Tuesday, 28 January 2014

To rebuild... or not to rebuild

In no way am I a defender or apologist for the Environment Agency but their position is unenviable. With limited budgets and seemingly growing problems they can never satisfy an increasingly informed, interested and vocal society.  Away from their current hot potato in Somerset, where application of national dredging policies to a unique situation seems to be at the root of their position in the firing line, they face a real dilemma in Norfolk.

Where the December surge breached the banks at Salthouse and Brancaster there is real concern as to what happens next.  From 12 miles away, the Salthouse question seems to be largely about the merits of saltmarsh or freshwater marsh.  Questions over the ecological value of both arouse strong emotions and given the significance to the local economy of nature tourism it's not difficult see why. Purely personally, I can't help feeling that whilst we are all used to what was the case, i.e freshwater, it probably can't be maintained in the longer term.  I know the shingle has been historically pushed back and banked up again but my understanding that the current breaches are very close to historic positions of channels seems to suggest that as ever, round here the sea eventually has its way.

Slightly closer to home at Brancaster, I may have misunderstood, but the issue seems to be slightly different, with the emphasis being more on practical issues of access to the beach and the golf course. Strangely because the wider significance might be though smaller and thus the issue not so newsworthy (not, of course, that that would have any bearing on the outcome) this one might be considered easier to abandon by an Agency under pressure.  This would be a mistake; for those who need to use it, the repair and maintenance of this bank is vital, and not to do so would immediately lend it huge significance.

Thursday, 16 January 2014

Plus ça change

If you asked around in the village at the moment, the general feeling seems to be that things are changing. The proposal for the car park has finally changed from an idea to a consultation to a planning application, and with this has come tensions and division.  There is little dispute as to the need for a car park; when we first opened in Burnham I was told by someone born and brought up here that there were two things which exercised the village - Christmas Lights and a car park - but as this had been going on for 50 years or so, there was little need to get too excited about it.

The site seems to have been known for most of those 50 years so that is not too controversial even though there are those who would prefer an alternative.  What has stirred emotions is the linking of the provision of the car park to new housing development.  There is no denying that the development aspect application seems to have grown somewhat during the process, and there those who strongly contest that it is too much, un-necessary and is driven by profit. Well, as they say, what's new?

Personally, I think the car park is needed - it is strange that we all love a place that from 9 to 5.30 everyday is dominated by cars - but don't see a need for new houses for those who are able to afford to buy them. As in London, the Cotswolds, and the West Country these will largely end up as investment properties or holiday homes. 

If and when - as now seems inevitable - they are built, the village will get used to them and the world will not end.  More significant in terms of the cohesion and viability of the community are other apparently minor issues which whilst not going un-remarked do not seem to stir the same emotions. The closure of the youth club is serious as it is one of the very few things on offer to school age people who live, rather than visit, here.  The loss - for that's what has happened - of the Parish magazine to a trade dominated give-away is in my view bad news and another step towards bland anonymity. The reported demise of the Burnham Society just takes this further and it is quite easy to see why a feeling of negative change is abroad.

However, despite what we feel, Burnham is not unique; these and similar issues are being faced across the country. Change happens.  However much we might wish for it all to stay just as we think it is, this is, of course, only the latest version of what is and will continue to be not a bad place to live and work.