Monday, 7 November 2011

Tales from our National Parks

Are any of you following the BBC series Tales from our National Parks? The theme combining heritage, landscape and planning would always interest me and with the other related planning thread of Prudhoe Town Centre I was bound to watch. Up there in my personal interest stakes with the Nick Crane series on towns earlier in 2011. What do I get from these programmes? That planners are in a strange world of their own. Last night the issue was the Tyndrum Gold Mine. It was absolutely clear an entire community on its ankers wanted the project and had waited quite long enough. Planning permission had previously been granted by an earlier authority. So what did a new National Park authority do with a chief executive from Greenpeace? Erect hoops every inch of the way. The whole issue really came down to the tailings dam, dealing with the waste. Common sense might have said say to the applicant, we support you but unless your application deals with the tailings in a way we can approve, don't bother. Oh no, the whole expense of a frustrated application was indulged in. A 12/10 vote down and another year spent on a re-application. All this effort could have been saved with some straight talking at the start. In reality life is not that simple. Perhaps the Park Authority never really wanted to say yes and had hoped that after one rejection, the applicant would go away. But they did not, instead reading between the lines, I suspect some influential supporters lent on the Park Authority (telling scene of the Park Convener giving the Chief Exec some guidance). Thankfully anyway Tyndrum will get its gold mine now. Sadly Honister does not look likely to get its zip wire. The Lakes say they want to be Britain's adventure capital. Yet they don't want a zip wire at Honister exactly where a cableway from the slate quarry worked for decades. The park authority has removed sports boats from one of the most obvious locations in Britain: Windermere, a huge space well able to accomodate speedboats in designated zones. I have my serious doubts that those running National Parks have any real ability to support business. They view their landscapes as precious artforms when in reality they are nothing of the sort. All the great National Parks had their wealth built on industry and this their current guardians are in denial over. And back at the ranch in Prudhoe, the story is rather different. Here there is a beautiful valley with no protection. There is a public who have made their views pretty clear: that any development should fit the landscape and not engender monopoly. And although the jury is still out (because a key meeting got pulled) I am not convinced the community's opinion really counts for much. That is the common thread: why don't planners listen to community opinion. And will the Prudhoe community have to take the type of measure the folk of Tyndrum did to get heard?

Also in today's news another Northumberland planning story whereby a 230 year old pub bites the dust for yet another Supermarket in Morpeth? What is it with those folk? Morpeth was a lovely town now being totally given over to car parks and supermarkets. There are at least three developments already in existence.

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