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Monday, 2 May 2016

Say It Loud, I'm A NIMBY And I'm Proud!

They've let me have a go at the Editor's column again this month in the Derby Telegraph! (I could have put that better, but you know what I mean)

It doesn't look as if this will ever be posted on the DT website, so here's the content for those who can't read it on the photo above:

I'm a NIMBY!

There, I've said it.  For those who don't know this particular acronym, it stands for Not In My Back Yard and refers to those who object to any development in their neighbourhood. 

Governments, both national and local, tend to refer to NIMBYs rather sneeringly, on the grounds that, if we had our way, there would be no development at all and, therefore, no new housing stock and industry in which our young people can live and work.  I entirely accept this argument but it doesn't change my position one iota.

You see, in my opinion, to be a NIMBY is a perfectly economically rational position to hold.  Why should we be expected to welcome any development which brings considerable short and medium term negative consequences, such as; loss of landscape or natural amenities, increased traffic, the noise and atmospheric pollution of building work, when the development typically confers little or no positive outcomes for those who already live in the area?

 'Ah yes,' our political leaders would no doubt say, 'but that it is a selfish attitude.  We need to think of the greater good of society.'  Well, I would quite like to see what the reaction of Messrs. Cameron, Corbyn or Farron would be if you proposed to knock up a few starter homes on their respective back lawns.  I doubt they would be quite so sanguine about it.

I'm particularly exercised about this at the moment for two reasons.  Firstly, because our village is currently under siege by property developers.  Apparently, our lack of a local plan (because of some bureaucratic nonsense) means that we are virtually powerless to stop any available land in the vicinity being concreted over in the near future.  Currently, it looks like the population of our small village may well double. 

Secondly, a Bygones article I wrote recently (April article) featured a picture of the offices of a company I worked for back in the 1970s.  These had previously been the home of the Crescent Brewery in Burton upon Trent and were a fine example of brewery architecture.  Yet the picture had been taken just before this building was demolished to make way for an anonymous and featureless warehouse.  I had forgotten just how striking the original building was, until I saw the photograph, and I wondered how any planning authority worthy of the name could have allowed this piece of architectural vandalism to have taken place?

You might say that we should put our trust in the planning authorities, and I would say that you should consider taking more water with it.  If you stop for a moment, in any reasonably sized town or city, and look at the range of buildings surrounding you, I think it's instructive to reflect that the mess before you hasn't grown organically, or happened by accident.  It was actually planned to look like this.  Highly qualified and well-trained people brought all of their expertise to bear to create this environment in which you are to live and work. 

Equally, if your town centre is currently a wasteland of charity shops and pawnbrokers (and most are), remember that this is the result of a long term policy to encourage out of town development and discourage parking in town centres (or to earn as much money from it as possible).  It isn't the result of forces beyond our elected leaders' control; it is the direct outcome of their policies down the years.
Tourists don't flock to admire the modern and clinical planning of places like Milton Keynes, they head to those places like York, Oxford and Cambridge which have retained their architectural heritage and the nooks and crannies of haphazard development over the centuries.  Perhaps they know something our planners don't?

So, I'm a NIMBY.  I don't want anything else in my immediate vicinity concreted over, thank you, and, even if I did, I would have no faith in the result being any improvement whatsoever on what has been lost in the process.

I think I'll go and lie down in a darkened room now.  Can you shut the door and not make any noise please?  I may be some time.