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by Nigel Swift

Can I borrow £100 granny?”  “No indeed you can’t” “Two shillings then?” “Certainly, here you are”.

That’s how my brother raised finance in the fifties and I’ve noticed the technique – ask for the world to soften people up till they’re grateful to agree to what you really intend – has been used by public bodies ever since. Especially when it comes to roads. In the eighties they told me the Hagley bypass would go straight through my house unless I expressed a preference for an alternative route – one which they always had in mind.

Their successors, Highways England, have adopted the same scare ’em tactics at Stonehenge, trying to manipulate local opinion by cynically recommending a rat run through the villages. Now they’ve apologised saying it was merely to highlight traffic in the area but they’ve removed the tweet “to avoid confusion”. Hmmm. I was amused by the comment of one member of the public leaving one of the consultation events: “I found it hard to talk to robots who are pre-programmed to talk bollox”.

Now Historic England, English Heritage and the National Trust have used the same tactic by saying that after all the tunnel they’ve supported is too damaging and they favour amendments. How noble and caring! What’s left is still 99% outrageous but they’d like credit for suggesting a 1% improvement. Well I for one find that awful. These are three bodies which are mandated and paid to look after the World Heritage landscape not to support massive new damage to it or to do so by inflicting cheap granny-cons on the public. I hope the public and UNESCO don’t fall for it.

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