Driving back home from Manchester Airport after a holiday I noticed changes I hadn’t registered before.

The most common one being the number of new housing developments taking place.

Yes, of course I knew about the push for more homes; I just hadn’t realised how many developments there are in the pipeline and how few of them are actually ‘affordable’.

It’s the scale of this charade that shocked me on my return.

Let’s be honest the loss of so much open countryside is going to help first-time buyers very little.

A few may find the odd opportunity to own their own home, but the majority of desperate families will be no better off.

It appears the public were hoodwinked into acquiescence on the basis of so many families needing homes, when in actual fact they are the last ones likely to benefit.

Once those open fields and meadows are bulldozed for profit they cannot be replaced.

At some point recreational land will be harder to find than a penny black.

At some point we will hit zero.

The greenbelt was supposed to be the point where society said ‘no more’, but recent political doctrine has encouraged councils to ignore this.

So where is this policy taking us and who will benefit from the desecration of our countryside?

Clearly it won’t be all those families in need of an ‘affordable’ home.

The vested interests of developers, landowners and politicians have been served well by this latest land-grab, but it cannot go on forever.

According to a recent report from the RSPB our wild bird population has been decimated in the last 20 years by loss of habitat.

Numbers of the farmland-dwelling grey partridge have halved since 1995, while the turtledove has declined by 95 per cent.

The yellow wagtail, which inhabits farm and wetland, has declined by 45 per cent over the same period.

Maybe it’s time the public fought back?

Perhaps more of us should become Tree Huggers while we still have trees left to hug?


I’VE made a couple of trips to the USA this year, and noticed that the size of tip expected in bars, hotels and restaurants has increased considerably.

When I lived there in the late 1980s, 10 per cent was quite acceptable.

Not anymore.

The basic rate now appears to be 20 per cent.

Any less and you are likely to incur the displeasure of your server.

Some bills come with a gratuity already included in the total plus a request for a further tip.

I dislike the whole tipping ethos because I want those who serve me to earn a living wage without the embarrassment of asking for a tip.

I love America.

I’ve spent a third of my life there and there is very little I would change, but tipping is something I would.

The only thing you can be sure of when you enter a restaurant in the US is the one price you will not be paying is the one on the menu.

By Guardian columnist Vic Barlow