Urgent health warning!

This warning is being issued to alert the public to an acute and potentially lethal case of Easter Island Syndrome that has been identified at the Planning Inspectorate.

For those of you unaware of the symptoms of Easter Island Syndrome, it involves the myopic rubber-stamping of activities and policies which, in combination and unless reversed, lead to environmental catastrophe and rapid depopulation.

The case of the Syndrome that was belatedly picked up at the Planning Inspectorate, and which is now sadly believed to be one of many, was uncovered during the public examination of the Area Action Plan (AAP) for the Salt Cross Garden Village in West Oxfordshire.

The local District Council had for some time been trying to limit the damage caused by its original misguided decision to locate an unnecessary “garden village” in an inappropriate part of the District. To that end, it had consistently described this “village” as an “exemplar” development, blazing a trail that would set bold new standards for addressing the climate and biodiversity emergencies, while ensuring that much of the housing would be “genuinely affordable” (i.e. not just the 80% of market rates for sale and rent, which local people could not afford).

Notable, and welcome, polices for achieving these forward-looking goals included:

  1. Net Zero Carbon Development; and
  2. Achievement of Building with Nature’s ”Full Award Accreditation – Excellent”.

Unfortunately, this is the point at which, as far as we know, the Easter Island Syndrome pathogens infiltrated the Planning Inspectorate, possibly via the hot air conditioning.

As a result, the AAP’s Core Objective to mitigate “the impact of Salt Cross on climate change by achieving net zero-carbon development through ultra-low energy fabric and 100% use of low and zero-carbon energy, with no reliance on fossil fuels” was fatally undermined by the inspectors’ insistence that “100%” be removed, and “wherever possible” be added after “fossil fuels”. An open door for the developers.

The inspectors also demanded that the first paragraph of the policy covering Net Zero Carbon Development should be deleted and reduced to a vague “ambitious approach” – to be defined, no doubt, by the developers. The rest of the policy had to be redrafted “to remove references to absolute requirements and key performance indicators that must be met and instead to reframe as standards for consideration” – which could no doubt be safely ignored.

In its AAP, the District Council had mentioned Building with Nature 23 times, thereby stressing the importance it attached to the highest standards to be achieved for “green infrastructure” and biodiversity, by using Building with Nature accreditation. The inspectors swept this aside with the terse comment: “No specific requirement for use of Building with Nature Standards to be set.”

Elsewhere in the AAP, requirements were repeatedly watered down, and, in the case of housing, the inspectors demanded that the phrase “genuine affordability” be removed.

As yet, there is no proven cure for Easter Island Syndrome, but scientists strongly believe that the application of courage, imagination and foresight will greatly reduce its severity, and lead in future to therapies that not only control the symptoms but could rehabilitate the patient.

Nigel Pearce