People who don’t come from Britain won’t be familiar with this one. Nimbyism is a phenomenon that seems to affect England more than any other country. But why the stupid name, I hear you ask? Well, its simple…

‘Not In My Back Yard!’

Its the phenomenon of people thinking that nothing should happen anywhere near their home of where they live that they don’t like. Football Stadium? Not near my house? Where should it go? Oh I don’t mind, just not here! somewhere else!

Its a pretty unconstructive way to think. OK, it would be lovely if we all lived in nice bungalows, in the country, with rolling fields all around and birds singing in the morning. But we don’t, we live in a city, one of the most cramped in the world, and some things just have to go somewhere. Even if you argue against something, come up with a constructive alternative rather than just ‘not here!’

I remember well the debate about Pompey’s new football stadium, back in the 1990’s. The locals in Farlington didnt want it. In the end a public inquiry ruled it out due to Farlington being a breeding ground for Geese. I’m sure the people of Farlington were pretty pleased, but it just meant that someone else would eventually have to live next to it.

The plans for a dedicated bus route from Fareham to Gosport spring to mind too. The road from Fareham to Gosport is so congested, it risks turning Gosport into an unlivable town unless something drastic is done. All kinds of things have been proposed – trams, tunnels under the harbour… but for various reasons nothing gets done. Even when the Council propose to apply for Government funding to build a dedicated bus lane on an old disused train line. Perfect idea, surely? Not to the small handful of people who don’t want it. Apparently there are rare insects in the area. Now, I’m not advocating bulldozing over endangered animals, but… its something that would make a big difference to Gosport.

Remember when Status Quo were going to play Portchester Castle? Until the locals decided they didnt want hundreds of ‘denim and leather clad rockers’ turning up! It eventually got switched to Stansted House. But somehow no-one complained about the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra playing there… so its obviously not about the event itself, or the amount of people or the parking, its a class thing.

Architecture is another one. There are plenty of people out there who will oppose planning permission on a new building just becase they don’t like it. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t make sure that new buildings look good, but is it right for a very small part of the population to have such influence over the environment? And especially when often it holds up and delays important projects. There is something rather elitist about pushing your views on something, because you think they are more important than other people’s. Even when it affects them too.

There have been plenty of debates around Britain about whether wind farms look ugly. Unless I’m very much mistaken, we’re facing so many problems with fossil fuels running out and power stations creating greenhouse gases, that we can’t really afford to worry about whether they spoil Mrs. Davis-Jones’s views from her nice little bungalow! There are plenty of wind turbines in Europe, and they don’t look that bad.

In other countries – I think principally of Germany – things just get done. No one complains or moans, the greater good takes priority. I guess there is a greater heritage there of obeying authority, whereas here we are all entitled to have a good moan, no matter how crazy our grounds might be. I guess its a price we pay for democracy, it takes forever for anything to get done.

Look at the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics – whoever was in charge would have called the shots, and no complaining. Whereas for the 2012 opening ceremony, I bet we already have a plethora of committees, focus panels, advisory groups, hundreds of special advisers, consultants, all sorts. Who knows how it will end up…



Filed under Architecture, debate, Local History

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