The Controversy of UK Agricultural Land Conversions to Housing

What are seen as the controversies around converting land from agriculture to housing?The value of UK Green Belt and agricultural lands is undisputed. But the environmental costs of modern farming and housing needs are part of the conversation as well.Anybody considering making an alternative investment in strategic land will know that Britain unquestionably needs more homes to accommodate a growing population. According to the Office for National Statistics, more than 4.4 million homes should be built by 2016, largely in response to two factors: A decennial growth rate of 7 percent, as measured in Census 2011, and lagging new home construction that fails to keep up with this population increase, largely attributed to the stringent lending standards of banks following the 2008 economic crisis.At least one group claims the solution is to build on Green Belt land. The Policy Exchange, a centre-right think tank, said in late 2012 that the supply of land near cities that is kept unbuilt is a drag on the housing market. They argue that swaths of English countryside that typically surround towns should be opened up for development. The fourteen Green Belts in England cover about 13 percent of the country, enveloping about 60 percent of Britain’s population (about 30 million people).The Policy Exchange faces plenty of headwind in its positions. Since the “garden city movement” of the early 20th century, the effort to combat urban sprawl led by such groups as the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) and the London County Council sought to maintain open spaces dedicated to recreation, forests and agriculture as a social good. But the Town and Country Planning Association has proposed since 2002 the adoption of more flexible policies toward Green Belt lands, suggesting that instead of a growth-stifling “belt,” that “wedges” and “strategic gaps” might allow a natural expansion of urban areas.

Famously, the head of Natural England, whose charge is entirely to ensure protection and improvement of flora and fauna, said in 2007 “we need a 21st century solution to England’s housing needs which puts in place a network of green wedges, gaps and corridors, linking the natural environment and people.”Agricultural land outside of Green BeltsOf course, land away from the major cities is green as well, much of it in use for agricultural, forestry and recreational purposes. More than 80 percent of the landmass in England and Wales, 12 million hectares, are used for farming and forestry. Local planning authorities can more easily rezone the lands outside Green Belts when market factors, such as the demand for housing development, call for it. Since 2000, about 1500 hectares of agricultural land has been converted to housing development every year.Of course, similar sentiments understandably still exist relative to the bucolic perceptions of farming in the U.K. But environmentalists take exception to how modern agricultural methods, which include excessive application of fertilisers, can actually burden nature with its by-products:• Toxic build-up. 100 million tonnes of sewage sludge, compost and livestock manures applied annually to agricultural lands is leading to a build-up of potentially toxic elements such as zinc and copper, and more than half of sensitive wildlife habitat experiences harmful acid and nitrogen pollution, according to a paper published by Environment Agency UK.• Loss of soil. About 2.2 million tonnes of topsoil is lost each year due to intensive cultivation, some of which is instigated by compaction from heavy machinery and livestock, which precludes plant growth and leads to runoff in rain. (source: Environment Agency UK). To be fair, some runoff is noted as well from building sites before landscaping is completed.• Water quality compromised. About 70 percent of sediments found in water come from agriculture, and those sediments can carry metals, pathogens, pesticides and phosphates.Such problems due to modern agriculture plague the planet, as similar pollution levels are reported throughout Europe, Asia, North America and Australia. Africa, Brazil and Argentina, the newer frontiers for agriculture, are expanding arable croplands to meet global food demands but also exhibit a host of environmental sins.The food-housing tugThere is no denying that the housing needs in the UK must be met – and soon. A whole generation of families are postponing children or living in cramped quarters, awaiting homes they can afford or at least rent to accommodate their members.But Brits need to eat as much as sleep. So how to balance the use of land for each?A number of approaches are being tested. One is to encourage development of so-called brownfield lands, which include properties that may require remediation from previous industrial uses. These lands are often within towns or immediately adjacent to them, some with excellent access to existing urban infrastructure while others are cost-prohibitive for a variety of reasons (no existing infrastructure, undesirable locations for housing or extensive environmental remediation required).

SustainableBuild.co.uk is a web publisher that considers the balance between development and environmental sustainability from a very pragmatic standpoint. The site offers several points on how land conversions to development can have a negative effect, which include: converted greenfields are quite unlikely to be converted back to nature; there is inevitable loss of habitat for animals and plants; a loss of employment for agricultural workers; and a loss of Green Belt land that provides geographical definitions and separations of cities, towns, villages and hamlets (I.e., American-style urban sprawl).Answering the problem of diminishing agricultural lands is a nascent movement to small-scale, organic agriculture on greenfield lands. SustainableBuild notes, “There are greenfield sites that are not being used for any purpose, for whatever reason. Development must consider all human and environmental factors, not just consume land and space for short-term solutions. A sustainable vision would look at all the options for land use, human population expansion, urban sprawl, economic considerations as well as environmental needs.”Which, in a country with a growing population and a concurrent appreciation for the environment, is perhaps the most realistic and pragmatic approach.

