Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Our Green and Pleasant Land

Struggling for time to blog at present - mainly because of my committment to contesting the Montgomeryshire constituency at the next General Election. There si so much to be done. Campaign meeting this morning which prevented me attending a meeting of Campaign for ther Protection of Rural Wales (CPRW) trustees. Which brings me to an important full page report in yesterday's Telegraph about the disappearance of 'Unspoilt England' - which strongly featured the views of our big sister body, the CPRE.

I agree with the main thrust of what the CPRE are reported to be saying - but I do think it paints too great a Doomsday scenario. In general, I believe there is a danger in overplaying one's hand with these sort of comments. We've all seen these Al Gore type warnings of the end of civilisation as we know it - and a lot of us are suffering catastrophe fatigue. I'm particularly concerned that this report focussed on dubious long term threats which droned out the real message - which is that our Government intends to pervert the planning process to give itself almost unfettered power to approve large scale development without public consultation. A Planning White Paper has been published which is probably the greatest attack on the public's right to have a say on developments such as nuclear power stations and massive wind farm developments.

The CPRE are also quoted as calling for other totally unrealistic policies. For example, there is no way that we can stop airport expansion. More realistic would be acall for a switch in taxation to green taxes which encouraged more efficient and quieter aircraft. The biggest issue here is the one that we dare not talk about, which is keeping some control on the number of people living in Britain. If we carry on allowing millions more people to move into Britain, there will be no alternative to concreting over more of our green and pleasant land. Government makes its choice - and almost always takes the easy short-term option.


Dr. Christopher Wood (avatar: "Farscape") said...

Frankly - it is time to promote apartment buildings (of high quality construction) - to reduce the pressure on building on our otherwise fast disappearing green and pleasant land.

Brian Interested said...

That only housing the problem Dr. We need to look at the source of the problem for this one and combat it there. We need a govt with a long-term view that will discuss these types of issues without a hidden agena. It's not just 'green fields' we need, but also lovely views

Glyn Davies said...

There are lots of quality flats going up in cities already - in some places like Cardiff there are more than the market can absorb. But this does not tackle the issue of sufficient housing where people want to live. My own opinion has always been that simply drawing absolute lines around existing 'settlements' creates ugly development , often with no aesthetic appeal. There must be a willingness by planning authorities to allow development outside of these settlements - based on judgement about impact on the landscape and standard of building. The pressure to force everyone to live in each other's back pockets in destroying the environment of our towns as well - and contributing to the social breakdown of our society. Now, this may be an unusual opinion for the President of the Campaign for the Protection of Rural Wales!

Dr. Christopher Wood (avatar: "Farscape") said...

I understand your concerns, but have you actually lived or spent time in a good quality apartment area? If the building is built to high quality with building management in a front office on the ground floor - a lobby that looks like a 4 star hotel, grounds kept immaculate, indoor exercise room that would not look out of place in a top star hotel on the Vegas strip - outdoor swimming pool with full time attendant staff. Walls so thick that one can't hear the neighbors.

My last and only house was a modest house in Cardiff's Rhiwbina district, it was a wee semi-detached house with a small front/back gardens. Nice area - but with the population of the UK going to hit 70 million and then some, and only a finite amount of "green and pleasant land". Sorry, but we need to think about that. Flats and apartment buildings in the UK have a terrible image - and for good reason, they were built to poor standard and very badly managed.

I hated the notion of living in "flats", but that is how many people live in Paris, in downtown Chicago, along the lakefront - and it is fantastic - it's like living in a resort, balcony, great views, central air conditioning, and fantastic high standard of living. Contrast that with council mid/high-rise flats and there is no comparison. Build high quality flats and manage them well and people will have a better feeling about them. My eyes have been opened - I was surprised as anyone that it is a great way to live. It's all about management and build-quality ... and frankly, a little bit less selfishness wanting one's own "castle".

With the population heading for 70 million and then some - we can't all live in castles - time to think about better building codes for mid/high rise apartment buildings. Large lobby areas and good quality in-door sports facilities, and a foot print that puts a hundred plus underground car parking - means a small footprint per occupied dwelling.

Green in Splott said...

What I don't understand from your post is why we can't stop airport expansion.

You're certainly right about one thing - it would be more realistic to use taxes to make the airlines more efficient. The problem is that there's no technical likelihood of those efficiency savings allowing the sorts of cuts in carbon emissions that you know we need to make (over 3% per year from the UK).

It's not realistic in the medium term to keep polluting. The Stern Report showed that it would cost us massively to allow climate change to get much worse.

You know all about this from some of the great work you did in the Assembly. So it's a bit disappointing that you're now saying that airport expansion can't be halted and you're heading up a group which has been central to the frustration of renewable energy devlopments in Wales.

Dr. Christopher Wood (avatar: "Farscape") said...

Welcome to the family flat


I had a house in the burbs - but now live in an apartment - great views from our our balcony - swimming pool with attendant, gym, safe off-road parking, excellent fire saftey features including sprinklers in every room, well kept lawns, security, central a/c, superb lobby, friendly staff (hard to be lonely when you say hello to several people each day), front desk staff, maintenance at the touch of a phone button. If something is not working there is nothing to worry about - building maintenance staff take care of it ... and our carbon footprint is lower than an average semi-detached house.