Saturday, 18 August 2012

How do we make planning fun?

It’s been rather depressing in the garden recently with squashes withering in the cold and tomatoes dropping with blight but one surprise was this flower which rose on a 60cm stalk from my bog garden in front of the beans. I’ve never seen it before so I guess that it must be enjoying the wet! Does anyone know what it is? The last week has been hot and the plants are making a valiant attempt to catch up before autumn arrives.

I spent an afternoon this week in a very hot council chamber in order to speak on a local planning issue . One of the agenda items that I had to sit through was further phases of development at Queens Hills, Costessey. It was the usual depressing stuff, I’m afraid. One of the councillors asked why no allotments were included and the developer replied that it was a bit late to ask that but he would see what he could squeeze in. There was not a single mention of cycle paths and the main way of encouraging people not to use cars seems to be not to provide parking places. Highways admitted that travel planning was ‘in its infancy’ in Norfolk, I wonder if they have heard of climate change yet.

The committee had 20 other items on the agenda and were probably going to be there till well into the night – so in the end, a living environment for thousands of people, that will last a hundred years was decided in 30 minutes by 10 mainly elderly people. I don’t blame the committee who get very little recompense for giving up huge amounts of time – it is the lack of interest from all of us that is the problem – the time to raise issues is when the plans are being made. Which is what I’m trying to do in Little Melton, where we face massive developments on all sides – anyone care to lend a hand? Reading planning documents is not a lot of fun but it has to be done if we are to create something better than how Queens Hills is going to end up.

A squirrel taking a look at a development site


  1. I think your plant may be a Senecio of some kind, John, not common ragwort by the look of the leaves but possibly Saracen's Woundwort or Senecio sarracenicus:

    That is depressing news about the planning. As I was reading your piece, two letters from Waveney District Council came informing us that the Costa Coffee application had been accepted for Southwold High Street.

    After an initial refusal the developers appealed and have now got the go-ahead. Hundreds of people wrote in objecting to the second application. I've had conversations with people, both local and visitors, and overheard many more. I heard no support for having Costa in town.

    So in the face of it all here's to the plants rallying in this late summer heat!!!

  2. Actually Mark, I think the plant is a variety of
    I do have the advantage of seeing the whole plant - in amongst the other bog plants! Strange how similar the flowers are to the plant you suggested.

  3. Dear John,

    Planning is not supposed to be fun, so developers who speak the lingo can get and do what they like. Sometimes they can be resisted, but even when people really get behind a campaign (as in Costas in both Southwold and Totnes), county councils are geared towards growth at all costs, a cog in the great machine of progress, sometimes in spite of themselves.

    I've just been talking with road protesters from the 1990s at the Uncivilisation festival (20 years anniversary of Twyford Down this September).There is a massive 46 road building scheme at present in the UK (not just the NDR, which is dependent on funds from these peri-urban Norwich developments), so clearly something larger, more radical and united is needed to shift industrial mindsets here.

    Good luck with your plants! I am thrilled with my first rainbow chard crop, also peas and sorrel and French beans.

    All the best,


  4. We certainly need to shift mindsets because most readers of this blog know exactly what society is sleepwalking towards. But blaming it all on developers would be wrong - they merely exploit the opportunities that politicians (who represent the will of the people) present. The planning system was not designed to protect local businesses from the likes of Costa and the predictable outcome unfortunately provides another excuse for people to say 'what can I do, it's all a fix'.

    The planning system is far from perfect and it makes cleaning my flower pots look like a fun evening but the real enemy is public apathy.