Town mouse says save our cities

Lord March is worried about Chichester. I don’t blame him. It’s in the same position as other cathedral and university cities and attractive towns: people want to develop it. At present, although a single building such as a cathedral can be given comprehensive protection against change, it counts as just one neighbour among others when it comes to new planning applications.

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As a result, the fact that Ely Cathedral has served as a beacon for travellers on the Fens for centuries made no difference to the people who allowed some indifferent housing estates to be built on one side of the little city. Now, road engineers are proposing a bridge for the bypass, which will obliterate the view from the other side, too (COUNTRY LIFE, October 30, 2013). Last week, with the help of English Heritage, Lord March convened a lunch for some of the country’s leading architects, planners and aesthetes to debate the matter. (Some of the contents of the Goodwood cellars were made available to help our cogitations.)

The French and even the Poles do it better, by recognizing towns of historic importance. We’ve been too blasé in thinking that sensitive historic places can look after themselves. These days, our economic boom towns aren’t sites of heavy industry. They’re Winchester, Cambridge, Oxford, Brighton-places that offer good schools and a high standard of amenity. Increasingly, the entrepreneurs and the prosperous middle classes can live anywhere. Oh, how we kill the things we love.

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