Press Release from Save Newport Campaign

Follies for the Future? – Developers and politicians conspiring to ruin the country formerly known as green and pleasant – does anyone care?

 

On 6th September 2012, a joint statement was issued by the Prime Minister and Secretary of State Eric Pickles following a re-shuffle of Ministers, in which three leading figures who reported to SoS Pickles were re

moved from his Department. The three individuals were seen by many as most closely linked with the policy which has been enshrined in the Localism Act 2011 and within the much revised National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), which purported to give local people a real say in what should be built in the local communities. The Mary Portas High Street Review had been supported not only by Grant Shapps but, we were told, by the Prime Minister himself. However, prior to the joint statement, it became apparent that the Government were preparing to change direction on this including limiting the number of houses to be built in a local community,the percentages which were to be affordable, protection of the Green Belt, Section.106 money and then came the infamous “Conservatory” statement and apparent “free for all” planning policy.

At the core of what went before was the campaign that the National Trust, CPRE, the Daily Telegraph’s “Save our Countryside” campaign, even Michael Caine! and many others ran last year to bring about significant changes in the draft NPPF. Indeed the National Trust’s campaign and petition was covered widely in the media and seemed to have had some effect at the time.

But since the 6th September 2011 joint statement, there now appears to be complete silence from these campaigning bodies?

WHY ? What has happened to silence them?

The Lib Dems seem to have at least opened the door albeit with a weak response from Communities Minister Don Foster.

http://www.planningresource.co.uk/bulletin/planningdaily/article/1151942/reforms-not-done-deal-says-lib-dem-minister/

 

The response to the campaigning bodies to this is – again silence.

WHY ?

Turning to the example of my market town of Newport in Shropshire, a piece of ‘everyday England’, where following a 12 months campaign by local people, local campaigners managed to get Secretary of State Pickles in June 2012,to ‘call-in’ a proposal for a Sainsbury’s superstore to be built on an edge-of-town site, and which is the one remaining area of natural land which local people can access.Telford and Wrekin Council – who state that they are a “Co-operative Council” whose core values are “Honesty, openness and integrity” own this land and are selling it off to the usual big developers for circa £20m. During the past year they have tried every possible method to silence local opposition i.e. the very people to whom the Localism Act 2011 and NPPF is supposed to give a voice . In Newport every single group has declared their opposition: the Town Council, the Regeneration Partnership, the Chamber of Trade, Newport 21, the Wildlife trust and local CPRE but that cuts no ice with our elected members who still gave planning approval.Sainsbury’s are also planning more stores in Market Drayton and Whitchurch, traditional market towns that are just a few miles away and already struggling to retain high street trade and thus the fabric of their towns. If the Newport store goes ahead, its total footprint would be 87,000 sq ft – the biggest in the Midlands.

When I open my autumn National Trust magazine, to my surprise,what drops out but an advertising flyer from Sainsbury’s no less, telling me I can get £10 off my first online shop if I spend £50.

WHY is the National Trust giving such advertising opportunities to one of the ‘big 4’ supermarket operators,all of whom have huge land banks so that they can build supermarkets all over our countryside.

WHY ?

Would it not be better if the National Trust,at the very least, started to apply real pressure on these operators ( John Lewis Partnership is also listed as one of the founding corporate members of the Trust) to call for a halt before things go any further? Shopping habits, we are told, are rapidly changing and on-line is taking a larger and larger share. Even Tesco, hardly a friend of the Trust, is moving to provide on-line warehouse facilities like the largest retailer in the world Amazon, who has no superstores on our countryside, see: http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2012/sep/24/tesco-dark-stores-online-shopping

 

 

PLEASE National Trust, and all true respecters of our countryside and farmers, please take seriously the criticism that the Trust is just concerned with large country houses and picturesque countryside views. Fiona Reynolds, the outgoing Director, did so much to further the wider aims and inclusivity of the Trust – please don’t sell out to the destructive powers of multi-nationals at the last hurdle.

Can we not pick up the campaign from last year, and work with CPRE, politicians and journalists who really care about the future. The support is still there so please mobilise it again.

I wonder if the Secretary of State would today call-in the Sainsbury’s store plan in Newport, Shropshire? I doubt it! and in 15 months we would have a monument to an out of date form of retailing and an ugly blot on our landscape. In case you think you remember these phrases they were uttered by the CEO of Morrisons earlier this year.

 

Not just follies for the future – but follies which will blight not only rural economies but the quality of life for our nation.

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