Quite often those to whom I am opposed say ‘the trouble is you are so negative, always campaigning against things and saying no!’
But stopping something bad from happening is positive not negative.
In preparation for the 150th anniversary of the Open Spaces Society this year I have spent many hours going through the society’s reports and journals, listing all the successes to which the society contributed. It is thanks to the society that many things have stayed the same. I count those as its successes.
For example, the society:
- removes unlawful fencing from Berkhamsted Common, Herts (1866);
- thwarts a bill to inclose the Forest of Dean (1874);
- achieves withdrawal of clause from Eastern and Midlands Railway Company Bill which would have damaged Mousehold Heath common, Norwich (1882);
- prevents London County Council from building a fire-engine station on Clapham Common (1891);
- persuades East Sussex County Council to stop dumping road material on Turner’s Hill village green (1892);
- takes action against owner of fields near Northwich, Cheshire, who has enclosed highway verges and secures their removal (1893);
- wins amendment to Cardiff Corporation Bill to prevent Cardiff Corporation from having powers to build on common land in Brecon and Glamorganshire(1894);
- defeats diversion of a path crossing allotment land in Peterborough (1905);
- persuades Llanrwst Rural District Council and Betws-y-Coed Urban District Council to replace stepping-stones which have been washed away by the River Conway (1906).
And, coming right up to date, we helped defeat three wind-turbines in beautiful countryside at Killington, Cumbria, only last year. The potential effect of them is shown in the clever photomontage above. The landscape is definitely better without them.
I could go on, for pages. There is nothing to show for these victories, merely that things are unchanged. And I could list many more from my 30 years with the society. I am proud to lead an organisation which has so often said no.
Of course there are many positives too—winning exchange land for commons under threat; provisions in parliamentary bills giving public access to land; raising money to buy land and give it to the National Trust (for example, Hindhead Common in Surrey (1906) and Mow Cop on the Cheshire-Staffordshire border (1935)).
During 2015, the society’s anniversary year, we are posting a ‘tweet of the day’, highlighting one of our successes each day, with the hashtag #saveopenspaces150. We are also posting them on our website here. There you can see our many achievements, even if they are not apparent on the ground.