Our Queen, Our Landscape, Our Trees

In the lead up to the jubilee the patriotic feelings within many Britons rises, particularly after crushing defeat at the Eurovision song contest, which saw some absurdly passionate ‘anti Europe’ warlike tweets and comments, silly because a continent that has seen so much war and where now Eurovision as with football, probably more than anything else illustrate the healthy competition but peacefulness of this continent.

The Brits can rival any other in patriotism. But Britain is not the Motherland or Fatherland, it is not a new country struggling to shout its worth. It is country with a principle of being ‘ours’.

‘And did the countenance divine
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?’

William Blake

And as Britain has progressed since the time of the Magna Carta into the multicultural state it is now, it has done so by installing a sense of place for its people – one that is perhaps even stronger in the home countries. A few hiccups along the way certainly, which provide valuable case study for all land management students, caused by a parliament pandering to the occasional misguided landlord who wanted more than the very soft British feudal system could give them.

The Enclosure Acts and other painfully regressive policy installed a system that for a while disenfranchised people with a landscape inherently theirs. Protest was not muted it was loud but unbloody. In 1932 the Kinder Scout mass trespass was successful in providing access rights for all but was not enough to temper a growing sense of ‘mine’ as the aristocracy changed into a ‘high class’ of those simply more wealthy. But the planning system, complicated and in need of revision as it was, still provided for the voice of us who see the landscape as ours. Does the replacement of this by the NPPF and its ‘localism’ really provide for this or actually create more problems by ensuring new discussion on needed discussion – will the public finally get an affirmed voice in procedure? The European Landscape Convention, (written with considerable help from British academics who had studied and understood the sense of ‘our landscape’ and thus introduce it as a workable and soft approach for land management planning for a peaceful Europe and by doing so ensure the longevity of such peace) was there to help not hinder in getting policy makers heads around the issue.

The Coalition are being lobbied by a business world who are far too entrenched in an American or nouveau riche system ‘money earned by whatever means = power and privilege’, including owning land when such a concepy  which does not translate into a small and shared landscape.

Yesterdays protest by the Tree Savers Group for Whitstable was passionate and successful because it was correct. The demands to Network Rail were far from unreasonable; the need for independent ecological assessment and fair consultation should be standard procedure in a modern democracy and such process is being advocated to many developing countries by the UK. And further with proof that the proposed work is being carried out based on research superseded by contrary good research then there is clearly a need for additional research, which will help in installing a standard system everyone is in agreement with.

Network Rail were not upholding their ‘pledge’ on their own website and it is fairly clear that the intervention of an independent consultant from the RSPB confirmed the site in question to contain or possibly contain breeding birds and as such the protest actually helped prevent Network Rail in committing a crime. They should be thankful.

Protest is not the duty of the NGOs, (particularly when they join in the closed door negotiations or policy planning meetings), but they are clearly needed to help in the consultation process that protestor’s request by legal right as the RSPB proved all too clearly yesterday.

In these days of austerity the monumental waste of money in refusing to acknowledge the absolute necessity of talking with those whose landscape is affected is just plain daft and very expensive.

You cannot dispel or manipulate the principle of ‘our’ in terms of landscape and elements within. It is recognised as the base for progressive land management across the globe but invariably gets tied up within heavy publications about the rights of indigenous people or human rights and landscape and a library of subsequent bureaucracy. The ‘Tree Savers’ of Whitstable proved yet again that there is no further need to study this, it is printed within the psyche of our nation they were protecting their landscape. It was enviable, it was ‘So British’.

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2 Comments

Filed under Trees and Woodlands

2 responses to “Our Queen, Our Landscape, Our Trees

  1. I am Julie Wassmer, one of the 3 women who chained themselves to the tree to prevent Network Rail beginning tree clearance work on the Cromwell Road embankment in Whitstable. This is not a ‘leaves on the line’ issue. If you take a look at the tree clearance at Grange Park in Enfield it goes back over 100ft from the lines. Another case that contacted me recently concerned a clearance in Rickmansworth, Herts where Network Rail have been destroying trees for 4 months, going back over 35 metres from the line. Even the contractors know that it’s only necessary to go back 10 ft from the line for leaf management. This about something much more sinister – a clearance plan that, by Network Rail’s own estimate will destroy an area the size of the Forest of Dean in Glos at a cost of £15 million annually to the taxpayer. Here in Whitstable the company insisted there was an issue of safety relating to “tree roots sucking moisture from the soil” creating instability within the bank itself. It is the bird breeding season and the site is home to over 60 pairs of breeding birds, some of which are Red List (endangered) species. It is an offence to disturb nesting birds under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 but yet Network Rail were insistent that the work would continue although told by the RSPB that nests, eggs and fledgelings would almost certainly be damaged or destroyed during the work. When we discovered that Network Rail had no special (Section 16) license to undertake this work as am emergency public safety issue we tried to stop them in every way, including attempting to take out a legal injunction as a prelude to a judicial review. But Network Rail has a strange status: they are a private company but not for dividend and without shareholders, under a limited guarantee. We fund Network Rail and the company is in debt to the taxpayer to the tune of £24.5 billion. Furthermore Network Rail are accountable to no-one, not even government. They come under the control of the Rail Regulator – but only for budget. This cannot be correct in a democracy so we decided that to exercise our right to peaceful protest in the glare of the media was the only way to push this company back. This is what we did – and we won a reprieve for the trees and the wildlife on this embankment until the end of September. Clearly this was work was never an emergency since we have pushed back the company repeatedly since an initial start date of 17th April. I suggest anyone interested in finding out more Googles the Hansard record of a debate on Network Rail’s Tree Management Policy dated 3rd June 2003, also an article by Miles Kington entitled “Who’s Afraid of a Few Leaves on the Line?” You will see the wider picture – and what looks to be almost a hidden agenda for Network Rail. Regards, Julie Wassmer.

  2. Hearing about businesses and the Federal Government walking into a town and demanding that forests be taken down down-right sickens me. Its always for business and corporations.

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