Friday, 23 January 2009

Landscape and Development

There are two things I could write about today. I could write about smells that I like, such as that of silage and farmyards (which you don't get alot of around here), or I could write about new roads, capitalism and society. Let's go for the latter.

With our local paper yesterday came a glossy brochure outlining a possible new northern bypass around Luton. I noted that in one of the tables that this would potentially have a strongly adverse inpact on the landscape value of the area. This does add to the list of other developments in the area, such as the housing which is proposed on our doorstep, and it will probably lead to infilling and other developments over time.

My initial reaction was that of sadness that another patch of countryside with a high aesthetic value would be forever changed. That is what man does. He has changed his countryside for thousands of years. I said "his countryside' and wonder if we really should see it as belonging to us? The landscape is seen as our domain, our playground, our development land and there for the production of our foodstuffs.

Yet we are in a recession. On the radio last night, and I have heard other voices commenting on the same thing, there was the realisation that perhaps we have to change we do things. Perhaps the banking and economic systems we have must change. Can we continue to grow, develop and expect the same standards of living
that we have enjoyed? Are there other models that could work? Yet we still seem have the necessity to plan for large scale construction projects that I am sure could be designed differently. It is hard to know what to do. I've been stuck in Luton in traffic and know that streets created decades ago were not designed to cope with the high volume of cars and traffic movements we get now. How do you resolve the conflict between car usage expectations and existing town infrastructures? The easy and most cost effective option for planners and residents to agree on is probably to tarmac over an open field. You can have all the space you like out in the countryside. Who cares whether that hedge, that tree or that bit of field is lost from agriculture?

So, should I support the road scheme or not. I mean wildlife diversity could increase along the roadsides and around road junctions where trees are planted. What is lost, that I think is more of what we humans think about, is the peace openness of countryside that does not have elements of human development. Farming and agribusiness can just get away with it even if the fields are bland (at least you get a good view) but stick a noisy dual carriage way in and you instantly get noise and air pollution and a loss of the sense of "getting away from it all".

From what I perceive, most people here don't go out of Luton that much (huge generalisation I am sure!) and would probably rather see an improvement to their town scape and a loss to the countryside. It would be a great help to drivers, I admit that, and residents who can't pull out of their drive safely into a roads full of traffic.

In years gone by people stayed within their communities and did not have the freedom to travel as we do today. In many ways I wish I cold do that, but I am not sure I have the freedom and luxury to be able to pick and mix how and where I work and live.

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