I do not like the ongoing undignified row between Government and organisations concerned with protecting the countryside - suffering 'split loyalties'. Am a longstanding member of the National Trust and until elected MP for Montgomeryshire was President of the Campaign for the Protection of Rural Wales. Was also Chair of a Local Planning Authority for 7 years in the 1980s. This row concerns disagreement over plans to redesign and simplify national planning policy (in England)- which is undoubtedly needed. But there should be constructive debate. Inevitably there will be disagreement, but there's no need for a shouting match.
Friends, who share my love for the countryside are telling me (as Clive Aslet is doing in today's Telegraph) that the Government's proposal is to "let development rip through those parts of Britain that aren't formally protected as National Parks or part of the Green Belt". They tell me that "we are throwing out of the window the directing of development towards brown field sites". This is unjustified over-the-top language. But Government Ministers have responded by dismissing these concerns as 'selfish nihilism' and my friends as 'left-wingers within the national HQs of pressure groups'. They are no such thing. They are people who care about the countryside, and do not want to see it sacrificed to accommodate rapidly expanding population levels, driven by immigration and family breakdown. Their concerns should be taken seriously.
At root, the problem is too many people. If the population of Britain is allowed to continue to grow as it has been doing, and is doing, some of our cherished countryside is going to disappear under concrete. And its no good forcing our rapidly expanding population into ever more densely populated urban pockets. Recent rioting on the streets has shown us where that leads. Today, we learn that in the last year, net immigration was around a quarter of a million people. This is unsustainable, and will destroy the Britain we know. There is something depressingly pathetic about reducing such an important issue to an exchange of insults. I'm going to have to take more interest in the proposals to change planning regulations, even if they do not apply in Wales.