians, especially the
liveability of our cities and our access to services.'
CEDA's report recommended that:
- The Federal Government should establish an Australian
Population Council (APC), to coordinate government service delivery
nationally in response to population changes. The APC should be
responsible for annual projections of demographic change for the
purpose of ensuring smooth State and Federal Government service
delivery. In particular, the focus should be on the areas of
infrastructure delivery (roads and community infrastructure),
education and health requirements.
- The Federal Government should supplement the Intergenerational
Report, which examines the ramifications of an ageing population,
with a Future Generation Report, which examines the participation,
education and training solutions that could mitigate the negative
elements of Australia's current age structure. For example,
proposing ways of ensuring longer workforce participation.
Simon Ross, chief executive of Population Matters, said: 'This
report echoes the longstanding recommendation of Population Matters
that the government should assign responsibility for population as
an issue to a nominated minister so that there is the basis for
developing a co-ordinated and planned approach rather than simply
responding to rising numbers and assuming them as a given. We
welcome the commitment of the current government to reduce net
migration but note that this commitment has had limited effect on
numbers so far. We also welcome the reduction in the recent budget
in the number entitled to automatic child benefit but believe that
more needs to be done to reduce subsidies for those with large
families who do not require financial support.'