Ryeview – September 2005

Four legged stool is in danger of tipping over

John Clark writes…

First published: September 2005 – Gazette & Herald

Why is the government so stupid? Have members of the cabinet never milked cows? Have these VIP’s never sat on a three legged stool on a cobbled floor? I suppose most (all?) have not even watched let alone tried. However uneven the surface, a three legged stool sits firmly on the floor.

Despite this widely known fact our government believes in a process called Sustainable Development. This is an approach that has four objectives. Sustainable Development is a stool with four legs.

  • Social progress which recognises the needs of everyone
  • Effective protection of the environment
  • Prudent use of natural resources
  • Maintenance of high and stable levels of economic growth and employment

This was supposed to deliver the following philosophy: “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”. It clearly doesn’t.

Guess what? These objectives are frequently if not always in competition. The idea is to balance the four objectives. Guess what? They don’t balance.

Ryedale District Council has to use this approach in creating the Local Development Framework (LDF) for Ryedale (government rules). In trying to create increased economic growth and employment, more ‘fossil fuels’ will be used; more Greenhouse Gases will be emitted. The Social and Economic legs get longer while the Environment and Resources legs both get shorter. Even a limited knowledge of furniture tells us that two legs getting longer and two getting shorter produces instability.

Officers from RDC have done an immense amount of work trying to balance the impossible. As with other cases we cannot have our planet and destroy it. If we want to have ever more ‘improving’ lifestyles; to have ever larger incomes; to have ever more dualled roads; to have ever increasing economic growth then we will have:

  • Ever increasing Greenhouse Gases
  • Ever increasing Climate Change
  • Ever more flash and other flooding
  • A burnt out planet

We don’t yet appear to have worked this out.

If we: build fewer houses; use the car less and accept a lower standard of living.

If we: eat in season and preferably local food; shop locally etc, then future generations will have a planet and a Ryedale. I don’t think this lesson has been learned. The LDF still includes: dualling the A64; a bigger Supermarket for Pickering; high growth, medium growth and all the other usual suspects.

Flash flooding in the Helmsley area could deliver a message. It has lead to a reduction in tourism. A reduction in tourism would cause a reduction in Greenhouse Gases. Maybe this would start to send the spiral in the opposite direction. We would of course have a reduction in the standard of living. At first glance no one is prepared to take a cut in living standard. However let’s condense the timescale. Most condemn the person who ‘goes on holiday’ and leaves young children to look after themselves. If we all go on more and more holidays now we will destroy the ‘planet’ for the children of the future. It won’t be a question of leaving children to fend for themselves it will be a question of future children having no food, no water and no shelter.

Do we really want to do this to the next generation of children? I suspect, put in these harsh terms, we would all say no. Yet when seen as a four legged stool RDC does not realise that cutting down on our high travel tourism, and therefore travel and Greenhouse Gases is good for us all.

The Helmsley floods should act as a ‘don’t go back to sleep call’. The Policy Committee has voted to pay £10,000 to encourage the return of tourists who have been deterred by the media flood stories. This of course lengthens the economic and social legs. Maybe it’s time to stop and think before the stool is tipped over.

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