Implementing Sustainable Development: Strategies and Initiatives in High Consumption Societies

By William M. Lafferty; James Meadowcroft | Go to book overview

9 The United Kingdom: From Political Containment to Integrated Thinking?

Stephen C. Young

In the United Kingdom (UK) the Agricultural and Industrial Revolutions triggered processes of land improvement and urbanization which produced a problematic legacy in the 1980s and 1990s. 1 Much nineteenth-century infrastructure—railways and water plants—remained in use in the post-war period, increasingly in a state of decay. There is now virtually no natural landscape left. About 20 per cent of the landscape of the United Kingdom has special protection status—as with the National Parks (Department of the Environment (DoE) 1994a). The UK's population increased from 55.1 million in 1971 to 55.7 million in 1981, reaching 57.6 million in 1992 (DoE 1994a ; Fothergill and Vincent 1985). By 1992 the average population density of the UK was 235 people per square kilometre, but three-quarters lived on just 13 per cent of the 2,447,555 square kilometres of land (DoE 1994a ; Countryside Agency 1999). With 746 people per square kilometre, the South-East had one of the highest densities in Europe. In contrast, Scotland had, at 66 people per square kilometre, one of the lowest densities in Europe—despite having more than two million in its central belt.

During the 1979-87 period, the first two Thatcher governments were dominated by industrial restructuring and the drive for economic growth. The 1970s' perception—of the choice being either environmental protection or jobs and growth—continued to hold sway in central government and Parliament (Weale 1992 ; Hajer 1995). Those analysing 1980s environmental policy stress two aspects (Blowers 1987 ; Lowe and Flynn 1989 ; Bradbeer 1990). First there was the centrality of deregulation. The government had

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