Saturday, 6 September 2008

The Mother-in-Law is Back

RSPBAnd as usual, she comes bearing gifts, most commonly lemon marmalade (to assuage my preference for morning toast), and clippings from various magazines and newspapers she reads.

The article that caught my eye last night was one by Simon Barnes, about developers and land. Now, at the risk of incurring the wrath of the outlaw in-law, I’m not altogether in agreement with what appears to be Simon’s default position that development is bad. (He doesn’t literally say this, but also doesn’t give much indication that he appreciates the necessity of development as a natural consequence of good health, education and food – things which I hope he can’t complain about.

But, I agree with a the premise of his article, which can be summed up in a single quote:

It seems that there is a fundamental difference between developers and people. When a developer sees a stretch of open country, he sees a place that is empty. When we look at it, we see a place that is full.

(By the way, did you note his implication that developers aren’t people? Either deliberate insult, or ill-disciplined writing and editing and proof-reading)

However, I disagree with his description of what developers think:

…the developer is immune.
Beauty cannot touch him; he has taken the antidote.
Developers insist that a road or a building has to go somewhere: as if that invalidated every objection.
…developers … are keen, above all, to make their mark: to stand back and say: … I did that.
We need to reclaim … the developers for humanity.

This is simply a list of invective, not any kind of description of the developers I’ve come across. Talk to me about big building companies, and maybe I’ll start to think in these terms. But, and it’s a massive but, the majority of developers that I know, are either individuals or small companies, seeking to make living, by building a few homes at a time, in places where they think people want to live, acknowledging that our country’s need for housing is growing all the time, and trying to put food on the table for their family, as do we all.

To win easy points with one’s readers (this article appeared in the RSPB’s magazine) through such journalism contributes nothing to a proper debate over appropriateness of development, but simply makes it sound like a black/white situation, which it most certainly is not.

Finally, some questions for Simon Barnes:
(1) Who built your house?
(2) How many houses do you own?
(3) Have you ever extended your home?
(4) When you last bought a house were you thankful for the choices available?

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