3 Benefits to Using Cloud Yoga Business Software for Your Yoga Studio

A Fictional Tale of Two Yoga Teachers:Wendy and John are each starting a yoga studio. They have their space, a website, and recently opened for business.They also chose to administer as much of their business as possible on computers (who doesn’t these days). They each have a laptop so they can be mobile, or so they think. They also have a desktop in their studio.Students are coming to their classes and they’re delighted by this. Yet, they both desire more students. Their business is in a growth stage.When not teaching classes and chatting with students, they’re on their computers taking care of the financial aspects, marketing, curriculum / class planning, and overall administration of their business.When they started, they weren’t sure the direction their business would take so they held off buying any specific business management software. Instead they used Word and Excel to take care of their software needs. So far their software set up is working okay, but they see the writing on the wall how something more sophisticated could save them time.Wendy and John go online to start looking at yoga business software options. They’re pleased that there’s a lot of options. Of course options mean making a decision.Wendy decides to go with a cloud computing software platform while John opts for an installation software option.Wendy’s option requires that she pay a monthly cost to use her software. John likes the fact he only pays one time for the software.Wendy logs into her software account through the Internet and sets up your software for your business. It takes a few days to get familiar with it, but within a week she has her software working for her with a class schedule set up and she’s put her student contact information into the database. She also set up her autoresponder email account and integrated it with your student contacts.John installed his software on both his laptop and desktop computer. He opted for no server and instead figured out how to network the two computers together so when a change is made in one computer it’s reflected in the other computer. He spent about a day getting his software installed and networked.

Like Wendy, he takes a few days inputting his student contact information and formatting his class schedule in the scheduling software. His email software is separate, but he’s managed to integrate it using an APP with his installation-based yoga business software.Fast forward 2 years. Both their yoga businesses are doing better than ever. Each of them hire 2 teachers to teach designated classes and a receptionist. This growth required more computers for their staff. Wendy, simply upgrades here software to add another user. Her staff simply logs into the software through the Internet.John buys another license and then goes through the installation process. Now he must network another computer. He’s read that using a server is a good idea, but has no idea how to set up a server. Given his business is growing, he decides to hire a networking consultant. After buying a dedicated server and paying networking consultant fees, John spent $1,500. His software also upgraded 6 months ago and so he paid $300 in upgrade fees.As their businesses grew, both Wendy and John started selling some retail items in their studio and on their website. They also discovered how effective email marketing is to student retention and growing their business. Wendy’s online software platform offered e-commerce, credit card processing, and integrated e-mail marketing software. She was able to set up her stores and beef up her e-mail marketing quickly.John leased credit card processing hardware, bought a license for e-commerce software and continues to use his original e-mail marketing software that’s integrated with his student contact database.At this point Wendy’s entire yoga business software is centralized and accessible over the Internet. John uses several software services that are installed and networked among his computers. As John’s business grows, his computing needs become more complex and he now has his networking consultant on speed-dial.He now budgets annually for computer consultant fees – something he never anticipated. He of course has heard about cloud software and is now interested in making the switch, but is reluctant given the amount he’s invested in his desktop installation software. He’s going to wait and see.Wendy pays a monthly fee for her service, but is pleased with how easy it is to add new users and grow her business with hardly an interruption in doing her core activities – which is teaching yoga and marketing her business. In fact, Wendy is considering opening another yoga studio knowing aside from finding and designing space, here business is easily duplicated at another location.John would love to expand to another location, but is concerned about the expense of expanding and managing his business so that all his business information integrates seamlessly between his multiple locations. He puts expansion on hold.About Cloud Computing SoftwareWhat is Cloud Computing Software?It’s software that’s hosted by the software company. When you sign up, you get an account and all your software is handled on the cloud – that is hosted and powered by the company’s servers – not your servers. You simply access it online.The biggest reason business owners are reluctant to use cloud computing is the ongoing cost. Most cloud computing software platforms charge monthly to use the service. This ongoing cost is understandably a concern, especially for new businesses. The last thing you want is to be committed to ongoing costs if at all possible avoided.However, when you look at the long-term of your business, and your software in particular, there’s ease-of-use and expansion to consider. With installation software you must always consider the upgrade costs and potential for paying consultants to maintain and grow your network. These unforeseen costs can be hefty in the long run.
3 Key Benefits to Using Cloud Software for Your Yoga Business Software

1. Access it AnywhereBecause it’s accessible over the Internet, you can access your entire software set up wherever you have an Internet connection (which is pretty much everywhere these days).2. Integrates it with your WebsitesA quality cloud software service for yoga studios makes it easy to update it simultaneously with your websites. For example, when you make changes to your class schedule, those changes are immediately reflected on your website where you post your class schedule. There’s no need to go into your website(s) and manually make the changes (assuming you remember to do this).Also, if you have e-commerce on your website selling gift certificates, yoga class packages, and perhaps gear and apparel, when you make pricing changes (or any changes) in your software, it’s immediately reflected in your website(s).3. No installation and networking costsThis is a biggie. Many business owners when starting out with buying software tend to undermine this. With cloud computing you don’t have to worry about installation and networking your software. As you can see from the above Tale of 2 Yoga Teachers, John’s software costs escalated beyond what he anticipated because of unforeseen consultant costs. This is common with specialized business installation software. Networking software among computers is not an easy task and usually requires an expert to do it well.Will your yoga business fail by not using cloud computing yoga business software? No, but it could make administration and growth more difficult.