Here we go again.

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Kent Down Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. See it while you can. It’s about to be concreted over.

 

Monday morning and what do I find in my inbox? Yet another proposal to concrete over a large area of Kent countryside in the name of progress. This time it is the Highways Agency who are proposing creating a massive lorry park off of the M20.

I, along with millions of others, was affected by Operation Stack last year. This, for those who don’t live in Kent, is when the channel tunnel is not working due to industrial action or bad weather or migrants attempting to reach England through it and lorries are parked on the M20 until it opens again. It is a pain to be sure and last summer the area did rather grind to a halt. But until last year Operation Stack really didn’t seem too much of a problem.

So it seems a bit of an overreaction to create a massive lorry park to deal with an occasional problem but, as you read further into the consultation document you begin to realise that what is actually being proposed is some permanent overnight lorry parking facility which would net the government thousands in fees.

While the powers that be wander off with the cash us in Kent are left with increased pollution and flooding issues from the run off from this facility, increased traffic problems year round on local roads, not to mention the loss of woodland, downland, a scheduled ancient monument, Westhanger Abbey, and an ugly intrusion either into the villages of Sellindge and Stanford or the Kent Down AONB.

And of course this giant headline grabbing ego project does nothing to solve the real problems. Security at the channel tunnel and the increasing amounts of freight traffic on our roads. If only the government had the ability to think long term and deal with the real issues, but, no, this is too much to hope for, so I await once again the vision of David Cameron coming over the hill in his hunter wellies with his cement mixer in tow.

If this makes you as angry as it does me then you can attempt to get your voice heard here.

https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/management-of-freight-vehicles-through-kent

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A Good Read – John Betjeman’s Collected Poems

thJohn Betjeman’s Collected Poems

I have fallen in love with John Betjeman. It is my usual crush, an unobtainable man (in this case long dead!) with whom I feel a kinship.

In his collected poems, first published in 1958, Betjeman is nostalgic for a vanishing Britain and so am I. I am told that nostalgia is wrong, that we must all embrace sustainable progress into a modern Britain I want no part of.

Instead I am drawn to Betjeman’s world of tennis played on the lawns of country houses and hills lined with elm trees. A less peopled country of winding roads with fewer cars and more detail.

I seek Betjeman’s world on long cycles through wintry lanes, in quiet woods and parish churches. I close my eyes to much of modern Britain and instead seek a country that offers food for the soul, that enriches not erodes.

But in Betjeman I do not find a poet of the past, despite being dead for over twenty years, many of his collected poems come across as surprisingly relevant. He depicts a countryside trashed by pylons and ugly developments and ugly values. A world of nature and depth consumed by plastic and triviality. Betjeman’s poems seem more than relevant in an era where all the little weedy paradises where children once played and learned to love nature are consumed by a tide of cheaply thrown up housing estates which will lock children into their box rooms to stare at computer screens and learn to shop.

Betjeman’s poems have an air of sadness, of knowing the fight against the destruction of all you love in your country is fruitless, it will be destroyed by politicians and planners and developers. As our wild places are gobbled up by housing at an alarming rate then Betjeman is a reminder of what beauty we threw away.

Another one bites the dust

There it goes. Land at Conyer earmarked for development Copyright: N Chadwick

There it goes. Land at Conyer earmarked for development
Copyright: N Chadwick

Last night I travelled to Conyer Creek. There is a spot on the wall of the old brickfields where you can sit and with a view down the river and hear the nightingales sing. Last night one sang it’s full repertoire, whistling and syruping and twizzling amidst the scrub. It is the last spring that a nightingale will sing from this spot. It is the last spring I can sit at the bend of the creek and see the shelduck fly to the marshes. Conyer Creek, along with seemingly every other little scrubby delight in Kent, has been given over to development.

A company called Pod Architects is developing 24 luxury homes on the site. Twenty Four? I very much doubt this will be the affordable housing the government dupes us into thinking it is supplying. Instead it will be twenty four wealthy people owning second homes with a view of the creek, twenty four portfolio holders buying them up and renting them out at stupid prices.

How can this happen? How can permission be given for the destruction of a site that is so valuable for wildlife when it will only build 24 homes? Of course this part of Conyer is a brownfield site. useless, valueless in the eyes of many, except this is nonsense. Many brownfield sites are highly valuable to wildlife, irreplaceable for insects, reptiles and all those little birds flying across from Africa in the spring only to find the places they traditionally breed given over to hideous toy town developments of fake fishing cottages.

Everywhere I look these sites are going. Conyer Creek destroyed, Bakers Field, a scrubby patch of land at the end of my road where little owls hunts and orchids bloom, threatened, Lodge Hill, the best nightingale site we have, not yet safe. At the same time, on the outskirts of our towns, super large retail developments with mega car parks are built. It does not add up. Does any town centre in the entire country really need another supermarket? Wouldn’t this land be better used for housing? Wouldn’t it be bet to tackle the real problems, over population and too many second homes lying idle all week?

But of course, no government has the stomach for that, and certainly not the current bunch with their hands in developers pockets. It makes me want to weep, it makes me want to emigrate, it makes me want to find a time portal and whip back to another age when we valued our countryside more. Instead I plod  on, into a future where ugly ribbon developments spread out from our towns and we sit in gridlocked in traffic at weekends, trying to escape into a countryside which once existed on our doorsteps.

Beauty and the Beast

untitled (3)Visited the Shorelines Literature Festival of the Sea today at Leigh on Sea in Essex. A festival dedicated to the sea and the wonderful estuary landscape in both Essex and North Kent. I found the festival both inspiring and depressing. Inspiring because of the really interesting stories people are telling about a landscape which I love but which is so often derided as ugly and valueless by people who judge beauty by some Cotswold, middle England set of values and depressing because of the scale of destruction taking place.

The Thames super port development is currently hoovering up the Thames seabed causing fish numbers to plummet, ancient oyster and muscle beds to be destroyed, beaches to erode at alarming rates and spewing tons of sludge containing heavy metals and untold other pollutants into our water. Why? so yet more cheap goods can be shipped in from the Far East.

http://www.aeonmagazine.com/nature-and-cosmos/will-massive-global-container-ships-destroy-the-history-and-ecology-of-the-thames-river-estuary/

Also at the festival I bumped into Joan Darwell and Gill Moore, friends from my previous life with the RSPB and long term campaigners against the destruction of the Hoo Peninsula to make way for London’s Super airport. The latest scheme, beloved monster child of  London’s mayor Boris Johnson, will see the whole of the peninsula and most of the Thames destroyed to create an airport far larger than Heathrow and a 6 lane motorway joining it to London. This will be built on some of the most important habitat for wildlife in England and one of Britain’s premier literary landscapes which inspired Charles Dickens to write Great Expectations.

www.stopestuaryairport.co.uk

The trashing of Britain’s countryside, traditions and history in order to line the pockets of the super rich is just beyond belief. These people will undoubtedly go down in history but maybe not in the way their super sized egos dream about. Boris Johnson will no doubt be taught about in schools in years to come but probably as a super villain who should have been stopped.