Sitting on the London train from Penzance, the view is beautiful, but the slow creep of new builds is obvious from every window.
The major problem as I see it, is that this is all so unplanned, so ad hoc. Developers build where they want and where they want is normally tacked on to the side of a successful town or village with transport links. Developments spread up and around and smother once peaceful little places and the promised 40% of affordable housing, the reason and justification for it all, is being whittled down, forgotten, ignored in the grab for the best land.
All the balls have been thrown into the developer’s court, so councils and local people are left scrambling behind, unclear as to procedure, unable to appeal or control. Why and how is this happening?
We used to be able to build towns and good, decent, new settlements. Town planners would draw up idealistic new plans with parks and squares and offices. The houses would be well built, people cared about how they looked, there was a sense of civic achievement. We built beautiful, successful towns that are still a source of pride, I can’t imagine people of the future feeling any sort of wonder in Cranbrook New Town or Sherford. I can’t see tourists wanting to visit White Rock housing estate near Brixham.
The only people I can see with any type of plan, any vision for the future is the Heart of the South West LEP, the unelected, hard to make accountable, government quango that is set to rule us all. And their vision is to my mind a very alarming one. The latest devolution bid from the LEP shows them attempting to take so much power from local authorities that it is in a word, a power grab. Their vision is one of Devon and Somerset connected by a series of new roads and business parks. There is a large red dot, blocking out Totnes, where I live and identifying it as a future growth hub. Why? Who are these people to determine what happens to where I live and to my neighbours. Their board is made up of volunteer Tory businessmen, who overwhelmingly seem to have business interests in construction and property. Their vision is very strong on just how much business and construction there is going to be in the south west, 179,000 houses for example, not so strong on the environment, social issues, tourism, people.
I don’t want these people to govern where I live, but I seem to have no say in the matter. I didn’t want a Tory council either, but I am prepared to live with it obviously as I respect the democratic process, the rule by consent. There is no consent to rule by Tory quango. They don’t need it, they also don’t need to answer your concerns over building regulations, planning permission, concern over a new road – ruling by quango is an easy way to rid yourself of the pesky need to get voted in or to be meaningfully accountable. This is a very scary, extremely worrying development and one that needs to be understood and scrutinized and in my case, opposed, while I am still allowed to oppose.