Walking Class Hero: What does it all mean?
My morning commute (when I’m in the office) includes a short walk from Vauxhall over Vauxhall Bridge to St James Park. On the northern side of the bridge there’s some graffiti that appeared a few months ago. It reads: “I think I’m it… if you are too come 2 South Quay DLR…” Leaving aside the representations of ‘to’ (and anything else the grammar police want to comment on) I understand the meanings of all the words, where and what South Quay DLR is along with the concept of ‘it’ but the message is almost meaningless to me.
Also meaningless to me, is the following LSE Department of Mathematics conference: Colloquium in Combinatorics 2012. In this case I understand ‘in’ and ‘2012’ but not a clue on the other two words. On the other hand why is it everybody gets cheered up when they see dogs stick their heads out of car windows – what’s that all about? (That’s rhetorical I don’t really want to know.)
Hopefully both audiences these messages were aimed at understood them enough to act upon them appropriately. ‘It’ doesn’t really work all that well if only 1 person plays and a message painted on the pavement does suggest desperation. While the LSE wouldn’t favour an empty auditorium for anything let alone a talk dealing with finite and countable discrete structures. (Good old google but I’m really only a little bit wiser now.)
At the end of March the government – and I probably don’t need to remind you that it is the self-proclaimed ‘greenest government ever’ – finally published its National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF). At the outset everybody seemed to agree that the UK’s planning system needed reform, with most clamouring for radical reform. Our system was undoubtedly perverse, lacking democracy and localism and seemingly designed to arrive at a decision that everybody abhorred.
The government’s initial proposals – planning lite if you will – was met with howls of derision from all sides. It was difficult not to read them as a route to build our way out of recession but even so the construction industry appeared unsatisfied. Environmental charities including the Ramblers, the RSPB, National Trust and CPRE were horrified. The proposals offered a dystopian vision of huge swathes of the countryside being concreted over while available brown field sites were left empty to continue to decay. Led by Zac Goldsmith, 45 coalition MPs signed a letter to the Prime Minister, warning that simplification of the system “should not come at the expense of the ability of planning to protect and enhance the environment.”
So it was with much trepidation these diverse groups read the final report. Most have given them a cautious and provisional welcome, acknowledging the serious and valuable concessions that have been made. As Nicky Philpott, Ramblers Director of Policy & Campaigns, says: “The Ramblers is pleased that the government has listened to some of the public’s concerns about protecting the spaces where we walk, rest and play, and that the Minister affirmed his commitment to a vision of sustainable development which includes the environment. Britain’s walking charity also welcomes the recognition of the importance of sustainable transport, protecting and enhancing the path network and the direction to local authorities to improve public access to and enjoyment of the coast.”
The proof of this particular pudding is certainly going to be in the eating and if I can throw in another cliché – the devil will be found in the detail. Nicky goes on, and I couldn’t agree more: “However, further in-depth study of the framework is needed in order to assess whether it provides the protection walkers, and the wider public, want to see for our local landscapes and green spaces and the Ramblers will now be looking into these areas in detail.” These measures will have a long-lasting effect on our environment – one that outlives this and many future governments.
For many of us the problem isn’t planning. We already have vast areas of land available today for development. As I understand it there are about 250,000 plots in the South East alone, in addition to 31,000 acres of brownfield land. That, and the fact that roughly 90% of applications were successful under the old rules, suggests the problem is neither lack of land to develop, nor a planning system that was not sufficiently permissive. By relaxing the rules we are unlikely to see more development overall but we could see more development in the wrong places. Developers might get richer but for the economy there would be no significant surge in growth. Like many things today (or any day I guess) it could be seen as largely a problem of finance. The banks have frozen their lending and simply aren’t helping people – while at the same time helping themselves plenty.
To be honest any language that embraces contronyms positively invites multiple interpretations. At first glance it seems NPPF is a vehicle that may well work for everyone but we will need to see a lot of practical application to discover what it really means and whether the letter of the law is more important than the spirit.
Finally, to misquote The Teardrop Explodes: ‘Bless my cotton socks I’m on the Board’. At the recent Ramblers General Council in Leicester I was elected to Board of Trustees. (Under my real name obviously.) If you’re interested in what this Board member does you might want to give this blog a look.
- Slut – What Does It All Mean
- Toyah – It’s A Mystery
- Jimmy Cliff – Hard Road To Travel
- The Teardrop Explodes – Reward
- The Teardrop Explodes – Treason
- Beastie Boys – Pass The Mic - RIP Adam Yauch: “What’s running through my mind comes through in my walk”
Walking Class Hero @walkngclasshero