67 thoughts on a hilariously misleading tweet sent by the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England

Windermere. Image: Abbasi1111/Wikimedia Commons.

1. Oh, I see the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England have sent a smug tweet congratulating Sadiq Khan on not having the guts to review the green belt in this year’s London Plan. Big whoop.

2. I mean, I never thought he would, if I’m honest, but it still burns to see him congratulated by the baddies like this.

3. Hang on a minute.

4. That picture’s a bit pretty for the metropolitan green belt.

5. I mean, I’m not saying the green belt is never pretty, but it doesn’t tend to look like that.

6. There aren’t that many lakes in it for a start.

7. Sure, there’s Virginia Water, but last time I checked there weren’t many mountains in Surrey.

8. Are they sure that’s outer London?

9. Oh, hang on, it’s Lake Windermere.

10. That’s in the Lake District.

11. The Lake District is not in the Metropolitan Green Belt.

12. It’s a national park, FFS.

13. We could concrete every square inch of green belt in the whole of England and the Lake District would still be protected.

14. Oh, I see Duncan’s gone in.

15. I don’t actually want to scrap the entire green belt, by the way.

16. This is a common misconception about me.

17. In many ways, I think the green belt is good, actually.

18. Dense cities are better than sprawling ones, and encouraging redevelopment within London is better for everyone than concreting the countryside outside it.

19. I just refused to believe that, in the middle of a housing shortage, it is sensible to protect every single square inch of car park, scrubland, golf course and pony club in zone 6 from the onset of housing.

20. I mean, we can argue about the utility of farmland or whatever, but there is no way I’m accepting that my right to a house should be lower on society’s priority list than your right not to have to drive for more than 10 minutes to play golf.

21. I sometimes pretend to be more extreme about this than I actually am in an attempt to terrify people like the CPRE into compromise.

22. I literally explained that I was going to do this in an article four years ago.

23. It hasn’t worked though.

24. Honestly, you’d be amazed at quite how little difference all my years of throwing words at the internet has made to anything.

25. If anything, I’ve made things worse.

26. Anyway, the point is: Lake Windermere is definitely not in the green belt.

27. It’s not even in the commuter belt.

28. I mean, it’s 230 miles from London.

29. And the closest stationclosest station with trains to the capital is miles away.

30. It’s called Oxenholme (Lake District), and brackets are never great sign, are they?

31. So Windermere is 10 miles from a station that’s three hours from London.

32. And don’t get me started on the cost of a season ticket.

33. £20,040.00 for an annual pass, since you asked.

33a. Turns out there is a Windermere station which gets one train and hour which I didn’t know about. 

33b. That’s thrown my numbering off dammit.

34. It’s really not London commuter territory, is basically all I’m saying here.

35. Nobody in their right mind thinks it’s even remotely plausible to solve London’s housing crisis by building homes next to Lake Windermere.

36. Technically, “Lake Windermere” is a tautology.

37. A “mere” is an old English word for a long, narrow lake.

38. And “Winand” was thought to be some bloke.

39. So “Lake Windermere” literally means “Winand’s Lake Lake”. Which is stupid.

40. The correct name of the lake is just “Windermere”.

41. I’m getting off topic, aren’t I.

42. Oh wait, they deleted it.

43. That’s going to be a problem when I take the piss out of it tomorrow morning.

44. Sort of wish I’d taken a screenshot now.

45. No one else has taken one either.

46. I was going to do this whole listicle thing, and now I’m going to have to do it without a picture of the tweet in question.

47. Shit shit shit shit shit

48. Oh well, style it out.

49. To be honest, I was going to conclude that I almost admire the CPRE’s commitment to abject, shamefaced lying.

50. I mean, do you remember the “London-on-sea” campaign?

51. They just totally made that up.

52. Honestly, there wasn’t even a thing they were twisting, it was just complete bollocks intended to scare the shit out of people.

