As a dyed-in-the-wool cynic, I find myself looking for the faults and the glitches and the careless jobsworths who seem to proliferate in our lives and it can become an addiction. Having spent a few hours in London and got home to a midnight garden that heaved with scent of lilac and wisteria I was suddenly struck by just how much this county means to me. I’m routinely criticised for a jaundiced view of the way our councils screw up our environment and although I’m not the only one deeply concerned about the way Norfolk is starting to look, there is no doubt we still have much to appreciate and protect.
Over the next twenty years or more it is likely that so much that was important to us as Norfolkers is going to disappear under the weight of commercial and political pressure as we, ‘lemming-like’, join the march of progress that could well see us all tumble off Hunstanton Cliffs and perish as a county with a character. “Unavoidable” state the experts, “you can’t buck the market” and while people continue to seek improved standards of living there will be an inexorable need to build more of everything, and install more Tarmac and streetlights and all the modern devices that we apparently cannot live without. But why does the modern efficient urban and rural street scene have to be so horrendously ugly and ill-designed? The street lamps in my village looked dated before they’d even been erected…a series of shiny aluminium posts without an iota of style or design. Brutally at home on an industrial estate, these efficient metallic lamps jarred violently with the homes and gardens they were purchased to illuminate. Similarly, standard concrete bollards erected to protect walkways had entirely ruined the view of an old hedge and lane nearby. Road signs have undoubtedly reached epidemic proportions along every carriageway and although it’s nice to know where you are I can’t help feeling that with everyone now having a SatNav app on their blasted phones there ought to be a decreasing need to clutter every junction and verge with unnecessary dross.
My current bête noir are the omnipresent petrol stations. I know every single one of us relies upon them in the same way we rely upon burger joints but do they have to be such repellent shrines to our love of diesel and combustion engines? It’s hard to imagine how the planners ever permitted such hideous lumps of glittering metal and glass to be installed in the middle of open countryside without some thought to the delicate environment they inhabit….unbelievable.
Sometimes we find ourselves blind to the glaring reality and I have to say that until my ‘lilac’ moment I’d become immune to the thoughtless environmental vandalism that seems to be regarded as normal now. If you’re a town planner or designer, on your way home tonight take a second look and imagine how things might be if more care was taken..that’s all I ask.