National Trust chairman Sir Simon Jenkins recently explained with great eloquence why he fears for the future of our stunning scenery. We thought it worth highlighting here because so often encroachment into the Green Belt also involves encroachment into the settings of monuments. Damage to settings tends to attract less public indignation than damage to scenery but if it can be resisted at the same time that’s fine.
“From the Iron Age fort at the south end of the Malvern Hills is a view of incomparable beauty. West lies the Severn vale towards Evesham, with the Cotswolds stretched across the horizon. East is the soft green of the Wye Valley, and south the dark outline of the Forest of Dean. Here, Elgar sought inspiration for marches of pomp and circumstance. Here is the landscape that Anglo-Indians are said to have recalled most often when dreaming of England.
To a modern government minister, such talk must seem sentimental tosh. The Severn Valley is an ideal growth zone, sprawling round the M5 corridor northwards from Gloucester to the Midlands, perfect for warehouse estates and out-of-town housing units. Already, plastic polytunnels are spreading up the Wye Valley, while the hills of the Welsh border are sprouting wind turbine applications. This is the new “coalition landscape”, and it has nothing to do with Elgar.
I have been to every corner of industrial England and there is no shortage of places on which to build. Thousands of acres of post-industrial sites and infill land, in the South as well as the North, are lying idle. They offer a tremendous challenge to English planning. But location, setting and some thought for beauty are all. The Government’s policy of an ubiquitous “presumption in favour of sustainable development”, defined merely as profitable, is the most philistine concept in planning history”.