In a little over a month it will be 10 years since I came to work here at The Clitheroe Advertiser and Times, and in all that decade I have never known as much raw anger and frustration in the Valley as there is right now.
The cause of that anger – as any regular reader must surely know – is the perceived “free-for-all” for developers mainly (but not all) from outside the area who want to build large scale housing developments here in Ribble Valley.
The sad irony is that the very things that draw them here – beautiful countryside, historic charm, an old-fashioned sense of community – are the very things that will be destoyed if and when all these new developments go ahead.
And it seems that go ahead they will, for the other prime generator of so much anger is that local people – overwhelmingly against this bricks and mortar assault on the Valley – seem powerless to stop it.
Time and again, they have seen large scale developments denied permission locally, by people who know the Valley and its unique qualities, only to be given the green light by some far-off inspectorate when the applicant appeals against refusal.
But here’s my point. Yes, be angry – you are right to defend that which you hold dear – but direct that anger at the true target, not the nearest one.
We are fast approaching a point where local people are at loggerheads with Ribble Valley Borough Council, both its elected councillors and its paid officers. Yet the two should be, and still are, on the same side in this battle.
Council planning officers can only work within the framework set for them. If they can find no valid planning grounds within that framework to recommend refusal of an application, they are duty bound to recommend approval. They may not like it – they may well despise it – but professionally they have no choice. So don’t attack and berate the officers, strike out at those who set the rules they must abide by.
Similarly, councillors would be reckless to ignore the professional advice of their officers, and that recklessness could cost hundreds of thousands of pounds if a planning inspector ruling on an appeal awards costs to the developer. That’s not the council’s money ... it’s yours.
So get angry instead with a government which talks of “localism” yet shows scant regard for local people and their deep-seated concerns.
One more thing... unfounded rumours of local council impropriety are, in my opinion, complete and utter tripe.