Sunday, September 25, 2011

2011 Streak Day 242 (Wednesday Aug 31st): These things are important

2011 Streak Day 242 (Wednesday Aug 31st): Walk - 2 miles, Time - 45min, Weather - overcast

This is picture of work in progress is a small example of how the planning system can work.
In canal history terms the site is interesting as it had been a working wharf from the earliest days of the Grand Union Canal in 1798 until 2002, when Bridgewater Boats stopped using it in 2002. 
However a vacant plot beside a canal, in an attractive town like Berkhamsted is an obvious opportunity for housing development. A plan was put forward for that would have lost the wharf and its connection with the past. There was however opposition.
In the event the initial proposal was dropped and a new owner got planning permission for a scheme, which scaled back the housing and incorporated a boatyard. As you can see some housing new housing is in keeping with its surroundings .
The story of the battle against the original proposals is here, including a link to the documents presented to the planning committee. A colossal amount of work was required to oppose the initial planning application but it showed that sometimes things can be done to preserve the character and tradition of a place.
This is important to know because at the moment there are threats to our planning system, making it far easier for developers to get the go-ahead. 
The proposals have incurred the ire of, amongst others, the National Trust (not a body I would have thought a  Conservative politician would want to cross) and it is well worth reading the wonderfully spleenic polemic by their chairman Simon Jenkins.
These things are important because we are often unaware of all the forces that shape our environment and the character of the places we live. We need systems to both preserve and improve what we have. We cannot leave it all to chance and market forces.
With all the time I spend running or walking by the canal I am acutely aware not only of how fortunate I am to have it nearby but also of what a wonderful amenity it is. Yet knowing something of the history of canals and how in middle of the 20th Century they were scruffy neglected areas in the backend of towns makes me aware that their present state cannot be taken for granted

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