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Keith Parkins | 12.04.2005 15:53 | Analysis | Repression | Social Struggles | London

The recent coverage of a demo last Saturday in Swindon is whatIndymedia should be all about, excellent coverage of an excellent campaign on the dysfunctional planning system in Swindon.

An excellent campaign, excellent coverage. I particularly liked the subversion of the Swindon town hall logo to represent corporate greed.

This is Indymedia at its best, what Indymedia should be all about. Quality reporting of local issue, setting an example and giving ideas to the rest of us.

I have long argued we should be fighting the planners, rather than individual planning applications, as there is something rotten in the system.

Planning should be about delivering quality of life to local communities. If not, we may as well not have a planning system. What we have is planners providing development opportunities for corporate developers.

In the Rotten Borough of Rushmoor, as it is known locally, the planning department is a lobby for corporate developers, aided and abetted by a dysfunctional planning committee.

Farnborough has an unwanted business airport. This was pushed through by the local council. The report before the planning committee was a regurgitation of the material submitted by the airport, half a page of bullet points was all that was devoted to objections from over 1200 objectors.

At the opposite end of the runway, in Hart, there are plans to build a massive housing estate on MoD land, the former Queen Elizabeth Barracks. It butts onto heathland and will lead to the destruction of the heathland, but who cares.

There are also plans to build a massive lorry distribution centre between the airport and the massive housing estate.

In Farnborough, half the town centre is to demolished to build a superstore. The local community do not want it. No intelligent discussion took place at committee, no one questioned anything.

Farnborough town centre has been trashed by KPI (a St Modwens front company) with the help of their friends on the council. At Upton Park in East London, St Modwens, with the help of the mayor, wish to destroy the century old Queens Market and build an Asda superstore and a block of luxury flats.

In Swindon St Modwens tried to build on a community forest, but the good folk of Swindon sent them packing with their corporate tail between their legs.

In Deptford in southeast London, social housing is being destroyed on the Pepys Estate to provide development opportunities. Lewisham has also granted approval to build on Deptford Park across the road from the Pepys Estate.

In Liverpool, vast swathes of Victorian housing is being destroyed to provide development opportunities. Under Pathfinder the same destruction is being wreaked in many northern towns and cities.

In Newham, the Mayor refers to objectors as 'second class citizens', puts a gagging order on his councillors, instructs them to vote for destruction of Queens Market. In Farnborough, the chairman of the planning committee referred to objectors as 'intellectual vandals of the worse possible kind', another councillor, when planning permission was granted to destroy the town centre, said 'that's two fingers to the objectors', the same councillor referring to public consultation on road closures said he expected the usual suspects to throw a spanner in the works.

WE need a complete change in the ethos of local government, we need community activists to seize control of town halls, for officials to be working with and on behalf of local communities.

We need participatory democracy, not representative democracy. Local accountability, councils working with local communities, not against.

Keith Parkins


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  1. trashed by St Modwens — keith