Involvement in Land Use Planning

In the mid 1980s I was inspired by Rethinking the Future, a small booklet that the Hereford and Worcester Green Party (U.K.) had put together as their comments on the proposed Hereford Structure Plan. It was well written and contained plain common sense about issues of land use - where to allow development and what kinds of development.

It wasn't 'NIMBY' (Not In My Back Yard) - an unfortunate trait that many Greens had at that time - but based on Green principles. It expounded some of those principles and tried to apply them in the context of Hereford and Worcester, as comments on policy.

The importance of this to me was that I believed that Green principles were important for the future, but did not want to merely retreat into some alternative society, 'getting away from it all'; rather, I wanted to find those principles applied in the rough and tumble of real life, including life in family, business and government. To me, Green principles were not just a set of beliefs I hold, but the future reality that we must take seriously. I knew that our grasp on them was not full, and in need of development and correction, but that this would come about, not on the floor of the debating chamber but when they are applied in earnest.

The authors showed me that it was at least possible to try to do this. Since land is important to Greens, applying them to land use planning seemed profitable.

So, in 1987, with very helpful comments from some colleagues, I wrote Sustainable Vale Royal, my own local government area, as our comments on the proposed new Vale Royal Local Plan. The problem I faced was that Green principles were so different from those that underlay most of our life and business that to merely make little comments on little policies would miss the point altogether. Moreover, our submission had a second, but very important, purpose: to try to introduce to those other participants who were reasonably open-minded some of the sense and essence of Green principles.

I decided to write it in two parts:

The relevant principles were those Green Principles that related directly to the stated aims of land use planning in Vale Royal. They covered such things as:

This kind of format worked well. Part 2 could make reference to these as reasons for the changes we suggested. But it also clearly laid out the principles, separate from detail, and some of the participants started to move in their direction. We had some minor successes in altering the Vale Royal Local Plan.

Our next attempt was at the wider, county level: Cheshire 2011, the Cheshire Structure Plan. We submitted Sustainable Cheshire, again, using a two-part format. In Part 1 we covered:

Cheshire County Council were even more interested in what we had to say than Vale Royal District Council. (In fact I started to find that Planning Officers were, on the whole, rather enlightened people - unlike the elected Councillors; so much for democracy!) Because Cheshire was a wider area they had a wider vision, to which Green principles were more obviously relevant. We had some success - but there were many counter pressures from the developers, and the officers were constrained by protocal, and still even the most enlightened officers did not fully grasp the interlinkings between the various issues.

After that we adopted similar methods for commenting on:

Towards the end we seemed to move away from the 2-part format, which was probably a mistake. Increasingly we found external references for what we were saying, and, crucially, examples of other land use plans adopting some Greenish principles, in the U.K. and elsewhere. Referring the officers to these documents enhanced our case in their eyes from the views, however worthy, of one small pressure group, to things that otehr 'respectable' bodies were trying.

The (strenuous) work continues

Copyright (c) Andrew Basden 1997. Last updated 17 October 1997.