Richard Pierce

Richard Pierce – author, poet, painter


On villages and ethics

The East of England Co-op have applied for planning permission to build a shop on a very busy road out of Stradbroke, opposite a well-attended and excellent primary school. The road is the main route out of the village to Diss, and onwards to Norwich and Bury St Edmunds. Interesting, you say. Life-threatening, I say.

Village politics is always a muddle, always a hotbed for inflammatory actions by one party or another (not in the party political sense, although, come May, that might be a different story). In my experience, and I’ve lived in quite a few villages here in England and abroad, there are two kinds of people active in village affairs. Those who are ethical and altruistic and seek to improve life for everyone in a village. And those who are selfish, motivated by greed for power or money (or both), and who masquerade that greed behind a publicly and eloquently avowed desire to support the village in its quest for greater and better things.

The Co-op application is just another manifestation of how these two different kinds of people act. On the Mid Suffolk planning department comments page, there are many objections posted (you can post yours there, too –, and a few supporting comments. What’s interesting is that the objections are mainly concise and visceral, and aimed at saving children’s lives, at securing growth for the village while ensuring that everyone is treated equally, and emphasising that a life is more important than any economic considerations. What’s interesting, and appalling, about the comments which support the planning application is that they trivialise the danger to life on that road, especially the danger to the life of a child, and maintain that the most important argument in this case is that the village’s economy will benefit. If child sacrifice were mentioned in any other context, these people would release howls of outrage, and deem any village that sacrificed its children to any god to be primitive and unchristian.

I am not in principle against the building of another shop in Stradbroke, but I am opposed to it being sited in an evidently dangerous position where children’s lives (and actually others’ lives) will be endangered from the minute the construction teams move onto site. It is a patently ridiculous application, especially following on from a consultation in the village arranged by the Co-op where the majority of residents expressed opposition to such plans. Add to this that the application is undeniably linked to a proposal to build 53 houses on the Grove Farm site less than a hundred yards further north on that road, and there must be serious questions as to who will actually benefit if a benighted Parish Council and District and County Councils do the unthinkable and approve these schemes.

It is here that the distinction between the two different kinds of contributors to village life comes into its own. Does any village benefit from the scurrilous and behind-the-scenes machinations of those who perceive themselves to be (or wish to be) the unofficial squires of a village, or does such a village benefit most from those who speak openly and honestly, and who contribute, at every turn, to the life of a village, often to their own financial detriment?

You decide.

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