Our straight talking Lancashire lass takes a sideways look at the daily news.
Kiss goodbye to England’s Green and Pleasant Land
In the UK, if you want to build estates, roads, industrial estates, power plants or rubbish tips you need planning permission. And until last week, planning permission was relatively hard to get - although there are plenty of instances where attending the right dinners with the right people could twist some political arms, I’m sure…
So at the moment, building on Green Belts is a huge NO-NO. There’s a reason for this. Our countryside is an immensely valuable asset. Not just in economic or environmental terms, but it is good for the soul.
Living in a concrete jungle, in a world sprawled with grey, featureless estates and motorways is spiritually crippling. I know, I used to live in a place like that. A uniform town of boxed-shaped houses, with box shaped shops, surrounded by box-shaped warehouses gives you a box-shaped head. Squeezing out nature doesn’t only kill the wildlife, but it kills something inside your spirit.
Think I’m a hippy? I challenge you to visit the Lake District or the Yorkshire Dales, and not be moved by the dramatic beauty on display. But you don’t even need to travel so far – a quiet walk in your local countryside, spotting wildlife and checking out the flora can be really rewarding. And the best thing is, it belongs to all of us.
Obviously the Coalition government doesn’t see it that way. They see undeveloped land as an opportunity to make a quick buck, and (surprise, surprise) they are about to change the law to facilitate this.
Of course, it will be sold to us as an attractive option - ‘Freedom of choice’ they cry! ‘It boosts growth!’ (yeah, for your mates) and provides ‘local development for local people’!
Local doesn’t necessarily mean ‘good’. Without naming names (and in my personal opinion) there are some exceptionally corrupt local officials in my neck of the woods who are undoubtedly salivating at the prospect of dipping their fingers in the cement-mixer-shaped gold rush that is about to happen. I imagine that this is the case across the UK.
We’re in a recession and there is a huge pressure for people to make money. But the real cost will be the catastrophic loss of rural areas and the irreversible destruction of wildlife.
The government says it is committed to developing a green society. David Cameron said they would be ‘the greenest government EVER!’
Apparently this involves cutting down all the UK forests (which they back-tracked on), building new motorways and increasing the speed limit to 80mph, installing 10 new nuclear power plants, and giving the green light to developers to build anything, wherever they want.
Out-of-town shopping centres, polluting industrial estates, factories, roads… you name it. And there is no guidance on quality either. The government have removed 90% of the restrictions involved in planning permission. So now if developers want to erect a prefab 1960s-esque tower block in the village green, they can.
I want them to listen to us. I want them to understand that most of the people who live in the UK want to see nature and wildlife protected. And I want them to back the hell off! But they won’t. Not where money is concerned.
I’m so depressed about this. Maybe I’ll start comfort eating. At least chocolate is now slimming, that’s some good news…
For more information about the controversial new planning guidance for councils, check out the Friends of the Earth website.