NIMBYs, get out of my back yard!

The author makes no apologies for the metropolitan bias in the following blog post.

NIMBYs are the enemies of progress. They’re boorish, sentimental, parochial minded luddites but that’s not all; they’re also some of the most selfish people alive.

I’d dearly love to indulge in the kind of short sighted protectionism enjoyed by these closeted figurines, but I don’t have that luxury; I’m a descendent of the industrial revolution and technological progress. As a Londoner I also live in a real place; the kind of culturally rich, busy metropolitan centre, flush with humanity, where tolerance and a willingness to flex to accommodate one’s fellow citizens, of the kind already demonstrated, is a copper bottomed necessity.

I know you think you live in a real place but you don’t. Those six streets, flanked by pastoral beauty and evocative of 18th century village life, are a romantic stain from a social dalliance long ended. I know, it’s nice for you to live in the village, with the old post office, red phone box, thatched public house and rows of lime plaster cottages; a place where you can hear nothing but Ravens and Cow bleats; where you’ve known the same ten people all your life, having slept with half of them; but this isn’t reality, it’s Britain as imagined by Hergé in the Tintin books.

To modernity’s eyes you’re cavemen. Worse, you’re lecturing us on the infrastructure projects conceived in the national interest. Worse still, the government is listening. This is ludicrous; like all adults agreeing to abstinence because a committee of five year olds told them that women and men touching each other was disgusting. Don’t misunderstand, I don’t wish to be condescending, it’s just that you’re a lot of backward, pig-ignorant bastards.

NIMBYs are lobbying hard to destroy belated attempts at improving our national rail network. The Victorians and Edwardians built it; it was the envy of the world. Sure, no one asked the world but someone who’d travelled around it spoke to someone who knew for definite. The railways connected communities, built many more, allowed industry and exploitation in the workplace to thrive and then, in the 1960s, technocrats, spearheaded by imbecilic, self-centred road users, like Doctor Beeching, dismantled a third of them and left the rest to rust. The Major regime finished it off, privatising the whole thing.

Now we’re ghouls riding the ghost train. Lost souls rotting in overcrowded, snail powered carriages. We cry out for investment, for modernisation, and when it finally comes in the form of the proposed HS2 link between London and Birmingham, a modest proposal to be sure, given the vast expansion and improvement required, the road lobby, holed up in a Chilterns country pile, cry foul. Do we realise that this line will destroy a field? Maybe even cut the walk cherished by Mary and Donald Westcott and their Shetland Sheepdog Jesse, in two? Yes, we know it, but those of us who see the bigger picture think it’s a price worth paying. We think this because we live in the modern world, not the novel Silas Marner.

Londoners make accommodations for each other every day. We’re constantly under each other’s feet; the transport network buckles and often breaks; and any space that isn’t accounted for is often co-opted for building projects; much needed new homes, a new rail link.

When Crossrail, the East to West railway, began construction, many restaurants and old clubs on Tottenham Court Road had to be destroyed because fresh track requires an expanded station. I had many happy memories of the buildings that got the wrecking ball but I didn’t stand there and weep into a book of old photographs or chain myself to The Mean Fiddler. Why? Well, I’d have been killed, but also because as a Londoner I understand that change and expansion is part of life and more importantly, that the city needs new arteries. If Londoners were as selfish and sentimental as those sitting in a damp farmhouse in ten acres of unspoilt marshland, somewhere north of the M25, then the entire system would grind to a halt. We get it and it’s about time you bastards caught up.

What’s true for London is true for the country. The transport system is hopelessly inadequate for the passenger numbers it carries. Journey times between major destinations are slow and major metropolitan centres must be served. The current lines can only be improved so much. The network must be expanded. We have to get moving. It can’t wait.

The plans are modest; too modest. If anything those High Speed lines should run from London to Glasgow; from London to Penzance. It’s not just green, if you care about that sort of thing, it also makes the country smaller; it pumps money from South to North and South to South West; it makes it possible for people to live in one city and work in another, meaning we don’t all have to live in the same overcrowded clumps. We can spread out a bit. We desperately need to spread out a bit.

I don’t want to be petty about this, but if the NIMBYs are going to scupper even the most half-hearted improvements, then reciprocal inconvenience should be vested upon them. I don’t have a real back yard; I gave it up, like most Londoners, so that one more person could enjoy the same benefits I do; the same museums, the same theatres, the same cinemas and pubs and restaurants; but what I do have is the symbolic equivalent, personal spheres of interest. Ideally, I’d want to stop any rural romantics intruding upon them, out of nothing but spite.

London’s a busy place so I’d decree that none of you could come here; not to work – you can piss off to the Chicken Factory like your school mates, and certainly not to enjoy any aspect of city life; that’s right you can forget that day trip to see your favourite band; instead you can stay at home and enjoy Annie Love singing the hits of Celine Dion at The Horse and Hoof. Enjoy theatre? Then you’ll love the Upper Horsham Players; that’s the local publican, his reluctant son and Mary from the pottery shop on Church Street; I believe they’re doing Sleuth at the old barn. Mary’s playing the furniture.

Meanwhile, because cars aren’t conducive to clean city living; we hardly need them in London given all these trains, buses and bikes; we should aggressively tax road users until their wallets scream, ignoring the needs of those in rural areas completely. Oh, you’re dependent upon your car to get around are you? Well that’s tough testicles. You should have thought of that before you opposed the changes that would improve the nation with a modern transport network.

Yes, you can look forward to fuel price hikes, road tax that you won’t be able to pay should you have any ambitions to feed and clothe your children, and, in a mirror of what your narrow mindedness has imposed on the train user, inflation busting increases on the price of a car itself. That’s right, a new wagon will be out of the question. Consequently you’ll have to put up with your old king sized roller skate until it’s little more than a mobile rusticle; a relic that it’s going to cost you the Earth to run. If you want a vision of the future I suggest you take your holidays in Cuba this year. We’ll see how nostalgic you are when you no longer have the means to modernise.

Sorry old fruits, but you didn’t expect us to subsidise paradise forever, while our lives ground to a halt, did you?

Oh. Anyway, as you were.

Published in: on December 14, 2011 at 14:47  Leave a Comment  
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