We all adjust our opinions as we grow older, as clouds of uncertainty drift across the stark clarity of youthful vision. One area where I've adjusted relates to the freedom people have to live where they want. When I contested my first election, hoping to become the Montgomeryshire District Councillor for Berriew, the main plank of my manifesto was that people should be free to build a new house wherever they wanted to. My suspicion of 'The State' which underpins my politics to this day, was undiluted in those days. My policy stance was that development control should be abolished.
How on earth can a man capable of such thoughts ever become President of the Campaign for the Protection of Rural Wales I can almost hear you hiss. Well such a man couldn't. I've adapted my opinion. But I've not changed it completely. Which is why I welcome the new approach to development in rural Wales being taken by Jane Davidson, Assembly Minister for the Environment, Sustainability and Housing.
No longer do I want there to be a free-for-all. We do need a planning system. But I do want more flexibility given to Local Planning Authorities to grant permissions in support of the indigenous population. I welcome the Minister's proposal to allow housing for part-time help on farms. I also welcome her proposal to allow housing in support of other rural businesses. And I welcome new 'local needs' housing being allowed next to small clusters of existing houses. These changes will deliver more social stability in rural communities - a return to the position before the planning Taliban took over a few years ago.
Another area I hope will be supported by the Minister is granting greater freedom for Planning Authorities to adapt policy to suit their own areas of responsibility. Local democracy will only thrive if Councillors are allowed discretion. There is an unhealthy obsession with 'training' Councillors before they can serve on LPAs. I've never trusted this. Too much like brainwashing to support officer guidance. Mustn't complain though. Minister has moved policy a long way towards where I want to see it.