Magazine article The Spectator

Let Us Poor Nimbies Rise Up against the Ruthless Cosmopolitan Toffs

Magazine article The Spectator

Let Us Poor Nimbies Rise Up against the Ruthless Cosmopolitan Toffs

Article excerpt

Goodbye ponds, goodbye voles. Farewell you great-crested grebes and the manifold life-forms that survive in the wellsprayed hedgerows of West Sussex. Every week, every day, the noise of the traffic grows louder from Horsham; every month the brutal yellow diggers seem to bite into another patch of grass, and another Legoland collection of boxy Berkeley homes is erected. How long before they come for the deer park itself, through which some of us are still able to go for a run (or a stagger) on a Sunday evening?

Soon, according to the government's fascistic decrees, Crawley will live up to its name; yes, creepy Crawley will creep and crawl in a hideous progression of roundabouts, malls and multiplexes until Crawley mates with Horsham and a new megatown is born, perhaps called Crawsham or Horley, or Horlicks; and ancient villages will only be villages in the sense that Kensington and Chelsea were villages.

Already the roads - the once-empty lanes where my wife grew up and learned to ride a bicycle - are jammed with cars on their way to B&Q and Homebase. And now, says John Prescott, a further 1.1 million houses must be built in the South-east by 2016. 1 don't want to bear any more smug, self-satisfied, free-market nonsense from those of you who are lucky enough to live in the comparatively deserted East Sussex. Stop your drivel about how villages need an influx of young people to stay 'alive'. These plans amount to a cultural and architectural disaster, on a scale not seen since the postwar construction of blocks of flats.

They have turned me from a Nimbie into a Nimbomaniac, and when I pick up the West Sussex County Times, Horsham edition, I find I am not alone. There were many hot stories in last week's soaraway paper, all competing for the front page. A horse has fallen off a bridge near Itchingfield. A firework 'could have started a major blaze', in the opinion of 'firefighters'. But pride of place had rightly been given to a report of a packed meeting of Horsham District Council, at which councillor after councillor stood up to condemn John Prescott, and his pathetic capitulation to the House Builders' Federation. Liz Kitchen, a Conservative from Rusper, explained how Prescott was now targeting the 'strategic gap' between Horsham and Crawley, rather in the spirit of Goering looking longingly at a map of London.

Under the new proposals, 1,330 houses would be built in the district each year, compared with the current recommendations for 840. Christine Costin (Lib Dem, Trafalgar) summed up the mood of the meeting when she said: 'I am a Sussex person. I have lived for half a century in the South-east and have seen a lot of changes I hated and loathed. This is a recipe for disaster.' What can they do? How can they protest, these democratically elected representatives of the people of West Sussex, short of throwing themselves beneath the JCBs? The villagers have taken to driving slowly round the roundabouts, with signs saying 'No more houses' on the back of their cars. Hopeless. The councillors last week resolved to 'get together' with other councils in the South-east and to 'fight the Secretary of State on his own ground'.

His own ground? And where might that be? The village of Trevor in Clwyd, where he grew up? Or Hull, which he now represents? We all know that these houses are not needed in the South-east, and that Serplan is a nonsense. …

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