2014 Bourne End to Shiplake_20140318__DSC7744

Land Grab

crossposted from radioclash.com, it seemed pertinent here also – and yes I have more posts lined up, as it’s been better weather I’ve been walking or doing other stuff – rather than spending hours indoors selecting photographs and writing!

While most of the country seems to be worried that Uragoing Home from the World Cup, I’m more concerned about the Infrastructure Bill and the land grab going on. There are two things: like the horror of what happened to Royal Mail, the Land Registry is being privatised, and this new Bill allows building on brownfield sites and other sites without regard for planning, rights of way, or any previous restriction. Yes, just like in Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy they can turn up on your local common land, park or disused site with a yellow bulldozer and start a new bypass. Unlike Hitchhiker’s they don’t even have to bother with the filing cabinet with Beward of the Leopard on it anymore. This is what the new bill proposes, to transfer public land to the new body and then make it available for new houses, roads or even nuclear reactors and fracking without those pesky activists and locals getting in the way. If you thought selling off the forests was bad, this seems much worse. If you like walking, cycling, or just not having roads driven through your neighbourhood without consultation (and houses without any new schools, better roads or infrastructure to support them) then you need to stop this Bill and the flogging off of the Land Registry.

So what can you do? Well I wrote to my MP via WriteToThem as you can see below, but I also signed two petitions – one about the Land Registry sale (now at over 100k signed), and another about the Infrastructure Bill (22k strong!). Remember the expenses outrage? Remember trying to sell off the forests? We won those, so can win this. That is unless everyone is more interested in a football game rather than getting a motorway at the end of their street.

Dear Glenda Jackson,

Thanks for your previous letters, I hope you are well.

I’m writing today about the proposed Infrastructure Bill which had second reading on Wednesday, and the privatisation of the Land Registry. I’m sure you’re concerned like myself at the privatisation of services (like sadly happened to the Royal Mail and the giveaway that happened there) but the new bill contains provisions to easily sell and develop brownfield and other sites…this seems a charter to build houses, roads on common land, parks, and other green sites – ignoring rights of way, which as a walker I find essential and much attacked or ignored by the current Government and councils, but also the agreement of the community, local planning, any restriction seems to go out of the window.

I agree more houses need to be built, but there are enough abandoned factory sites and areas that aren’t needed for this, leaving the Bill so vague means it could be another Enclosure land grab, on common land sites. I still remember Twyford Down, still remember M11 link road protest, and many more that had a lot of local support. And of course fracking would be easily done via these new rules.

And of course motorism, do we really need more roads? Especially ones that ride roughshod over the local community, planning and local wishes, taking the rights of way away, so it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy of forcing people onto the roads, or at least walking along them…quite often all of these motorway/road developments ignore what cyclists and pedestrians have to do to avoid the multi-lane commuter highways – paths end without bridges or tunnels, alternate paths are not created, alternatives do not exist. This new Bill seems ideal to exacerbate this trend, of houses built without proper support from the community which has to bear the brunt of the influx of people and cars, of roads that are built without caring how the locals might cross it, but of course the construction companies and road lobby gets rich – and one guess who they donate heavily to.

Of course The Queen and aristocracy are exempt, so it’s very much an issue of Let Them Eat Roads/Houses on our land, and again reminds me of various land grabs over the centuries. This Bill and the shift of the Land Registry must be stopped, otherwise I fear that the idea of common land and public rights of way will become history.

Yours sincerely,

Tim B

The rules

United Kingdom has over 7,000 islands, rocks, tidal sandbanks and abandoned shopping trolleys, so even as haphazard a walk needs rules…what is part of the mainland, and do I need to walk up ever little inlet? If you’re walk along the coast, then what exactly is the coast?

Well I’ve decided:

  1. The coastal path is the main guide, if it goes there so will I. The coastal path isn’t everywhere though, and sometimes it strangely skirts inland for no reason, in those cases I will make a judgement call usually based on time and tiredness whether I want to walk along the coast proper. I do prefer walking along beaches or cliffs than some inland path with no view. Although safety concerns come in, I have walked around a headland for miles along the shoreline then found the sign ‘Danger! Quick Sand!’ on the other end…
  2. It’s part of the mainland and thus part of the coastal walk if there is a physical connection during most or all of the tides. A connection is a bridge, a walkway or causeway available most of the time. I’m not walking all the big named islands, that you can only get to by boat, although some I’ve visited already. Thus Isle of Sheppey counts, so probably will St Michael’s Mount when I get there if the tide allows, many piers and headlands, but not Guernsey or The Isle of Man.
  3. It’s only in the running to be even considered if the piece of land is above tide all the time. No sandbanks, tidal islands, etc. however accessible.
  4. When land is private or disused I usually walk along the beach as between high water and the water is actually owned by the Queen, if it’s physically or safely possible – I’m not walking at the bottom of a tidal cliff! They like to put up signs telling you otherwise, but unless you are the MOD (headed by the Queen) or the Queen you can’t actually have a private beach. Not along the waterline. I have walked 5 miles along shingle beach by a firing range before now – with no exit!
  5. Regular ferries are allowed across estuaries and rivers, although I’ve found precious few of these. I don’t have to actually ride the ferry, just walk to where the ferry is, if it’s out of hours. Regular means running most or all of the year, not some ad-hoc summer-only man in a boat. This also applies to my Thames River Walk too.

All of these are at my own judgement, if the walk can be a lot easier and quicker then I will break them, but only in cases where there isn’t really a guide either way (a path for instance, I will usually devolve to that) or the state of tide or weather is against me. I’m not going to schlep all the way back because the tides were wrong to walk around some rock! But if it’s there and the tides are good, then fine.

Some might get interesting when I get further into areas that don’t have paths (if I get to Wales or Scotland for instance) although their roaming laws are better now, but I bet the curse of the Mythical Private Beach is strong there…if a man with a gun is saying don’t walk, I’m not going to walk.