We in the South West are very privilaged to live in beautiful countryside and attractive towns and villages. These historic advantages are also appreciated by the many thousands of tourists that come to visit our region each year.
The revenues from tourism have become vital to our economy, at a time when other traditional industries have declined.
However, as an increasing number of your correspondents have recently highlighted, this idyll is under threat from extremely damaging planning decisions, and an apparent lack of concern for the protection of our precious environment, by our local authorities. Even Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty are apparently under threat.
As a result, we are seeing the countryside blighted by gigantic and unsightly wind turbines and solar farms, that are only viable because we, the energy consumers and taxpayers, are being forced to provide huge subsidies by our misguided government. Add to this the building of sprawling new housing developments close to Plymouth, Exeter and elsewhere, for which there may not be sufficient demand, may still not be affordable, and may be unsellable in the current adverse market conditions, and we have an increasingly unattractive future in prospect, both for the local population and our potentially declining number of revenue generating visitors.
So why are these damaging planning decisions being taken by our representatives, and why are vociferous local opinions on "consultation", however numerous, totally ignored ? A prime example of this is the ruinous Fullabrook wind farm in North Devon – heaven help us all if such developments are proliferated.
The answer, I suspect, is that the planners are following planning policies and guidelines dictated from above. And they know that if they reject planning applications, there is a better than even money chance that these applications will be approved by the government inspector after very costly appeals. Note that many of these national policies stem from EU directives and carbon reduction targets that are totally unrealistic.
What can be done to stop this madness ? Will the Localism Act, currently going through parliament, make any difference ? Only time will tell, but the natural sceptic in me says that this will result in limited changes for our benefit – unless "the locals" seize the initiative.
So, whom and what can bring about the necessary change, can force our councillors and planners to make a stand , and to become true representatives of the people ? I suggest that it is The Western Morning News – the Voice of the Westcountry since 1860 – that is best placed to do this. Our local MPs would probably want to add backing. So come on, please let's have a high profile campaign to stop the rot, and to protect our green and pleasant land before it is too late, and it is ruined for ever !