The NPPF war is over, it is time to take stock, tidy up and progress. One missing referral in the NPPF, the European Landscape Convention should be at the forefront of this progression. It is recognised by most NGOs and is committed to by Govt’, it is the law of the land. So one could expect the text as a hard copy to be used by organisations to bash property developers, lawyers and consultants out of the way en route to placing it on the tables of Parish Councils, but it remains obtuse – why?
There can only be one answer to this, the text is so explicit that it is deemed too radical and thus has the potential to seriously disrupt an entrenched ‘lifestyle’ enjoyed by the PR and hierarchy of the many organisations who have an interest in land use planning.
Can Landscape, taken as it is enshrined in the ELC, really integrate all the issues of Sustainable Development? It is move away from the use of ‘place’ and other American terms we are used to, (at a time when America is starting to look towards the ELC), and heads deep into the territory of modern European philosophy.
Landscapes have 2 layers, one from above and one from the ground. A Landscape approach enables ‘site specifics’; a mapped vertical image then a ‘persons’ horizontal or lateral view which enables a solution, with the economic needs, the environmental needs and the social needs in equal measure.
But you can forgive anyone for staring blankly at phrases like “All Is Landscape” and wondering how the heck to implement policy based on it.
But we must and in doing so it provides a new platform to those wondering what to do with themselves as there is a common platform, one which displaces the disgraceful mutterings from ‘thinktanks’ and frankly ludicrous claims from the likes of the NFU hierarchy that the rural economy is only linked to food production. Landscapes connect and are connectable. Further reading on landscapes, which have enjoyed considerable research, may highlight an ambiguity overall but tangible answers can be found in overall geography and in a location.
We need to accept that the one failing of a landscape approach is the difficulty in integrating the fact that many of us have 2 landscapes. We travel to work or go on holiday. We are not beholden to a particular landscape and why should we be. The commuter swapping a leafy suburb for the graffiti sprawled urban jungle is satisfying a need for a testosterone boost as much as those who enjoy jumping out of a plane. But when we do analysis the second landscapes of people we unlock economic growth. For example; if there had been as much of a steady growth economically in real terms as there is with the sport of skateboarding, which needs and celebrates the urban jungle, as with any particular new crop in the rural landscape all our farmers would be growing it and it would form part of policy – but we ignore skateboarding and thus policy ignores it.
There is a tendency not to embrace ‘new’ activities which promote and allow growth in secondary landscapes unless subsidies are guaranteed. Entrepreneurship is thwarted by banks refusing to loan unless subsidies are guaranteed and dinosaur heads of landowning and farming organisations (as well as some NGOs) cannot see beyond guaranteed subsidies despite claims to the contrary. But when taking money from Europe for a landscape, you must also take the ideals and the aspirations which could be realised for future generations.
But there are enough people in government clearly willing to encourage both new use of the landscape and new empowerment to true local decision making. Their continuation of ‘backdoor’ dealings and lobbyist meetings do seem to be little more than an fainthearted effort to placate the antiquated and often worse, fossilised system who will have nothing left to say when the grants stop coming and look increasingly silly as social media begins to show its real worth in dismantling their skin thin ivory towers.