Whilst sitting at the computer this morning searching desperately for inspiration for this report, it came from an unlikely quarter: an email came plopping through my electronic letterbox from a well-known discount stationery purveyor informing me that today is World Environment Day, “the United Nations’ flagship environment event”, and that if I spend £79 or more with them, they will plant a tree on behalf of my organisation.
Whoopee! By great good fortune the PPPS has chosen this auspicious occasion for our AGM. Let’s all think about the environment for a few seconds and then we can forget it again for another 364 days.
By another coincidence, yesterday was the 7th Anniversary of the first Public Meeting relating to the Priory Crescent Road Scheme in which our own John Fuller, who was then FoE local organiser, chaired a noisy and boisterous gathering of several hundred people in which three of our then Councillors showed their true colours. During the intervening period we have had something like 2560 days in which to think about the environment.
The past 7 years have seen an awful lot of work put in by the membership of PPPS and our sister organisation Parklife and in my view it has been very well worthwhile. Our recent PPPS News gave a fairly detailed breakdown of our activities in that period, and I think that few of us would have predicted 7 years ago that the road would not yet be built and that the net result of the Council’s activities in this area have been the demolition of two houses and the establishment of Camp Bling. Oh, and the discovery of a Saxon tomb, whose site, we are reliably informed by the professional archaeologists who came to give evidence at the Public Inquiry, is of no historical value whatsoever.
Meanwhile, the road, or half of it, remains Anna Waite’s pipe-dream. PPPS has discovered, through Freedom of Information Requests, that the Council has already spent more than £2 million on this scheme and that the Department for Transport expects, should the road ever be built, that the Borough Council will have to find 25% of the cost. At the current rate that is about £3.5m, or roughly the same amount that the road was predicted to cost when it was first mooted in 2001.
Yet the Council still won’t give in. They are as determined as ever, it seems, to build a road because of the massive increase in traffic which they predicted 7 years ago, when the price of oil was $24 dollars a barrel, $100 dollars less than it is today. And underneath all this activity, Priory Crescent continues to flow smoothly for most of the day, carrying people and their cars reasonably rapidly from one side of the town to the other. It will probably be exactly the same in another 7 years.