Tuesday, 08 September 2009

Meet the EMBYs Over on Planning blog, Michael Donnelly offers the remarkable tale of a few residents in the village of Highworth, near Swindon, who attempted to capture some public land, annexing part of the village green for their gardens. There's neighbourhood action for you. The seven homeowners on Barra Close then, unbelievably, applied for retrospective planning permission to change the land use from open space to domestic gardens. It would be fascinating to know quite what they thought they could get away with. I can just about visualise their covert evening meetings around a couple of bottles of Chardonnay, encouraging one another in their pioneering role as EMBYs (Extending My Back Yard), the settler mentality determined to protect themselves from the possibility that, er, young people might climb trees near their homes. It would also be interesting to understand what they thought relations with others in the village would be like after the planning committee's decision, whichever way that went. And it would be interesting to know what other residents in Barra Close think about their neighbours' attitudes. The committee report says that several letters were received by way of protest, along with a petition signed by 167 residents - which is probably not a bad tally. The report is enlightening, with several quoted comments suggesting that some bare-faced misrepresentation was indulged in. For example: 'There are contradictions in the support information from the applicants, they state that children are continually climbing in the trees and bushes and then state that "apart from a few children playing on the land in summer months, it is rarely used".' The application was rejected on the grounds that 'Substantial evidence has been put forward to demonstrate that the area is well used as recreational open space and makes a significant and valuable contribution to the recreational needs of the local population.'

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