|Not the green space in question but one similar and nearby|
“That’s it. The village is ruined,” declared the man in the shop down the road.
He had just finished telling the tale of dirty deeds and conspiracy that Machiavelli himself would have been proud of.
You see, we – in our semi-rural bit of Renfrewshire – are at war. Our enemy? So far, Sainsbury’s and the council, but that may change. It pays to be wary when peering from the trenches.
It all started when it became apparent that the council wanted to declare one of our village’s parks “surplus to requirements”. It’s a flat bit of park complete with a kids’ play area and football pitches – admittedly not very pretty, but fairly well used.
This decision – taken without notice and consultation – paves the way for “rezoning” from play to retail. And we are told (though I can’t remember who said) that this is because there’s a plot to let Sainsbury’s build a big shop there.
Understandably, the local businesses are furious about this. They think that everyone would spend their money in the superstore rather than in the independent ironmonger, butcher, cafe, shoe shop, newsagent, florist, gift shop and bakers. They’re right – that’s what a lot of people would do. Their concerns are legitimate.
Those in the know say that the plans also include tens of new houses and loss of a stretch of the Sustran’s national cycle path. Obviously, they say, this will mean drunks intoxicated on the supermarket’s cut prize booze hanging around, more housing causing the village kids to be excluded from the desirable secondary school in some sort of catchment area gerrymandering. They say.
In just a few days a very efficient campaign was mobilised and some 1700 protest letters delivered to the council. I had three different people at the door canvassing.
I signed the protest letter because I think we already have enough supermarkets and too few independents and the relentless consumption of green areas by concrete makes me a little sad. Also I like to know more about things before I’m happy to see something irreversible happening.
But that’s what’s got up my nose. It seems there’s a reflex among us that adopts a stance against Them: An assumption that I’ll fall in with the phalanx of NIMBYs marching to protest. I simply don’t know enough – third-hand information from the neighbour of the sister of the man who does know isn’t good enough.
I don’t assume the council is necessarily evil, nor is the board of Sainsbury’s. Although I understand their best interests aren’t the same as mine. More houses won’t always line the handcart highway to hell. It might, but I don’t know yet.
Alright I’m in a crabby mood tonight, but I’m tired of people telling me what to think. I’m also tired of people (especially a toddler) making mess faster than I can tidy it up and I’m tired of the aforementioned toddler thinking 2am is a reasonable time to demand to sleep diagonally in his parents’ bed.
So I hope the council stops to think, or at least let us know what its plans are, and why. We know it’s a tough time and sacrifices have to be made, but we’d like a say if one of the measures is trading a couple of football pitches for a retail emporium.
No one wants something they didn’t invite into their back yard, but I don’t want to be a NIMBY either. And if resistance is futile, why don’t we see if we can be involved in the plans so it turns out, at least in part, the way we want.
End of grumble.