Monday, 17 September 2012


Councillors should take care before dismissing local consultation respondents as nothing more than NIMBYs. The BBC article "Would YOU live next to a NIMBY?" considers that:

"To be called a NIMBY can be a devastating insult, undermining one's well argued case and labelling it as simply a statement of self-interest (...) But environmental lawyer Professor Peter Kunzlik says the instinct to be a NIMBY can be valuable (...) "One of the slogans that came after the Rio Summit was Think Globally, Act Locally. Governments claim to want everybody to do that, and so far as the environment is concerned, where do you experience it? It's where you live. So if you're going to take issues seriously, you do so locally, otherwise it becomes a bit hypothetical.""

A survey by The Saint Consulting Group (SCG) found that "nearly nine out of 10 people in Britain are NIMBYs". In fact "almost a quarter of all UK households have objected to a planning application of one kind or another in their local area over the last 12 months". In other words, for the very people who elect councillors into office, the act of defending their home and neighbourhood against threats from local government or Swiss multinational giants is natural. It is certainly no more selfish than the profit motives of the world's largest cement producer

And it's hardly surprising when you hear of plans passed such as the one in Plymouth last year - it's obviously not just DCC that doesn't listen to local concerns. Would the councillors who voted for the waste incinerator and its 95m chimney stack, just 60m from the closest home in a socially deprived part of the City, have voted differently if they had lived in one of the 450 homes within 250m of the site?

Whether one agrees or not with its conclusions, the think-tank Policy Exchange recognised in a recent paper that "...local people see many costs and few benefits from new developments". "As 'neighbourhood' is people’s number one priority for homes, many NIMBYs are not selfish or unreasonable but defending their property rights" and "the legitimate fears of NIMBYs must be acknowledged, rather than NIMBYs being insulted".

According to SCG "quarries remain one of the most disliked forms of development behind casinos, power plants and landfill sites". When the BGS warn "Quarrying can significantly deflate the perceived and actual value of local property prices by reducing the desirability and demand for housing near the quarry as a result of noise, traffic, safety, dust, and visual intrusion concerns observed or envisaged by potential purchasers" are councillors surprised that not everybody might be in favour? Would they be happy living next to all that? Losing value on their home? And then losing their water supply too?

SCG advice to mineral operators is to "engage with the local community and educate members of the public (and likely opponents) about how important the aggregates sector is, and the positive impact that a quarry can have on the community." But if it won't bring any new jobs, the 384 consultation respondents would be interested to hear from Aggregate Industries what positive impacts a quarry at Straitgate Farm would have for the population of Ottery and West Hill. And they don't just want talk about restoration, because those plans have a habit of changing or simply not happening at all.

Signs produced by
Ottery Quarry
Action Group
SCG adds "Operators need to establish close ties with their local communities early on, as it is much easier to present the industry’s message to local residents whose position has not already been influenced, than it is to change their preformed opinions." Yet at the recent consultation Aggregate Industries was nowhere to be seen, and was not even prepared to share the working or restoration plans drawn up for the site. "Preformed opinions"? Sorry - too late.

As it was DCC pitching northern and southern sites against each other in the consultation, respondents did not deserve to be brushed aside with the misconceived accusation of NIMBYism. It's only too apparent from the documentation that locals know more about their locality than either Aggregate Industries or DCC. Councillors should appreciate people taking the time to furnish the facts, rather than criticise.

Local people are pragmatic enough to accept the need for sand and gravel, but Devon has over nine million tonnes already reserved and is using less than half a million tonnes each year. "But don't we need to build for economic recovery"? Like Spain, Ireland et al?