Western Morning News

On this day


1743: Edmund Cartwright, inventor of the power loom, was born.

1792: La Marseillai­se was composed by Claude-Joseph Rouget de Lisle.

1815: Novelist Anthony Trollope was born in London.

1889: Sir Stafford Cripps, Labour Chancellor who introduced austerity measures in Britain after the Second World War, was born.

1916: The Easter rebellion began in Dublin against British rule in Ireland (ended on April 29).

1950: President Truman denied there were communists in the US government. 1965: The Pennine Way - 250 miles from Edale in Derbyshire to Kirk Yetholm on the Scottish border - was officially opened.

1986: The Duchess of Windsor, the

American widow of Edward, Duke of Windsor, died in Paris, aged 89.

1990: The Hubble Space Telescope was launched by the Space Shuttle Discovery. 2005: Snuppy becomes the world’s first cloned dog

actor, 65; actor, 56; Sachin former cricketer, 47; Gabby television presenter, 47; Dave radio personalit­y, 46; Kelly singer-songwriter, 38; Ben singer-songwriter, 33.

ANYONE who invests any time and energy in questionin­g or challengin­g developmen­t, be it housing, roads or other infrastruc­ture, will inevitably at some time have been called a ‘NIMBY’.

It stands for ‘Not In My Back Yard’, the slur that anyone opposing developmen­t is doing so motivated by selfish concerns for their view or their own interests. It implies selfishnes­s, some degree of privilege, and a dislike of progress. I’ve recently been called a NIMBY, and I’m not happy about it. So I’d like to suggest a new name. I would like to be known as a ‘SWIMBY’.

SWIMBY stands for ‘Something Wonderful in My Back Yard’. Let’s say you needed a new computer. If a salesman tried to convince you what you really needed was a big clunky thing that ran on Windows 95, you would rightly say you wanted the best thing you could afford.

With housing developmen­ts, we are constantly being forced to accept substandar­d, boring, ecological­ly damaging, energy-inefficien­t homes, when in fact, we could, and really should, do far better. We are in a climate emergency, and need to hugely up our game.

A recent report by University College London argued that large developers are producing far too many new estates with serious design flaws. One of its authors, Matthew Carmona said “at present we are just not meeting the basic requiremen­ts for civilised living that we should expect in a country like our own”. And yet to point such concerns out at the planning stage of a developmen­t, to draw attention to the emperor’s lack of clothes, risks being called a ‘NIMBY’.

I live near the Dartington Estate. In recent years, I think Dartington Hall Trust (DHT) has become less of a values-driven, world-changing innovative charity and more of a land/property disposal company, working with a revolving door of mainstream developers. Dartington presents itself as being a “testbed for a sustainabl­e society”, and yet, in the face of huge local opposition, sold large fields to local developers Baker Estates for volume, high-end housing.

Dartington tried to present themselves as acting nobly, putting land into the Joint Local Plan out of the kindness of their hearts – in reality they are trying to offset a failing business model by selling land to housebuild­ers, leaving local people to live with the consequenc­es.

When challenged on this, DHT’s chair, Greg Parston, stated “as a landowner, we are obliged to comply strictly with the South Hams local plan”. But no landowner is obliged to comply with the local plan. It is the trust’s decision, and theirs alone, to steamrolle­r this unpopular developmen­t through. Under the banner of ‘Save Dartington’, many of us are asking if Dartington isn’t able to enable exemplar homes that are affordable, sustainabl­e, beautiful and ecological, then who on earth will?

We gathered over 7,500 signatures opposing the trust’s approach and mobilised thousands of people. Rather than arguing that no developmen­t should ever take place, we are trying to hold the trust to its own stated values, arguing that it should model its commitment to a sustainabl­e society in everything it does.

Having sold the land to Baker Estates – which says the new developmen­ts will include affordable homes – they praised Baker’s “strong reputation for public consultati­on and community engagement”. But Baker’s Great Court Farm developmen­t was deeply unpopular locally, leading to the closure of the last family dairy farm in Totnes. CEO Ian Baker, when MD of Linden Homes, told Building magazine in 2012 he welcomed the Coalition Government’s housing and growth push, particular­ly the idea that local authoritie­s should “get their arses smacked if they make planning decisions based on local prejudice”, as he saw it, and that politician­s, not planners should take more responsibi­lity.

Is it ‘local prejudice’ to argue that new housing should meet local needs, such as affordable homes for key workers? Or to suggest some sites are best not developed for housing, and used instead for vital needs such as food production, wildlife and open space? Or to argue new developmen­ts increasing car dependency / air pollution are not a sensible? Or to suggest new housing that doesn’t meet the highest possible energy efficiency standards is really building for the last century?

We can do so much better and to point that out doesn’t make you a NIMBY, it makes you a SWIMBY. Why settle for less?

Rob Hopkins is chair of Save Dartington – savedartin­gton.org

 ??  ??
 ??  ??

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United Kingdom