Rory Stewart, the Conservative MP for Penrith and the Border, has hit out at contemporary approaches to landscape.

Rory Stewart
Cumbria MP Rory Stewart

Writing in his blog, he has described them as ‘a virus concealed in the darkness of strategic plans, and unfamiliar concepts’.

In the 20th Century, Stewart argues, poetic views of the history of landscape were lost, as the government appropriated areas of his constituency for use by the military, nuclear power stations and reservoirs. The current approach is, he argues, different, but equally damaging.

He writes: ‘It spreads through a thousand slivers of legislation, directives, and subsidies. But it is equally destructive. Today, the needs of fern-leaf moss, of birds, of carbon targets, of limestone soil, or water-purification in Manchester, are used to justify clearing sheep and farmers from the hills. “Geomorphological surveys” convince officials not to dredge or control rivers, allowing the water to flow across pasture and down village lanes (and save the state money). Mires, which the medieval monks worked over generations to drain, are reflooded to meet European targets on “sites of special scientific interest”. New tax laws reward landlords for taking farms back from tenants, and selling their houses as second homes. Subsidies intensify all these trends. And the small hill-farmers are vanishing week in, week out, without noise, just as surely as if they were being expropriated for reservoirs, uranium, and rocket-ranges.’

The problem, Stewart argues, is that the new approach has no respect for the history of landscape or the well-being of existing communities. He writes: ‘These are plans, indifferent to history, and impatient of the exception. They are driven by officials in distant offices who know little, and care less for the particular, peculiar energies of a long-established community. All treat us almost like a blank space on a map.’

Read the full post.

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