Last Sunday I did a live interview on BBC Wiltshire’s programme Wild About Wiltshire. Before turning to me they played a recording of David Cameron on the BBC’s Countryfile in 2012.
He said: Here we are in West Oxfordshire, my constituency, one of the most beautiful parts of our country, set in some of England’s finest countryside. I would no more put that at risk than I would put at risk my own family.
I wonder how safe his family feels now? Certainly our countryside is not safe. What about the road-widening and ‘improvements’ proposed through our national parks and areas of outstanding natural beauty, the potash mine in the North York Moors, the threat of fracking, the development on the nightingale sanctuary at Lodge Hill, Medway? I could go on, but I’m sure it’s not necessary.
He went on: I care deeply about our countryside and our environment and our vision is one where we give communities much more say, much more control.
Really? So what about those communities who want to protect their much-loved green spaces which they have enjoyed for decades? They get no say at all, for David Cameron’s government has changed the law to ensure that, if the land is threatened with development, the community cannot register it as a green. Local people have to watch their green spaces being destroyed.
…It’s a presumption in favour of sustainable development, all those words are equally important. That is the key point I am making. We’re not changing the green belt or changing Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, we’re not changing SSSIs, all those protections that are there. But at the heart of it is more local control, a neighbourhood plan, you decide in your community rather than the man in Whitehall knows best.
Many green belts are now threatened, and AONBs at risk of being changed. Neighbourhood plans are meant to provide for Local Green Space but David Cameron’s government has failed to explain how these can be secured, or to provide a proper mechanism for doing so. Local people are losing out here too.
In March Geoffrey Lean pointed out in the Telegraph that, despite Cameron’s Countryfile promise, there was dwarfing development planned in his beautiful constituency village of Bampton, west Oxfordshire.
David Cameron should return to Countryfile, withdraw his 2012 promise and tell it how it really is.