Something we all know about in East Devon!
“Cronyism in the South West”
The sheer amount of unsuitable and damaging development that has been pushed through against all objections in my home town of Totnes, but also throughout the south west, is making me question the role of cronyism in the deals made.
It starts at the very top of course in government, but appears to have sucked up many of our more august bodies that we are more used to seeing as our defenders and protection, into its net. The National Trust for example, now has a right wing business leader as its head. I wouldn’t suggest for a moment that this is as a result of any wrong doing, but I question why he is there, when he comes with no history of interest or involvement in conservation or the heritage sector. It is a coincidence of course that the National Trust appear to be engaged recently in the development business themselves, aiming to sell land, given to them in trust in Bovery Tracey and also in Somerset, for housing. To say local people aren’t happy is a bit of an understatement.
Natural England also, is now headed up by a right wing business man, an ex-developer actually, with little to no interest up to now in the environment, or preserving the countryside, he was too busy working to concrete it over as head of Linden Homes. George Monbiot describes his appointment as, ‘The government wants a chairman who can flog nature and have chosen a Tory party donor with a background in investment banking and housing developments.’
So our conservation and heritage organisations appear to be headed by cronies, our secretive Local Enterprise Partnership appears to be also. This is the self-appointed group tasked with pouring vast amounts of public money into encouraging enterprise and business down here and with running our devolution bid. The fact that the majority of those on the board come from the construction and housing sector and a few who are involved in weapons manufacturing won’t come as a surprise when you see that our devolution bid, which they mostly engineered, is very heavy on giant construction projects, which the board’s companies appear to profit from and very weak on tourism, farming and sustainability. This bid is about growth. ‘I want to only build structures that you can see from space,’ the chair is quoted as saying. The fact that this undemocratically elected group hold their meetings in private, have no head office, very little accountability and have managed to keep the lid on their activities very successfully is worrying and the ultimate in cronyism.
This culture goes down the line; housing developments pushed through when they are so obviously damaging and ridiculous. In Totnes, Great Court Farm was sold to developers in very suspect circumstances in my opinion. It is the last dairy farm in Totnes, the home to a fourth generation of farmers, a totally unsuitable spot for yet more mass building in this beleaguered town. The access is terrible, the logistics ridiculous and yet it was pushed through by a combination of cronyism and mis-management. The people who suffer are the people who always suffer when cronyism is allowed to flourish and that’s us – everyone else and in this instance the farmer and his family and the people of Totnes, who see their landscape the plaything of those in power.
Across the county, across the country in fact, the same story is played out endlessly. Local people left shocked and devastated as those in power find the wherewithal to circumnavigate due process and make an absolute fortunes flogging nature and our land to line their own pockets.”