Stop worshiping at the altar of antiquity
1. I was born when dinosaurs ruled the Earth - almost. We used to sit in mighty concaves on a continent that no longer exists to talk about global warming and cooling. But, do you know, we were worse than decimated by a pesky meteor. Just goes to show how difficult it is to forecast the future weather.
2. Of course we need to be planning for our successors, but instead of planning in areas we are ignorant about, why not plan for the best communities we can create? The best architecture? The best sports and recreation facilities? The best quiet places for old people to walk and sit to enjoy the sun and air? The best pre-school facilities? Instead of carbuncle estates, why not treat every town and village as a community of living people, needing the best road layout, services, schools, work places? We are not doing enough of that. Instead, we are throwing money at what we need today, today, today. We grab a bit more land for a couple more class rooms; we fill our streets with traffic lights because we cannot get around the listed buildings. Why? Part of the answer is our worship of all things old.
3. We worship at the altar of antiquity. We still instinctively fear that the Norwegians will raid our granaries, or the Normans will burn our fields or Hitler will sink our grain ships, or maybe just that Kenya will stop sending us beans. Of course, there runs in our souls the fact that we are part of these islands and they are very precious. We have a history most nations cannot even dream of. We know how lucky we are. But there has to be a balance.
4. Experts will happily require preservation of vistas that cannot be seen, allow only construction that matches a Victorian monstrosity, and prevent development in sight of a thatched cottage.
5. Of course we must nurture what is special, but unfortunately, Historic England has become the top Pharisee of a new religion - the law maker against whom there is no challenge. The result is that it is impossible to develop inside any village on account of the problems of working around listed buildings. We desperately need to have open discussions and decide how best we want to enjoy our beautiful country. We cannot simply add to the vast store of listed buildings. We need a route to de-list a building of low importance and a better route whereby we can instruct our own expert to dare to oppose Historic England.
6. Instead of preserving everything on account of its age, let us preserve simply the best. Where would we be today, if the Georgians and Victorians had not had the courage to pull down and re-build? Why can we not leave ancient buried villages covered over, to leave the excitement of new discoveries for new generations of archaeologists to uncover?