As with the well-known elephant test, ‘sustainability’ can be somewhat difficult to describe; but the chances are that “you’ll know it when you see it…” – although, of course, if there are six blind men involved, all bets are off…!
Actually, on second thoughts, it may be its absence, or its obverse, that you notice first – unsustainability (which I mentioned in my last post) – as it seems to be all around us – and growing day by day – despite supposed moves towards the greener part of the political spectrum….
To get back to basics, for a moment, sustainability itself is a noun: which is defined as “that which is capable of being sustained [which is a little circular in its reasoning]; and, in ecology, the amount or degree to which the earth’s resources may be exploited without damage to the environment”.
In a way, both of these aspects are important when it comes to assessing how a new, large housing development may affect the village; and – although the current government’s green credentials may be evaporating (in a pile of crap) before our eyes – should both, therefore, be at the heart of major legislative requirements. It is the latter definition, though, which moves me most….
To try and capture the strong feelings in the village, and couch them in terms of ‘material considerations’, a letter was drafted by the Tysoe Residents (Neighbourhood Planning) Group, that could either simply be signed by residents who objected; or adapted by them to help them register their opposition. This was immensely successful – as hundreds of submissions were received by the district council.
Here are a few of the included pertinent grounds for objection:
The development is unsustainable: in that it is disproportionate in scale; and would increase the number of houses in Middle and Upper Tysoe by over 20% – causing undue harm to the character of the local landscape, the community, and its important environmental and historical assets.
The council’s Core Strategy states that developments should cause no significant increase in traffic on rural roads: and yet a sudden influx of 80 households will inevitably include a large proportion working outside the parish. This is inherently unsustainable: as it will generate a large increase in commuting and service traffic, through both Oxhill and Tysoe – especially as the local bus service is infrequent. The local roads are narrow and unsafe, and are already blocked at peak times. Such an increase will affect not only existing traffic – including a large number of agricultural vehicles, crucial to the local economy – but cyclists, horse-riders, and pedestrians (including parents and small children on their way to and from Tysoe Primary School and Tysoe Pre-School).
The village’s surgery is already at full capacity: and, therefore, there would be no healthcare facilities for the large number of incoming residents. Local sewage and surface water management are already over-capacity; and the part of Tysoe under consideration – like much of the village – is already subject to frequent flooding.
There will be a detrimental effect on local heritage and environmental assets, including Tysoe Manor: a Grade II* listed medieval building, on land immediately adjacent to the proposed development. Not only will the new houses also be visible from the Edgehill escarpment – which is part of the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) bordering the village – but it will form a major incursion across the village boundary into the countryside – in contravention of the council’s Core Strategy policy, which states that any development proposals should avoid such high-quality land as the ridge-and-furrow field the development will replace: land that is of ecological and archaeological value, locally and nationally. Access to the development will also involve loss of hedgerow.
I keep coming back to those two words: “community” and “identity”, though. They, too, can be hard to define (yet also utterly recognizable) – but my largest worry at the moment is that they, too, will be unsustainable in the onslaught of such an overwhelming addition to the built environment (and probably in a style more suited to the urban than the rural), and the huge population increase (again, probably more suited to the urban than the rural) this will entail.
To finish: sustainable development (which is what we obviously want for our village – as we know we have to keep on growing…) itself is defined in many ways – but probably the most frequently cited is from Our Common Future, also known as the Brundtland Report:
Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.
I think we may need to get this printed on a few T-shirts….