richard pierce

richard pierce

10 July 2017

Our Neighbourhood

I have spent the last few weeks wondering why the hell there is so much traffic on Church Street, but, preoccupied with other even more useless and mindless things, the thoughts have slipped into the back of my mind, along with a multitude of other things (which are actually more important - like old age and the hope that it's just an illusion; and the pain of other families at the loss of loved ones).

And then, watching the thousandth (or so it seemed) car pass me by when I was trying to cross the road to safety and pavement, I was struck by what for me was an irrational thought - what if planning was better than chaos?

So, as an ex-Parish councillor, I started to dig into what was happening with the Neighbourhood Plan. Because I realised, very late, apparently, that a decent Neighbourhood Plan is actually the best way to stop the government steamrollering villages into accepting unrealistic development without parallel infrastructure development, that it's a way of stopping developers from taking advantage of villages for profit alone, that it's the only way of ensuring villages grow organically by forcing developers and landowners of actually paying their statutory dues when they want to build houses on their land.

You may remember my very vocal opposition to the Grove Farm development, the one that some young parish councillors supported because it had a significant proportion of affordable housing on it. The affordable housing's all gone (which is not a surprise to me, as you know), because developers changed their minds after approval was given. Very frustrating, and, unfortunately, very predictable.

So I came across the agenda for the Parish Council meeting of 10th July, and all its associated papers. It turns out that the Neighbourhood Planning Committee (which was supposedly a sub-committee of the Parish Council) had no terms of reference at all, and was, effectively, being run as a renegade committee, something I was never made aware of in my brief six months as a parish councillor (enough time to get sufficient material for a long novel). I suppose I shouldn't be surprised by the non-disclosure nor by the lack of terms of reference. Feudal barons (or those aspiring to that status) have a way of hiding things from plebs like me (they probably vote Brexit, too, and curse my European flag every time they pass my house).

The thing is, some decent terms of reference have now been drawn up by the council (which seems, at last, to be free of dead and corrupt wood), terms of reference due to be voted on this evening (10th July 2017). Instinct tells me that there may be some bullies appearing from the woodwork to try to intimidate sitting parish councillors to vote against these terms of reference, that the feudal barons and their tenants may make an attempt to stop the modernisation of this parish. Try to be there and to silence this over-powerful minority which has been trying to make this parish their fiefdom for many years, using Masonry (not the brick type) and illegal intimidation. I will try to be there myself, although my writer's vanity (and ignorance) means that I'm on the radio tomorrow, promoting my latest song and novel.

It has become apparent to me, whilst watching the traffic pass my front door and trying to escape death from speeding locals (and non-locals) that the only way to ensure viable development of this village (and thanks to my very good friend Alan for opening my eyes to this) is to have a Neighbourhood Plan which forces developers and government to fund the infrastructure needed to cope with any further development.

We can't get any bigger without corresponding roads and schools and doctors' surgeries (paying fair rents - but that's another story) and water run-offs, and land-owners (direct or family-related) paying their dues.

See you later.

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