Messing about with BOATs
Jan 29, 2007
When I first moved to Chesham I lived in Waterside, and soon got to know and enjoy the footpaths in the area. One of my favourite places is standing at the crossroads of paths near Tylers Hill gazing across the Chess Valley. It's not as if you've walked that far from civilisation, but there's suddenly barely a building to be seen. And if you walk from there past Dungrove farm towards the railway bridge, Chesham appears to rise from out of the ground from nowhere, beginning with the spire of St Marys.
It is beautiful and peaceful around these paths and bridleways, and this will be ruined if the old lanes are made open to motorised vehicles. They are clearly not suitable for motor vehicles, as everyone from around here knows only too well. Only the worst kind of centralised faceless bureaucrat could rule otherwise. But this is the precisely the danger we face.
It would seem obvious to me that before you jeopardise an amenity that local people have enjoyed for years, those same people should be consulted and their views listened to. However, the sad truth is that often in order to be listened to you have to shout. Mel Chapinal has organised an excellent campaign and everyone who cares about this issue should ensure they know how to add their weight to this.
When you do this you may also notice that the powers that be have told us how we may protest. We can't simply say we enjoy walking or riding on these bridleways, and if trial bikes are allowed down these paths it will ruin it for us, make it dangerous, threaten wildlife, destroy the peace. We are told this is irrelevant. Only evidence of previous use is relevant, say the powers that be.
When I first got involved with the Green Party, I was disturbed that a political party should advocate direct action (albeit of a strictly non-violent nature) as one of the tools to achieve change. It seemed anti-democratic to me. Surely the laws of the land have been set by the majority, and we can't just pick and choose the laws we feel bound by?
In a perfect democracy, maybe this would be true. But is it not the case that in most of the cases where we feel motivated to protest it is because we feel we have not been listened to? It seems to me that the mandate for responsible direct action is where it instantiates a truer democratic process than we have been granted by those who should be working on our behalf. It is action by people affected by a decision who care deeply about its outcome and who ought to be the ones calling the shots.
So should we simply play by the rules of people who have clearly got more time than we have to monitor and manipulate the legislation that is put in place. Where actually do our responsibilities lie here?
The right to protest has always been a feature of a free society, and not all direct action is illegal. However, I contend that we should not just always set the boundaries of our action at the letter of the law as it stands at any particular time. To do so would be to say that bad laws should never be broken. Without struggle against bad laws women would not have the vote, and apartheid would still be in place. Sometimes, for matters of conscience or out of a sense of duty for the wider good, we need to break rules, accepting when we do that law enforcers may also have a duty to take reasonable action against us.
So when we write our letters of protest I'd urge us not to simply adopt the "permitted script". Say what it means to you. Speak from your heart. Remind that bureaucrat that s/he is dealing with human beings. The value of a landscape cannot be calculated with a pocket calculator. Feelings of peace and closeness to nature are not marked on any map. Remind yourself of how much you care, that when you join with others you are not powerless, that you will not let this come to pass. And tell them that too.
PHIL FOLLY, has been nominated for the Community Champion award for all the volunteer work he is involved. Read more
Press release to local newspapers from Jem Bailey. Cllr Jem Bailey determined that the Parish and village should not lose this space to a private individual or a developer.
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