The UK’s mountains, lakes, rivers and beaches are to be given an economic value under plans by George Osborne to audit the entire nation, including its landscape. He has ordered Britain’s natural features to be valued by economists and accountants appointed by the Treasury.
The aim is to find out how much such assets are worth to the nation, with a value placed even on intangibles such as the beauty of a landscape. Then, once you know if it’s worth more to, say, business than to tourism or even that intangible pointless value ‘just looking nice’, you can come up with an economic argument for building all over them.
An old friend of mine used to send me a postcard from Tower Green on the anniversary of Anne Boleyn’s death every year. He died the year before they built the NatWest Tower, which was the first skyscraper to bisect the view from within the Tower of London. The Tower had remained lower than the rest of the city, and its view had been protected until the Thatcher era.
But who cares if something just makes you feel good, or looks right? It’s not worth anything, is it? I’m reminded of the tourist on TripAdvisor, probably the website I hate most in the world, who complained that she went to the Lake District and found there was nothing there but scenery.