53. I did one of these this list thingies about that, too.

54. That only had 23 points in it though.

55. Take, that, past me.

56. Anyway, my point is: I wouldn’t get away with using images as misleading as that on CityMetric, and I’m not nearly as important or influential as the CPRE.

57. They’re a registered charity, FFS.

58. They literally take public donations for this stuff.

59. So my conclusion was going to be, “These people have absolutely no shame whatsoever”.

60. The problem is that they deleted the tweet.

61. So maybe they do have shame after all.

62. Which has taken the wind out of my sails a bit, if I’m honest with you.

63. Means I don’t really have a way of ending this thing.

64. Windermere looks nice, though.

Image: Jason Butler/Wikimedia Commons.

65. Much nicer than London’s actual green belt.

Image: Google Maps, via Business Insider.

66. We should be allowed to build houses on places like that later photo, that’s really all I’m saying.

67. Oh look, it’s started to snow.

Jonn Elledge is the editor of CityMetric. He is on Twitter as @jonnelledge and also has a Facebook page now for some reason. 

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What's actually in the UK government’s bailout package for Transport for London?

Wood Green Underground station, north London. Image: Getty.

On 14 May, hours before London’s transport authority ran out of money, the British government agreed to a financial rescue package. Many details of that bailout – its size, the fact it was roughly two-thirds cash and one-third loan, many conditions attached – have been known about for weeks. 

But the information was filtered through spokespeople, because the exact terms of the deal had not been published. This was clearly a source of frustration for London’s mayor Sadiq Khan, who stood to take the political heat for some of the ensuing cuts (to free travel for the old or young, say), but had no way of backing up his contention that the British government made him do it.

That changed Tuesday when Transport for London published this month's board papers, which include a copy of the letter in which transport secretary Grant Shapps sets out the exact terms of the bailout deal. You can read the whole thing here, if you’re so minded, but here are the three big things revealed in the new disclosure.

Firstly, there’s some flexibility in the size of the deal. The bailout was reported to be worth £1.6 billion, significantly less than the £1.9 billion that TfL wanted. In his letter, Shapps spells it out: “To the extent that the actual funding shortfall is greater or lesser than £1.6bn then the amount of Extraordinary Grant and TfL borrowing will increase pro rata, up to a maximum of £1.9bn in aggregate or reduce pro rata accordingly”. 

To put that in English, London’s transport network will not be grinding to a halt because the government didn’t believe TfL about how much money it would need. Up to a point, the money will be available without further negotiations.

The second big takeaway from these board papers is that negotiations will be going on anyway. This bail out is meant to keep TfL rolling until 17 October; but because the agency gets around three-quarters of its revenues from fares, and because the pandemic means fares are likely to be depressed for the foreseeable future, it’s not clear what is meant to happen after that. Social distancing, the board papers note, means that the network will only be able to handle 13 to 20% of normal passenger numbers, even when every service is running.

Shapps’ letter doesn’t answer this question, but it does at least give a sense of when an answer may be forthcoming. It promises “an immediate and broad ranging government-led review of TfL’s future financial position and future financial structure”, which will publish detailed recommendations by the end of August. That will take in fares, operating efficiencies, capital expenditure, “the current fiscal devolution arrangements” – basically, everything. 

The third thing we leaned from that letter is that, to the first approximation, every change to London’s transport policy that is now being rushed through was an explicit condition of this deal. Segregated cycle lanes, pavement extensions and road closures? All in there. So are the suspension of free travel for people under 18, or free peak-hours travel for those over 60. So are increases in the level of the congestion charge.

Many of these changes may be unpopular, but we now know they are not being embraced by London’s mayor entirely on their own merit: They’re being pushed by the Department of Transport as a condition of receiving the bailout. No wonder Khan was miffed that the latter hadn’t been published.

Jonn Elledge was founding editor of CityMetric. He is on Twitter as @jonnelledge and on Facebook as JonnElledgeWrites.