Since moving to France the problems surrounding land management, landscape and the environment in the UK (or mostly England) have been more pronounced than when I lived and worked there. I am living in a case study – one that is far from perfect. But looking across the channel I see a situation that has simply failed.
The government really are not to blame. It is the system that is wrong. And it is nature that suffers and from its suffering there are far, far too many people prepared happy to sit back and use this as an excuse to hoover up yet more money from a public who have been no less than duped by a poor media, rife with lazy journalists who are fed pure twaddle by PR teams in NGOs. NGOs that contain good and knowledgeable people who are sidelined and are prepared to be because of a British trait that is so evident when looking back at my own people ‘the stiff upper lip’.
The Forest Sell Off and the NPPF aside, there are 2 issues which cause jaws to drop and utter disbelief here in France and which have made me very angry also:
The first is the silencing of the Forestry Commission. How can this be legal? The French ask, how can this be tolerated, why is the media not interested? It is quite simply wrong and made worse the longer the ‘Independent Forestry Panel’ takes their time to deliberate.
The second is much more recent and as an issue is itself a microcosm of all the stupidity and ills of the English system of land management policy, media and law – The hosepipe ban and restrictions imposed on professional landscapers and horticulturalists.
The latter issue may be seen by many as a time to reflect upon our water usage and come to terms with depleting stocks and increasing demand, particularly as Climate Change kicks in. But this is the wrong attitude as it is a little too late and the system, although installed by statutory law, is wrong also.
Indeed the landscaping industry has been championing sustainable landscaping techniques for many years now. It has embraced SUDS, which has not been embraced by the policy makers themselves, (who are far too reluctant to really tackle the domestic tarmacing companies and other rogue traders that ignore the regulations along with the national and multinational companies).
What the hell have the organisations, journalists and others that purport to speak for the landscaping and horticultural industry as a whole been doing since the water issue, known about for so long – at last 25 years, became known. A 7 day consultation carried out by a private utilities company, usually owned by large foreign corporations, sets out restrictions that will destroy many of the small professional land management businesses and the green space and gardens identified as so important in providing biodiversity and sustainable development within urban and peri urban communities. Is this really legal? The large corporations would find it difficult to explain themselves, as would the govt’ if challenged through European channels against the restrictions.
Worse is the fact that many organisations have taken the opportunity to ‘preach’ to the landscaping and horticultural businesses about what they could be doing to prevent the situation, this isn’t just patronising it is an insult.
But the very worse thing is that policy makers are kept in the dark about how the landscaping and horticultural businesses are actually part of the solution to the water shortage problems. The policy makers have been led by PR teams and lobbyists who do not know what they are talking about or more usually have twisted correct information to suit their owns means and agenda, (usually trying to chase a career path far removed from the one they speak about) and thus laws are in place which actually block progression towards the solution and exasperate the present situation beyond repair.
And the same is happening in the wider landscape, as the nonsense touted by ever more powerful NGO lobbying groups, thinktanks and accreditation organisation spokespeople, it may lead to restrictions on those vestiges of good practice, by local knowledgeable people that have been largely ignored, but should have been studied.
The UK do not like Europe as a whole, they do not like being told what to do by a system they cannot even be bothered to find out about, relying instead on a media that also do not understand or bother to understand (even the difference between the European Union and the Council of Europe) and this is gold dust for politicians always happy to have a scapegoat to hand.
Take a poll in the high street of those who have heard of the European Landscape Convention, and it will not even get to 1%. Take a poll on the EU Soil Framework Directive and it will be the same.
Yet if they were to read the text they could not fault the principles.
But whilst it is unlikely that the UK will ever truly seek to leave ‘Europe’ not because of the common biodiversity, geography and heritage – but because of the economics involved, it is increasingly likely that Europe will tell the UK to ‘bugger off’ sometime soon in the future as this failed system starts to infest at each continental meeting and conference by way of PR teams (or the politicians who have had little choice but to listen to them), who really need to actually study the subject matter as their European counterparts will have done.
Englands’ last hope are the independents, grass roots movements, and small businesses together with the Academics and a new future of ‘Open Access’ (and a scattering of smaller NGOs of real worth sensible enough to ignore any decisions to invest heavily into PR).