Hands Off Our Land

I keep a close eye on planning issues. Our historic village of Fitton is, after all, a gem. If you allow unsuitable development, you end up with something like Aylesbury. So the new national planning guidelines might be a disaster. The Telegraph newspaper has set up a campaign called ‘Hands Off Our Land’, and joins the National Trust and the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) in calling for a re-think to the proposals.

For those of you interested in further clarification, the Fitton Preservation Society is hosting an emergency debate – ‘Concrete or Green Belt?’  – in the parish hall next Tuesday at 8pm. (Please DO NOT park outside the black wrought-iron gates of no. 37. Lizzie Yates is a reflexologist and may be called out, at any time of day and night, to treat emergencies.)

The problem, in my view, is that the new guidelines are in favour of ‘sustainable development’. But no one has quite defined what ‘sustainable development’ means. According to the Telegraph, minister Greg Clark has said that ‘sustainable means ensuring that better lives for ourselves don’t mean worse lives for future generations’.

I think that’s a bit like the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party when the March Hare says to Alice, ‘You should say what you mean’, and she says, ‘I do. At least I mean what I say. That’s the same thing you know.’ Which we all know is a load of nonsense. Just because Greg Clark is being sincere and earnest doesn’t mean that he can redefine large swathes of the English language.

‘Sustainable’ means that something can be sustained. No more, no less. People need houses. A developer says, ‘I’ll build them!’ People buy the houses, the developer makes money, and the people carry on living in them. That, to me, would be the definition of ‘sustainable development’.

But whether or not that’s a good thing is quite a different matter.

The Prime Minister, according to the Telegraph, has said that sustainable development should balance economic, environmental and social needs. Maybe it should.

But unless you spell it out in the small print, that’s a bit like saying that political parties shouldn’t offer access or honours in return for large amounts of cash.  The default position is self-interest. People will always behave badly unless you specifically legislate against it.

I intend to present these views quite forcefully at next Tuesday’s meeting.



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