Thursday, 14 February 2013

Does AI want to play God?

The planning shake-up means different things to different people. To Aggregate Industries, or at least its Head of Planning and Estates, "Reform of the planning system is an opportunity to harness the full potential of quarrying and other development to create a more diverse landscape".

Has AI assumed the role of the Creator? Isn't quarrying about supplying the construction industry and making money? In the same vein he adds:
Policy recognition that the landscape and its habitats are not natural but have evolved from land management practices would take the emphasis away from preservation and allow the full potential of government, developers, landowners and conservation bodies to be properly harnessed for the creation of a more diverse and resilient landscape.
It is the same view he puts forward in another article:
The ‘natural’ environment we enjoy in the UK is anything but natural. It is the result of largely unregulated development and land management over thousands of years.
Landscapes not natural? They are a good deal more natural than a quarry with excavators ripping out the life and guts of the land, or the industrial development that inevitably seems to follow. Landscapes may have been influenced by land management, but has he forgotten his school lessons on weathering and tectonic plates? It is alarming that a cement giant wants to be at the right hand of landscape creation; all too predictable that it wants attitudes to shift from preservation. There's more:
Diverting resources from ever more onerous investigation, recording and mitigation into the creation of new landforms and habitats would be far more productive. 
Forget those "onerous" checks then - just start digging to create new landforms and habitats. And as if that's not enough, AI has something to say on interaction with local people too:
Those who have engaged with local communities know that genuine and open consultation can lead to positive outcomes for both community and applicant... In return for more control over the planning process, local communities will need to assume the responsibility to guide and approve rather than just oppose. Applicants need to invest more time in helping communities to do just that.
That's alright then. With AI helping us to approve its plans and with "positive outcomes" for the community, we should obviously welcome it to Ottery St Mary to remodel our landscape and our habitats. In a different article, complaining about the "mind boggling amount of bureaucracy" involved in running a quarry, the same spokesman is quoted as saying:
We need a flexible, light touch system as these separate regulations lead to uncertainty for owners and investors who back the sector.
This may be, but in digging test pits at Straitgate Farm for example, AI had to be reminded to follow the regulations. And how thorough are the stretched authorities in enforcing the rules anyway? If there's to be any "light touch" then let it be upon the planet.

It is disturbing for mere mortals to hear such views on landscape reorganisation and light touch regulation being touted by Aggregate Industries. Disturbing, but hardly surprising.