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Patience - Thursday 21st March 2013

Though the outward forms that make up my surroundings, environment and consequently what could be called my 'life' have changed dramatically, one constant has remained. My love and passion for the outdoors, which I access through my shooting. Whilst nothing truly stops me, or indeed any body, from walking out of the door and simply wandering this land (which I have done frequently during this transitional phase) the mind prefers to have a goal, a reason, an 'excuse'.

I have missed my forays, I have missed them sorely. Thankfully, life has acknowledged my desire and through a good friend, has rewarded us with a new site where our passion can be shared and is permitted by the occupying beings.This is most welcome, since my shooting companion mentioned the possibility I have been very much looking forward to assessing our new domain. In spite of the rain we ventured over around 16:30.

Here is what we found.

An indoor range!
Come 48 yard fitness 'suite'.

Prime Rabbit land.
With fresh evidence!
Pigeon potential.
An accommodating, potentially comfortable and established Hide.
 Needless to say I am extremely pleased with this opportunity intend to pursue the numerous avenues of potential here. With more resources at home (i.e inexhaustible electricity!) I can feasibly attempt videos and some more technologically ambitious exercises.

"Patience is the companion of wisdom."
Saint Augustine (354 AD - 430 AD)

The Battle for Baxters Field

The Battle for Baxters Field.

Reader, I do solemnly and humbly beg your forgiveness and understanding for my insufficient abilities and haphazard attempt to convey to you my thoughts and feelings relating to the proposed development on land known locally as 'Baxters Field'. My words may seem laced and poisoned with bitterness, even defeat, but alas I fear it is weariness that infects them.
Though a year or more may have passed, it feels only yesterday I addressed the good citizens of this county and our council representatives to thwart attempts to pave another green field of our treasured valley.

On that occasion, we succeeded. Since then, Westminster, in its wisdom, has repealed planning restrictions that have existed since the 1960's on land designated AONB's (Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty). But I ask you, what part of this Earth that man has not yet soiled, or the scars on the land he has abandoned and neglected that Nature is attempting to heal is not an AONB!? How is one more deserving of a safe guard than the other? If not all the valued green can be shielded then perhaps Westminster is, in a twisted way, correct in their logic that none should be!

When it comes to any area deemed 'desirable' to live, the present inhabitants are resisting any and all forms of attempts to construct more homes. As is and has been the case with the Slad Valley.
But I do not believe we need to. What are we saying 'No' to?
Are we averse to our fellow man?
Is it that those who have paid/ are in debt by substantial sums of money for their exclusive properties far from the town and suburbs keen to keep him at arms length. Out of sight and therefore out of mind.
Is it yet another case of 'not in my backyard'? If the sons and daughters of Stroud are not to be housed here, then where?

What exactly is it that we are protecting? Is it a true irrevocable physical asset, enjoyed by and shared with the community as a whole, something that directly benefits all by its existence and continued preservation? A spiritual aspect of, or attachment to the land? The Gold Crested Newt?
Or is it an idea of a world long gone, written about and captured by a talented poet now dead?
Perhaps the preservation of a view you enjoy once or twice a day/week/month/year, as you exercise your pet or glance out from your window?

Swifts Hill is a vantage point from where, on a clear day, the perceiver can see out as far as the Malvern Hills. What a splendid and awe inspiring sight it is too. That is of course once you raise your gaze from the past permitted development and destruction that constitutes the town we call Stroud. The unmistakeable and grotesque structure of the Police Station, the Rivita crusted flats of Nouncells Cross, bitter, disgusting relics of bygone architectural tastes standing near to the modern, glittering visual interruptions of Merrywalks, the Cinema and the blazing white sides of the College. Each and all stealing focus, soiling the perfection of what existed prior to all.
Flanking these megaliths and monoliths sprawl hundreds of terraces of thousands of homes. Each addition, encroaching on someone else. He who cries out the loudest, who wails and gnashes his teeth at the mere suggestion of change, a proposal, the idea, survives with the view from his window intact, for now.

We are told we must accept developments such as the proposed, for there is a shortage, a national crisis and all must bear his share of the burden.
How is it then that there is a housing shortage and yet the property section of the same newspapers that print such a claim and windows of the many local estate agents are brimming with offerings?
Are we being mislead perchance?
Is the day at hand when the employed yet homeless buyer will be turned away for lack of stock? Is this policy just a ruse to avert an impending demise of the smartly attired, smooth talking estate agent?

Once again, we are hearing this phrase 'affordable housing'. Yet despite the many developments that have gained council consent and been completed these past years, all with the same promise, I have yet to see nor find one. Let us explore what exactly 'affordable housing' is;
I define 'affordable' as being an expense that does not force the purchaser into any form of debt. I am open to correction on this, nay, I invite it in the hopes my search for the aforementioned may finally bear fruit. As things stand for the majority, what is affordable varies greatly from person to person and appears dependant upon;

  • When and where in the country you were born,
  • How much you have accrued in your life in physical possessions and monetary assets,
  • Career/ Field of Expertise,
  • Luck,
  • Family,
  • And finally, how long its been since you were paid!

