I was just thinking... is compromise the answer to new homes debate?

No Entry in Ashwell

No Entry in Ashwell - Credit: Archant

Colin Blumenau’s take on life in Crow country

I WAS just thinking about new houses. Prompted by the arrival on my doorstep of a letter from … well I don’t know who it was from as it was unsigned. Some rampant activists I presume. Except that unlike most activists these folk don’t want to change the world. Quite the reverse in fact. They don’t want anything to change.

But I’m getting ahead of myself a little. There is a proposal to build 33 new houses on the beautiful Claybush Hill above Ashwell. This appears to be in addition to the 45 new homes already either approved or at the pre-planning stage.

The letter is a call to arms to defeat the proposal by bombarding the planning authority with objections on the grounds of intrusion on the landscape and exceeding the capacity of the village services. The school is mentioned, as is the sewerage system. Odd bedfellows I thought.

The counter argument is that people have to live somewhere and, as the agricultural industry declines in this country, why not develop the land from which the rural economy is conspicuously failing to earn a living?

But of course, it’s not that simple. What we are dealing with here are really intractable problems. The potential development of our green and pleasant land raises emotive issues surrounding national identity, the population explosion, and the inherent right of the individual to live where he or she wants to live. The much-heralded influx of further European migrants adds fuel to the flames of controversy and what initially seemed to be a local issue becomes one of national and international resonance.

The trouble is that, for the fair-minded, there is no immediate solution. The absolute positions of the Not In My Back Yard-ers and the It’s The Only Answer-ers are both untenable. Good old British compromise seems to be the way it will have to go. Perhaps fewer houses will be built, mollifying some and enraging others. Nothing will really change. Yes, the view will be slightly spoiled. Yes, there will be pressure on the village infrastructure. But we’ll all rub along again once the fuss has died down.

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By reaching this compromise we will however be solving nothing. We’ll simply be laying down a further stock of intractable problems for our sons and daughters. The population of the planet is reproducing at a massively alarming rate and consumption of natural resources is out of control. Is there anyone brave enough or capable enough to attempt, like Canute, to stem the tide? Or is that attempt, like Canute’s, ultimately doomed to failure?

As I write this I look out of my window up towards Claybush Hill, the site of the proposed development. The irony of the road marking is stark. Between two ancient buildings, the oldest in the village, is a narrow lane. On the tarmac is written “No Entry”.