Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Other comments…

Tysoe has evolved steadily over the years – in the last century growing by just over three houses per year, on average – and, although we currently have to defend ourselves from “rapacious developers”, it would be foolish to swing too far the other way, and go all out to try and master such evolution. Yes, we have to put a stop to huge, unsuitable and unsustainable housing developments of buildings “made of ticky-tacky”; but that doesn’t have to mean being utterly restrictive in what we allow, or not, to be built; what facilities we decide can become (or remain) part of the village; or that a very small – and apparently élite – group of people should be in control.

Like most things that happen in most villages, residents will poke their heads above the parapet and show interest for a few moments, whilst something different, something new and exciting (or threatening), takes place; but then disappear to get on with what is most important to them: their daily lives; the struggle, in many cases, to endure with enough money and health that their existence is – by their own definitions – made meaningful, at most; and just about manageable, at least. (This is not apathy, by the way, nor selfishness: it is just the survival instinct cutting in. Take away people’s involvement in the decision-making process that rules them, and they will turn inward to the places where they do have power, however little….)

Their involvement is fundamental, though, in – if not deciding on whether planning permission should be granted to Mr Goggins’ twelve-storey extension on his two-bedroom semi-detached (I hope, here, that commonsense would prevail!) – ensuring that the village’s strong community and identity survive, whatever happens elsewhere. Although the Neighbourhood Plan is a very good starting point for this, it is a mere encapsulation of one of those “moments” in time; and, sadly, could be wiped out with a change of national administration, or overruled by the whims of a government minister.

I am not convinced that the current structures the parish has in place are resilient enough – or, dare I say, modern enough (or even savvy enough) – to cope with such extraneous pressures and influences; and – although I do believe that the village, in some ways, possesses a robust genius loci, which, Gaia-like, is at the heart of its evolution – I hope that the one thing that emerges from all this is a greater involvement in Tysoe’s future of all those who live here: not just greater than it is now; but greater than those who live beyond its boundaries, and therefore care little what becomes of it.

How we secure such participation – in the process; the strategy, and not just the individual tactics – I’m not that sure. (Nationally, there is a parallel growing dissatisfaction with, and disenfranchisement from, the Establishment: which, so far, no-one has shown any likelihood of addressing successfully.) Like alert meerkats, a huge proportion of villagers rose to defend the initial threat from Gladman – and, perhaps, it is only such a large peril that can achieve this.

However, I would hope that, within us, there is some way of – someone capable of – communicating (i.e. making people hear and understand) the fact that ensuring our village evolves as we would like – and that this relates directly to the minutiae of the meaning and manageability of our daily lives – requires us all to (re)act, and contribute our thoughts and actions continually – not just momentarily. (The Neighbourhood Plan survey is just one early stop – albeit an important one – on a long and arduous journey.) Otherwise, we will wake up one day to find a village that we no longer recognize, love, or wish to live in – its spirit of place eradicated.


Anonymous said...

Amen to this thoughtful insightful note.

It is easy to mistake powerlessness for apathy. It is difficult to get people involved when it requires imagination and effort. It takes time and willingness to change old habits, the way things have always been done.

It takes skills and characteristics that are not always obvious, to do what's needed. As the governments' own guidance for writing a neighbourhood plan states: "Neighbourhood Planning probably isn't for anyone that doesn't like listening, dismisses public opinion, doesn't like compromise, or is intolerant of those with different views". It is for those who have "an ability to engage a diverse range of members of the public..."; who have skills of "communication and negotiation.. leadership.. analytical.. can work in a team ".

Do we doubt that among us, we have those skills? Perhaps not all in one person, or even a small group of us. But there nonetheless, waiting to be found, brought together, given voice and space.

Is it worth it, this Neighbourhood Plan? Is it worth the effort? Do we have the skills?

Probably not if it's dull, tedious hard work. Probably not, if it's just to satisfy a remote government whim, or a local government box ticking exercise, or to indulge a few individuals' theories. Probably not if we leave it to a few people wearily going through the motions of what they think should be done. Probably not if no-one asks you for your ideas, or listens when you offer them. Probably not if it is just another argument about what should be built here, or there, and everybody knows that 'the planning department' will decide anyway, whoever 'the planning department' is. Probably not if it doesn't inspire us, however worthy.

On the other hand, it doesn't have to be like that. It doesn't even have to be the Neighbourhood Plan. It could simply be OUR plan. A plan for Tysoe.

It could be a plan for the village as we want it to be; how we want to be in it; what we want to keep and what to change; how we would look after ourselves and each other; how we could adapt it to the world around us; how we could feel we belong to it; how we could make it a wonderful place to grow up, and grow old in; how it could look, and work for us.

It could be a plan that could outlive the political and economic winds that blow around us. It could be sensitive to, but not dependent on others - on officials and policies and obscure irrelevant impractical things that might otherwise be imposed on us. It could be a plan for our village to enable it to survive and thrive even in troubled times.

It could be a plan that we would all enjoy playing our part in creating. It could be a plan of which we are all proud. It could be a plan created by grownups and children alike, a game for the whole family to play. It could be a plan made by fully sentient human beings, with extraordinary capabilities, and loads of common sense. It could be a model of how people can work together for a common cause.

Is it worth it? I think so.

Do we have the will? Dig a bit deeper and I'm sure we will find it, bursting to get out.

Can we overcome the obstacles? No doubt, if we are strong and resolute.

Is it possible? Yes.

Now, I wonder what all that could look and feel like? Let's start here.

It's not that hard. A lot easier than waking up tomorrow and it's all gone. That would be really hard.

The Bard of Tysoe said...

Thank you. Stirring and inspirational words.

“A Plan for Tysoe”, I believe, would – simply as a name – help people gain ownership; grasp engagement; and plea for involvement. As an ‘object’, it would originate from inside the village; and not be imposed, externally, by the whims of Government… – and would therefore more likely be successful as a way of capturing the needs and wants of all of us.