Tuesday, 5 February 2013

The Vision Thing

“Without Vision, the people perish”

There a Visioning Workshop for the Neighbourhood Plan tonight and it hasn’t been that well publicised let alone talked up, so I’m just wondering how many people will turn up. A poor turnout would be a real shame… maybe it’ll just be one small step on the way, perhaps setting up a vision that people can criticise – we certainly can’t expect a finalised version from one small workshop.

Of course the Neighbourhood Plan hasn’t really grabbed people (yet?) – perhaps it is too long term (20 years) for people to grasp, especially when so much coming up in the next couple of years – the town centre flood defences, the new supermarket, the Northern Bypass and perhaps development on St George’s – all of which has almost to be taken for granted. And it seems that most people can’t really come to terms with planning – except when confronted with a planning application on their doorstep – let alone start making distinctions between the County-wide ‘Local Plan’ and the Morpeth and surrounding parishes ‘Neighbourhood Plan’.

But – if we do get to have a say in what we want Morpeth (and the surrounding area) to be like over the next 20 years – and perhaps the Neighbourhood Plan does give us that opportunity – what would our vision be? In what is supposed to be a provocative article in ‘Inside Morpeth’ (which unfortunately has not come out in time for tonight’s workshop) – I set up some ‘Aunt Sally’ visions:
a dormitory town for Tyneside commuters
an elite shopping centre
a clustered community of retirement and convalescent homes
a traditional market town for the rural hinterland
an employment centre for South East Northumberland
All of these have an element of truth but they are pulling the town in different directions – if we have the power to plan, we need to choose (as far as we can) what to plan for.

Then again, the NP Local Environment Group (which I chair) has been highlighting what makes Morpeth special, why it is an attractive place to live… Their vision is to identify what contributes to high ‘quality of life’ (quite different from ‘standing of living’!) in Morpeth – and what can be done to protect and enhance it. Development that doesn’t ‘kill the goose that lays the golden eggs’.

And finally – there’s a whisper that looking ahead to 2030+ takes us into the realm of climate change and peak oil – and we need to be paying attention to the Transition Towns movement when it comes to planning.

Tonight could be the start of an interesting debate. 

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