At the time of writing, an affordable house for me would cost no more than £1.34. Come Friday, that may change to £645.97. Probably 80% of the worlds population exist in traditional structures the West would label 'eco' for at least £600 less!

Allegedly, affordable housing is being built for those who cannot currently afford them. I know scant few individuals, even couples, who can muster £100,000 (the minimum I expect these houses to cost) without assistance from some financial body or institution.
If these structures are indeed intended to house those currently without shelter, I feel it is worthy of note that probably the majority of those objecting to their construction are presently suitably and comfortably housed.

Development, whatever form it takes, is rarely entertained where there is an existing, flourishing enterprise or concern. The proposed sites in the Slad Valley, have been and are, examples of the current and national unsustainable agricultural model and equally unprofitable for its owners.
Income from grazing horses and livestock and the leasing of green fields for such purposes must pale in comparison when one considers the sums proffered by the likes of Gladman Developers when they smell the whiff of a quick profit. I can certainly understand the incentives and how they appear to such owners in this broken and flawed monetary system.

Let us not forget what existed prior to fields and land clearance and what would exist if nature were only allowed; the most ecologically diverse and treasured of all habitats, Woodland.

I have put forward many questions and highlighted issues as I see them;
What are my answers, and more importantly for credibility's sake, what are my qualifications?

Three years ago, I and my little family abandoned adequate rented accommodation that was a 3 bedroomed end terraced house. We sought a life closer to this environment we see, read about and on occasion fight for, yet so few of us experience outside of the occasional walk on a sunny day.
We wished not to glimpse this beauty between work routines, rather to immerse ourselves fully, to bath and invigorate our souls in its font. My partner and I were also dissatisfied with labouring 40 hours a week separated from those we love, only to still struggle to meet our bills and outgoings, the biggest of which being rent. We dared ask the question, is there another way? How did our ancestors manage successfully for all those millennia?
It was in the preparation for this adventure that inspired not one, but five books, that I stumbled on a truly affordable home; A touring caravan bought for £150! Later, we graduated to a static caravan for £900. At the time I felt like a property mogul, my good friend and his partner were at the time struggling to finance the purchase of their first home and there I was with two!
Then, we were volunteering in Pembrokeshire at Lammas, aiding the residents in constructing their hand built low impact homes from local, natural materials. They have successfully secured planning permission from Pembrokeshire County Council after a protracted struggle. Despite being so close to the national park, they have also gained the support of the majority of the local population who, though once opposed, have come to see the merits of such a solution to the housing need.
I witnessed people construct and house themselves in dwellings that cost them a fraction of the alternative, shelters that outperformed the orthodox, houses that blended with their surroundings both visually and materially.
I remember asking myself, as I gazed in awe at the achievements manifesting around me why the heck Stroud was not hosting such initiatives?!

To just declare “NO” to this and other sites of interest to developers who will wish to build carbon copy, inefficient, overpriced yet cheap and unsightly chicken coops with postage stamp gardens is to mount our thrones upon the shore of a persistent and strengthening tide, praying each time that this will not be the one that wets our feet. Let us not be Canutes, let us be Christs and turn this water into wine.
If we place our trust in our democratically elected leaders, if we accept that there may truly be a housing crisis and it is not just another ploy to coax economic growth and revenue to benefit the few at the cost of the many, then I say that Stroud must stipulate and propose what exactly it will accept.

With this in mind, I would suggest the following as constructive, positive alternatives to what needn't be a threat nor curse. A way to harness what could potentially be a blessing rather than a burden. We need not be alone in the formulation of this, I have met most capable and willing individuals upon my travels, who possess not only the experience and creativity but importantly, the motivation; Simon Dale, Tony Wrench, Paul Wimbush, Simon Fairlie and Mark Boyle to name but a few.

A special planning vehicle similar to the One Planet Development (4.15), TAN 6 (July 2010) policy that exists in Wales could be one avenue. This sort of policy could grant this legion of 'houseless' folk a means to design and construct low impact, natural homes, sympathetic to the environment themselves. Small hamlets of self reliant, productive smallholdings that will invariably experience surplus and will therefore utilise Strouds thriving Farmers market not to mention trade with the surrounding communities and population.
It may mean comparatively little stamp duty will be raised, probably less revenue through planning permission fees, less profit will mean less tax, a terrible and undesirable option from a government and capitalist perspective. Yet I foresee the future benefits and pay-offs of such a course to be immeasurable in monetary terms in its boost to the town, to the spirit and to the quality of life inhabitants of such dwellings would experience.
Ironically such a step forward would, in actuality, be a step back to how I believe England and its villages used to be!

In the Battle for Baxters Field, I feel there need not be a loser, both sides may be granted a 'victory', a positive result if dialogue, co-operation and negotiation is entertained and entered into that involves all interested.
The kernel, the heart of the issue we are tackling, is not as I see it what is, nor will be, on Baxters Field rather it is what underlies Baxters Field and the fear that proposed development inspires.

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