Alan Bunce argues that a certain politician’s interest in a local development is somewhat ironic.
When Theresa May was Prime Minister she announced it was her personal mission to fix the housing crisis.
All manner of measures were to be taken to help the Government reach its target of 300,000 new homes a year as she vowed to ‘restore the dream of home ownership for people up and down the UK’.
In 2018 she told the next generation that her Government’s message was: “Getting on, and climbing up, the housing ladder is not just a dream of your parents’ past, but a reality for your future.”
But there are 50 homes the Maidenhead MP doesn’t want the next generation to have – the ones Sonning Golf Club wants to build across the road from her house.
On this occasion she wrote to Wokingham Borough Council, one of the hardest hit by her insistence on targets, and spelled out her objections.
Apart from the fact it was on House of Commons notepaper, the letter was not unlike numerous objections residents fire off to oppose schemes in their neighbourhoods.
You could have played a form of bingo, such was the list of everyday objections: numbers of traffic movements, increased population of the village and pressure on GP services, local amenities and the transport network, were all there, and there was a throwaway line about flooding too.
Of course, since councils charged headfirst into declaring climate emergencies, the more savvy objectors have learned there are extra points if you can find environmental reasons to oppose the sorts of houses the former Prime Minister once wanted in every nook and corner of our built up areas.
So it was interesting that, in her follow up objection, Mrs May demonstrated a surprising knowledge of the state of Sonning’s ecology and biodiversity.
The hobby, red kite, buzzard, barn owl and the ‘now very rare’ lesser spotted woodpecker were all on her radar, along with Barbastelle bats, slow worms, adders and grass snakes. Given her day job, her knowledge of reptiles is perhaps understandable.
But it would seem that habitats for those creatures is now a higher priority than habitats for the next generation of humans she was so keen to support five years ago. She certainly seems to care about her own habitat.
A cynic might suggest the various bats and snakes she worries about now are of greater political than ecological value.
Mrs May wants the scheme refused and the site to stay as it is. But wouldn’t those golf balls flying around already be a danger to those birds of prey? And wouldn’t the snakes be at risk from anyone swinging a golf club in the long grass? Aren’t the worms already at risk from birds who eat them?
Those of us whose journeys to work a few years ago involved lengthy waits in Pound Lane and on the A4 when Mrs May’s armed police units, in their SUVs and on their motorbikes, sometimes in considerable numbers, would block the nearby roundabout to take her safely to work on a Monday morning, might be forgiven for wondering if that weekly routine posed something of a threat to the features of life in Sonning she expressed her fears about.
As with so much about modern environmentalism, it’s little to do with the environment. Mrs May knows how to play the game in 2023. If the next generation are to benefit from those much-needed homes, then when Wokingham Borough Council’s planning committee meets on Wednesday, councillors just need to support the Theresa May of 2018.
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