I loved the solecism, ‘applehood and mother pie’, from Barry Gardiner, shadow natural environment minister, at yesterday’s parliamentary launch of Landscapes for Everyone: creating a better future. He was right. Because the document had to be agreed by 27 organisations, the lowest common denominator lacks punch. It’s full of good stuff about the value and importance of landscape, to health and the economy, saying nothing with which anyone could disagree.
So it’s just a start, and now the coalition of 27 must develop a much clearer list of what must happen, in non-esoteric language.
At the crowded reception in the Jubilee Room writer and broadcaster Nick Crane reminded us that this year is the sixtieth anniversary of W G Hoskins’ seminal book The Making of the English Landscape which ends with a rant about modern developments ravaging our towns and countryside.
The politicians were keen to tell us what they had achieved: Barry Gardiner said that it was successive Labour governments which had passed legislation to increase public access. ‘We will protect landscape for what it provides for people. A good life is not possible without access to open spaces. Increased public access has not led to the destruction of landscape.’ Importantly, he ended by promising that ‘all land management subsidies must be contingent on public access’. Absolutely right!
Kate Parminter, Lib Dem spokesperson on environment in the house of lords, said we must not shrink from talking about the beauty of landscape for its own sake. Lord de Mauley, natural environment minister, said that ‘high-quality landscapes are an important part of our countryside’ and that ‘national parks are some of our most treasured places. I’ve done my best to protect the funding for national parks and AONBs.’ Thank you.
For the coalition of 27, the National Trust’s director of conservation, Peter Nixon, responded. Landscape are important in connecting people and places, they are fragile and vulnerable and under enormous pressure. The subject is above politics and is common to all political parties. We all recognise the importance of healthy, beautiful and accessible environments. A productive economic environment depends on those factors. We need a good negotiated agreement about the way the planning system operates.
So landscape is now on the political map. We must now ensure that it is in the manifestos and that promises are kept.