To most normal people for most of the time, planning is a dry subject. But then when it comes up and hits you, it’s like a knockout blow from a boxer.
It ought to be designed and executed to give local people the environment and living conditions they want to live in. If we wanted to live in London, or Swindon, or Bristol, we would do just that. The people of North Wilshire want to live in a rural area.
Now of course we need houses – especially low-cost housing to rent for local people. Of course we need factories and jobs and improved infrastructure. And most people who live in this area actually live in houses built in the last 50 years or so. So we must not be NIMBY, far less BANANA. (Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anybody.) But we are perfectly entitled to fight to keep the area as we like it.
The people of East Tytherton and Bremhill, Langley Burrell and Kington Langley, for example, are fighting a doughty battle to prevent Chippenham spilling over to engulf their villages. It is hard to imagine why the Planning Inspector concluded that we need 2,500 houses more than were previously planned, and I hope he can find somewhere else to put them rather than virgin green-belt surrounding Chippenham.
Even more illogical is the current talk of allowing a huge retail and distribution centre called The Range to the west of the Chippenham bypass. Surely if there is any natural boundary to the town it ought to be the soon-to-be dualled bypass?
What possible reason could there be for this unwanted, and hideously ugly, development in the countryside? “As a boost to the local economy,” they say, “and to provide 1,000 new jobs.”
Actually it’s so that this London-based developer can make loads of money out of desecrating our countryside.
In July there were 582 unemployed people in the whole of the North Wiltshire constituency. That is 1.3 per cent of the working population, the 564th lowest of the 650 constituencies in the UK.
An even dafter argument is now beginning to emerge. Because we have to have all these unwanted houses, some people are saying, we had better allow unwanted development in the countryside to give them all jobs.
That ignores the fact that very few of the purchasers of the £250,000-plus houses proposed will want to work in The Range. So let’s wake up. Houses, factories. We don’t need them here. We like the place pretty much just like it is.