In the film Groundhog Day two retired marines are discussing what the world would be like if you knew that tomorrow will never come, if tomorrow is just today over again. One, with the clear insight of the truly Junckered, puts his finger on the essence. “If there’s no tomorrow then there are no consequences.” He’s right. No tomorrow would mean no judgement, no consequences flowing from any criminally reckless decision you might have made today.
Government ministers are like that, permanent little groundhogs, a decision here, a decision there and then off, leaving the consequences behind.
A Communities Secretary — I’d have to look him up, they come and go so fast, but I can’t be bothered — has decreed that Norfolk and Suffolk must make preparations for 250,000 new dwellings. At an average of three people per dwelling that’s as many people as currently live in Suffolk. In ten to twelve years. That’s a hell of a building programme. The result is a huge expansion of big estates, planned or in progress, on the edge of major towns, and the imposition of housing projects on villages that thought they were safe. To see the reaction look up East Bergholt and see what happens when a community ticks all the boxes. Their wishes are ignored.
There is worse to come. A ECHR ruling against Westminster City Council* mandates that a council cannot move homeless people more than one and a half hour’s travel from their roots. There’s nothing local planners can do to resist, as they lack that power. To change that, to give local communities the right to resist massive over-development requires primary legislation and curiously enough the Conservative Party seems in no hurry to bring legislation forward.
Here’s the future for Norfolk and Suffolk: big landowners and big property developers are about to become very rich — perfectly legally, no offence in the world. Newmarket, safe behind the bulwark of wealthy stud owners, will continue its dreaming, with elegant horses on the streets being exercised by sturdy stable lads and lasses and everyone knowing their place – which is in the big housing developments in Red Lodge up the road. Normal people, those who commute, those who use East Anglia’s roads and doctors’ surgeries, those who seek social housing, will find the potholed roads crammed with cars, the queues longer, the waiting lists extended to beyond their lifetimes. And there’s nothing they can do.
Lord Adonis was on the BBC a couple of months ago and was asked about the problem of house-building pressure. It’s not a problem, he said, there’s lots of room in Norfolk. So immigration of a million every three years is not a problem, There’s lots of room in Suffolk and Norfolk, all those boring green fields with pigs and wheat and that sort of stuff can be improved with brick and asphalt and concrete. Maybe the yokels will complain but they’ll keep voting Tory of course, always have, always will.
Let me not be pessimistic. When Hackney and Newham and Westminster buy up big chunks of East Anglia they will build elegant blocks of flats, Khruschoba to house the computer programmers, brain surgeons and digital engineers that they cannot afford to house at London prices. Our lives will become much more dynamic and vibrant.
And the men and women who have put us in this position, what of those ministers, millionaires, landowners, what of those rich and gated untouchables? Chauffeured cars, big gates around big gardens, maids and gardeners and au pairs, insulated from the reality of what they have done they will live the life of minor nobility as it was a hundred years ago, parties and power and privilege. For them there will be no consequences.
Mind you, it might change the voting demographic. They might have to ban the sale of pitchforks.
*They were moving people to the Isle of Wight. When the Islanders tried to stop London councils building housing to shunt out their homeless, limiting land purchase to six dwellings only, the result was a lot of six dwelling applications