Archive for November, 2012

The anti-planning minister?

The Planning Minister, Nick Boles, is a clever, engaging man. It is good to see a politician interested in ideas. But it helps if the ideas are good ones and have some connection to reality.

As it is, Boles is struggling to make the transition from freewheeling intellectual full of radical new thinking that sounds great in a London think-tank seminar, to someone who can actually improve things in the real world. He is beginning to remind me of Sir Keith Joseph, the ‘mad monk’, an influential thinker but a poor Minister.[1] Continue reading ‘The anti-planning minister?’

Tree Diseases – CPRE letter in The Times

About six months ago one of CPRE’s Vice Presidents, Caroline Cranbrook (Lady Cranbrook) contacted me to urge CPRE to do something about tree diseases, in particular acute oak decline. I looked into the issue and did, er, not very much. The issue was far from the headlines, but it was clearly not being ignored by the Government and relevant NGOs. Although CPRE has many members who know a good deal about trees and woodland, it is not an area we have worked in closely for many years, and it seemed unlikely to me that we would be able to add much to the debate.

That was a mistake. The issue was not being ignored, but nor was it being tackled with much vigour. It might have been useful for a body like CPRE to try to raise the alarm. Continue reading ‘Tree Diseases – CPRE letter in The Times’

Clutter in protected landscapes

I gave evidence on Tuesday to the House of Commons committee dealing with the Growth and Infrastructure Bill.

I suppose everyone has had the experience after an exam, interview or argument of thinking, ‘I wish I had expressed that better’.  That is certainly how I felt after the evidence session, and not only because I dried up at one point and had to ask for the question to be repeated (my goldfish impression didn’t seem to be doing the trick). Continue reading ‘Clutter in protected landscapes’

Sylvia Townsend Warner

The December Countryman is now out, available in all good newsagents, or by subscription. I have reproduced my column below, with an added footnote. Continue reading ‘Sylvia Townsend Warner’

A London Farm

I had a great day on Friday, visiting an organic farm in Kent – Silcocks Farm near Tenterden. But I felt guilty because my children would have liked the chance to fuss over some animals. So today I took them out into the country – all the way to Woodlands Farm in south east London. Continue reading ‘A London Farm’

The CPRE Lecture: Patrick McLoughlin on Rural Transport

Yesterday Patrick McLoughlin, the Secretary of State for Transport, gave the CPRE Lecture at the London Transport Museum. It was a very good event, with about 100 people attending and a lively question and answer session. I was impressed that the Secretary of State addressed every question he was asked – though that’s not quite the same thing as answering them. Continue reading ‘The CPRE Lecture: Patrick McLoughlin on Rural Transport’

The green between the grey: CPRE seminar on urban parks

Since I blogged about the first seminar in CPRE’s series on the country and the city we’ve held three more events, all fascinating and all available (the main presentations, at least) on our website.

The second symposium was on urban green space, particularly city parks. Continue reading ‘The green between the grey: CPRE seminar on urban parks’

A comic American writer takes on the scourge of litter

I don’t want this blog to turn into a series of plugs for radio programmes, but I enjoyed this evening’s Radio 4 essay on rubbish by David Sedaris. Like Bill Bryson, Sedaris is an American who has fallen in love with the English countryside but is bewildered by our willingness to spoil it with litter. He is funny – I liked his description of Lucozade as an energy drink that gives people the strength to throw its bottles further – but also outraged. And he is kind enough to name check CPRE – we have been particularly active in trying to tackle one of his bugbears, littering from cars.

You can listen to the programme for another week.

Birmingham Council’s threat to the West Midlands Green Belt

In September CPRE produced a report revealing plans to build some 80,000 new homes in the Green Belt. A month later Eric Pickles, said at Conservative Party Conference: “Protecting the character of the countryside is stamped deep into the heart of Conservativism. And I want to be absolutely clear: the Green Belt plays a vital role in stopping urban sprawl, and we will protect it.”

One could be forgiving for asking who is telling the truth, CPRE who say the Green Belt is being significantly eroded, even given current protections, or the Communities Secretary, who says he will protect it? Continue reading ‘Birmingham Council’s threat to the West Midlands Green Belt’