HAYES IN THE HOUSE: By MP John Hayes
The great challenge of reconciling tradition with aspirations is ever evident. How we ensure that people can realise their ambitions without unhappy consequences for the things we hold dear obliges careful consideration.
Perhaps the most vivid illustration of this tension is development. Many people are instinctively resistant to new planning applications – and rightly so, given that post-war Britain is peppered with identikit housing estates superimposed on existing communities with little consideration for local building materials or vernacular architectural styles.
It’s understandable, therefore, that sensible people want no more. Erroneously derided as ‘NIMBYs’, the brave souls who object to unsuitable buildings and structures brutally imposed on rural communities – particular in our flat Fenland landscape - are the true defenders of the countryside.
Development, where necessary, should be incremental; reflecting and respecting what is already there. We must better integrate new buildings into their existing surroundings - flowing with the landscape, so protecting and enhancing the beauty of our natural environment.
This emphasis on development as part of a continuum is perhaps best summed up by His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales, who wrote in ‘A Vision for Britain’ that the built environment “must be inspired by tradition and the laws of nature.”
The easily grasped, though utterly crass, notion that ‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder’ has been used to justify much of the ugliness imposed on our country by careless planners over recent decades – and still some people laud the brutalist tower blocks that blighted lives, destroyed communities and disfigured many town and cities.
How thankful we should be to live here, in an area free from that particular sort of soulless ubiquity; rural Lincolnshire being characterised by market towns and precious villages set against our glorious Fenland skies.
Nevertheless we can do more to protect the character of the Lincolnshire fens. That’s why I have long campaigned against the imposition of industrial wind turbines on communities that don’t want them; why I continue to fight large scale industrial solar parks in the open countryside; and why I have asked South Holland District Council to produce a local design guide and area specific design appraisals to inform the aesthetics of new development in our district.
Ultimately, a civilisation is largely defined by what it builds. How we see the Roman Empire or Ancient Greece is shaped by what they left behind for those born later - places to live, work, meet or worship. All successful civilisations have looked beyond the mere utility of immediate practicalities, to consider form as well as function.
Those of us who know that our sense of place shapes our sense of worth, know too that the built environment is inseparable from individual and communal wellbeing. Our collective value depends on the things that we require to be happy, healthy and secure – such as family, community, and the beauty of our surroundings.
Perhaps, when looking at the challenges ahead, we’ll take care to cast a look back and learn.