At the end of my garden, there are fields. Lots of them. A flat eye view all the way to Ely. I love them. This week they have given me 10lbs of blackberries and the same again of wild plums. In the Autumn they give me sloes, hips and crabapples. The view encompasses an old Medieval Tithe Barn, a working farm, and as much as any human eye can take in, it being the Fens. Sometimes the landscape is more Kansas than Cambridge. I watch flocks of crows, seagulls, and the odd Red Kite circle round the fields. There's a pair of Barn Owls in the barn, as there should be. I've seen hares, rabbits, lots of voles and mice, and an abundance of wild flowers that love the drainage ditches, lillies, marsh plants and marginals. We use the field edges to walk to the park, so much nicer than going roadways, and to ramble, daily, insect spotting. Son makes believe he is "off roading" on a Honda, daughter is in a jungle. Horses thunder by the end of the garden, people stop off the footpath to pick blackberries and chuck weeds at my hens. It is one of a few footpaths in farming country, in a town seriously deproved of green space. (Crazy: so rural, yet so hard up for it: it's the farmers). And it is going, all going, to build the supposedly essential 1,000 new homes. I am incensed, upset, angry, tearful, and worst of all, utterly, utterly hidebound. There is nothing, nothing, I can do. It's done. It's in the Fenland Development plan. The "consultation" on it was a derisory 2 hours of a display board in a community centre, unadvertised, for 2 hours one weekday. The letters to residents were sent out over Christmas, when we were mostly away. I will attend all the meetings I can, and shout as much as I can, but councillor after councillor has told me, "This will happen".
So, it's a case of how it will happen. The plan shows the usual uniform array of toytown houses, crushed into a space which would be reasonable for half the amount of houses, and with the usual exec homes and about 2 housing associations ones chucked in the margins. The green credentials appear to rest on "green corridors" (for which read :pathways that the development corp will soon shuck off responsibility for, and will soon descend to teen fumbling areas). The supposed play area is where the fields flood every year, for 3 months. There are no regulations to stop paving over gardens, the green space is risible, and the risk of run off, in a below sea level area, to my mind, high. Although not according to the planners. This amount of extra houses (and people) gives us, in return, a few shopping units, a redirected bus route, a primary school (no increase in intake to an already overcrowded secondary though), and a vague promise from the developers to donate some money to the town. Added to this, the policing levels are being cut, the Fire service is being cut, the bus service has already been halved, and the GP and school systems are already overloaded. But hey, there will be a ruddy big Tesco out of town.
I have seriously never lived in an area with a worse, more shortsighted, self gratifying council in my life, and this is REALLY saying something, considering I used to live in Hackney. The Councils response so far has mostly been about the increase in council tax money they'll be getting. Which just about says it all. And considering our esteemed leader, Mr Alan Melton, is only just above the level of an amoeba when it comes to doing anything except line his pockets, I was naturally concerned when I saw diggers this week. A lot of diggers. Digging trenches. My first thought was "ARGGGH! Surely the permissions hasn't been granted yet?" and the second was "Where's the archaeology?" This was very important as a second thought, as Mr Melton was widely acclaimed/ laughed at/ spat on last month for his name calling of archaeologists ("Bunny Huggers") and declamation that he would, as leader, do away with all of those silly rules about preserving the rights of archaeologists to dig prior to development. (I blogged it here) So, I took up my keyboard and phone and did some digging of my own.