Azara Blog: National Trust says it is an organisation of NIMBYs

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Date published: 2007/11/03

The BBC says:

The National Trust has said it would fight the government to protect the countryside from housing development.

Chairman Sir William Proby claimed some 10,000 acres of the green belt is at risk, which he said was "terrifying".

The countryside was losing its redeeming and restorative qualities "inch by inch", he told the Trust's annual general meeting in London.

The Trust's members are to be asked if it should buy more green belt land to protect it from development.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown has pledged to build three million more homes by 2020 to tackle the housing crisis.

The government says that extra housing is needed to ease shortages, and it can be built while protecting the green belt.

Ministers have said the boom in house building would take place on brownfield sites and areas owned by the public sector.

In his address to the meeting in London, Sir William said plans to build more homes were driven by ministers' "obsession with economic growth".

He said more than three square miles of the green belt have been lost each year as a result of regional development plans.

Sir William said: "What is happening to the countryside? Inch by inch, year by year its redeeming, restorative qualities are being eroded."

He went on: "We are not against progress, nor do we hark back to some mythical golden past. We support the needs of all citizens for decent places to live and we know that some development must happen.

"But the sheer scale of what is being contemplated now goes way beyond this."

Sir William told the meeting that "new arguments" had to be developed to "define the benefits that green belt land and open space bring to us all".

He asked members if The National Trust, which has an annual income of £350m, should buy up green-belt areas to protect them instead of relying on the planning system to safeguard the land.

Gee whiz, a whole 10000 acres of the green belt is "at risk". That's around 15 square miles. You have to wonder how many National Trust properties would swallow up that pathetic amount of land. If Proby finds this figure "terrifying", he must live an extremely sheltered life. The National Trust is already sitting on a huge, under-utilised, stockpile of land, so threatening to buy more is hardly news.

Britain needs more housing. And unfortunately the National Trust is part of the problem, it is not part of the solution. Most of the buildings they own are effectively dead, just places that the academic middle class can visit at the weekend to amuse themselves. Buildings should be lived in, not be museums frozen in a sterile, distant past.

And now it seems the National Trust is going to actively try and thwart government policy over housing, in common with other similarly constituted organisations (e.g. the CPRE). This is perhaps not that surprising. The National Trust represents the propertied class. The propertied class works against the interests of the non-propertied class, in order to protect its own narrow partisan interests.

Hopefully the government will stand up to these dreadful NIMBYs.

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