Committee can redeem itself

By South Hams Newspapers Ltd in

Bob Harvey, of Blackawton, representing amenity groups

on the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty partnership committee, writes:

Toby Leigh’s article about the meeting of the AONB ­partnership committee,

Gazette, December 16, was ­comprehensive and accurate, and it would be inappropriate to try to add more details.

However, as the only person out of some two dozen amenity group members who was allowed to speak, I would like to emphasise a few key points.

First, I do not think that the staff of the AONB unit work very hard. I know they work very hard and are committed to effort well above and beyond what they are paid for.

Second, I do not think that South Hams Council is being pressurised by the Government to build too many houses. I know it is being heavily pressurised – effectively bribed – to build too many houses.

Third, the AONB partnership committee is under no such pressures, as it is itself responsible through the years for its self-emasculation until it is a eunuch – impressive but ­impotent. The meeting on December 2 marked an all-time low in its credibility in the eyes of the public. Coincidentally, it has an all-time high in an opportunity to start rebuilding that credibility.

The proposed development on Burgh Island will be hotly debated. AONB manager Roger English has produced an ­exemplary response from the AONB Unit that deserves the full support of the partnership committee. As a member of the committee, I urge the chairman, Andy Pratt, to ask the manager, Roger English, to contact all members by email requesting their personal support for the manager’s submission. With the public support of the whole partnership committee, it

has substantially more weight than if it comes only from the ­manager, a South Hams Council officer.

The councillors and officers on the committee are required, collectively and individually, by an Act of Parliament, to ‘have regard’ to this ‘protected landscape’, as they all receive ‘remuneration in respect of which is paid out of money ­provided by Parliament’.

The AONB constitution requires all members to be ‘active outside the scheduled partnership committee meetings’. Even councillors are ­committed to this, as South Hams Council states that when on the AONB they are ‘not ­acting for the council, as the outside organisation (AONB) will invariably have a legal status independent of the council’.

So here is a golden ­opportunity for the partnership ­committee to demonstrate, publicly, its commitment to ‘conserving and enhancing’ the ‘natural beauty’ of our AONB. It’s simple, it’s quick, and it can kick-start a better cooperation between the partnership ­committee and the public.

A 1942 poster by Frank Newbold sums up this ­opportunity: ‘Your Britain – fight for it now.’

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