Mark Easton gets bogged down
Last night's main news bulletins on BBC One (News at Six and News at Ten) featured a report by Mark Easton, the BBC's home editor:
Newsreader: Now, do you feel like your part of the UK is a green and pleasant land or a concrete jungle? It obviously depends on where you live, and what you see around you. But how many of us have an accurate picture of how much of the UK is actually developed? Using the most detailed satellite and mapping data, the BBC has produced a land-use map for every local authority - and the results may surprise you. Here's our Home Editor, Mark Easton.
Mark Easton: The concrete jungle. Roads, buildings, stone and tarmac with barely a blade of grass. In geography jargon, this is called 'continuous urban fabric', where more than 80% of the ground is covered by artificial surfaces. So how much of the UK do you think is classified as continuous urban fabric? Have a guess. The answer is on the other side of this card. I'll reveal all in a minute. Using high-definition satellite images and detailed local maps, the land use of every corner of the UK is revealed. The City of London, for example, is 98% continuous urban fabric, and perhaps that comes as no surprise.
Prof. Alasdair Rae, Sheffield University: Nearly all the land around here is covered in roads and buildings, but this is actually quite unusual in the UK, and I think people might be surprised just how little of the land in the country is actually covered with buildings and roads.
Mark Easton: So, the official answer to the question "How much of the UK is continuous urban fabric?" is... 0.1%. Looking at the whole of the country, more than half is farmland, most of it pastures. Forests, woodland and natural landscape account for a third of all the land. Urban green space - parks and gardens - make up 2.5%, with the area actually built on - roads, buildings, ports and airports - accounting for just 5.9%. Take a council like Bradford in west Yorkshire. Your mental picture is probably of a bustling urban centre, but the aerial mapping reveals that continuous urban fabric accounts for just 0.3% of the local authority. Overall, just a quarter of the land surface is artificial. Indeed 10% is this. I'm standing in a peat bog. Surprisingly perhaps, about 10% of the UK landscape is covered in ground like this. In fact there is almost twice as much peat bog in the UK as the land that we've;built on. The top area for peat bog is the Outer Hebrides, where it covers 61% of the land. Number one for pastures is Armagh City in Northern Ireland, covering 85% of the local authority. The area with the highest proportion of natural grasslands is Blaenau Gwent, in industrial South Wales. So, how much space is given over to buildings, offices, factories and homes?
Prof. Alasdair Rae: We've been crunching the numbers and our best estimate for the whole of the UK is that 1.4% of the country is covered in buildings. That equates to about 2% for England, just less than 1% for Wales, and less than half of 1% for Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Mark Easton: A tiny proportion of the UK is the concrete jungle of our imagination. Indeed, the entire area covered by buildings is smaller than the land revealed when the tide goes out. Most of us, it seems, have a very confused idea of what our country actually looks like. Mark Easton, BBC News.
Now, you may feel that the BBC has designs on you here - that it's softening us up for our green and pleasant land to be concreted over in order to try and help us cope with the adverse consequences of the largely-immigration-led huge surge in population - but Mark is very careful not to explicitly reveal his motives here. He doesn't even mention immigration. It could merely be purely disinterested reporting on some fascinating data.
However, if you go onto his Twitter feed you find that it's not disinterested after all (just as you rightly suspected). He's a lot less cautious about revealing the 'hidden purpose' behind his report there:
The phrase "the UK is full up" is, of course, a commonly-used one, and it's used by people who are concerned about mass immigration and think their country is already over-crowded.
We learn from this short tweet that the design behind Mark Easton's report is to put them right on that with "the truth".