The Green Belt at the End of Cherry Tree Lane Is Not Very Beautiful, nor Very Green, but Those Who Live Nearby Are Sworn to Defend It
Barker, Paul, New Statesman (1996)
At the end of Cherry Tree Lane a hefty Winnebago camper van is parked next to the municipal daffodils. On the right side of the lane is a row of former council houses, now all bought by their tenants. Every door is different. Children are coming home with their parents. The lane is a hubbub of small voices.
To the left of the lane is a wide, empty field, of the kind agriculture now creates. You can see where the hedgerows have been cut down. A stream winds across, before it disappears into a culvert behind a muddle of old planks and plastic. Beyond the field is the high embankment of the M25. The traffic hisses, like waves against rocks.
The field is cut off from the lane by aline of leafless hawthorn bushes and green chain-link wire fencing. Trapped behind this are old shopping bags, a decaying car seat, a discarded pallet. At one point the wire has been torn open. You can get through here to walk the dog, or play at damming the stream.
This is the green belt. You can tell it is, because most of the house windows have little white posters: "Say No to Cherry Tree Lane development and save the Green Belt." Forty houses were due to be built in the field - some for a housing association. Here, in Potters Bar, they have already had one of Westminster Council's out-of-borough estates. They don't want any more of London's homeless. In any event, these tenants bought their houses partly for the view across the field.
Years ago, when the London green belt was being established, a Tory minister said: "The very essence of the green belt is that it is a stopper. It may not be all that beautiful and it may not be all that green, but without it the town would never stop, and that is the case for preserving the circles of land around the town."
The field at Cherry Tree Lane is scarcely what you would think of as countryside. (It isn't the image presented by those who are demonstrating in central London this weekend.) But it is loved as the best there is on offer. Amanda Mawer, at No 7, got up a petition. She even threatened to stand as a Save the Green Belt candidate when the local Labour councillors said they couldn't help. The scheme may now have been stopped. When the Cherry Tree Lane council estate was built in the 1950s there were probably similar protests. But what we have, we hold. Anyone else would do the same. …