In a most recent posting (John Muir`s Blue Sierra 2, 14/1/2010) , I mentioned the Save Our Valley campaign and indicated that some concerns had been expressed over underlying issues of accountability and representation, not least by local MP Liam Fox.
Dr Fox, I`m reliably informed, is a Conservative and currently Shadow Minister for Defence. This blog ignores party politics and I just mention that by way of an introduction and also to indicate that he`s not what you`d think of as a `natural protester`. I think we can safely rule out the possibility that he`s had a mid-life crisis and re-invented himself as a sort of grey-suited eco-warrior !
A particular concern he has raised is that the Infrastructure Planning Commission, (as the name implies, the body that makes decisions on national infrastructure projects), is not accountable to anyone. The good doctor rightly regards this as a disgrace. "No minister is actually responsible for these decisions" he told the House of Commons (Adjournment Debate 19/1/2010) "It is left to the unelected Chairman of a quango to decide on the environmental, safety and economic decisions that will affect the well-being of my constituents. What sort of democracy do we now live in ?"
Other concerns raised by the good doctor concern the consultation process ; "This debate...is about a consultation that is not really a consultation at all and about a definition of cost which includes only short-term financial measurements and not wider measures of public interest such as environment, safety, green belt or the impact on property values".
He believes the consultation has been `slanted` from the outset in order to produce a particular outcome. "National Grid discarded a number of undersea options before the consultation started. Despite asking for further information...we still have not been given answers." He points out that his constituents were presented with two alternative routes for the pylons, known as Corridors One and Two, but argues that "Corridor Two clearly represented environmental vandalism of such a degree that it was bound to be violently objected to. This always had the potential for the drawing of the false conclusion that Corridor One was supported".
Having noted that our foxy friend has demonstrated decisively the existence of a democratic deficit, we can move on from Dr Fox (for those who are interested, his voting record can be found at http://www.theyworkforyou.com/) , and return to the Save Our Valley campaign and it`s various constituent groups (see previous article). The consultation period has ended, and at present they are awaiting the outcome, which is expected later this month. It`s difficult to imagine that the campaigners will now be happy with either Corridor One or Two after the way in which the matter has been handled.
As I indicated previously, the wider issues concerning the accountability of the IPC and questions over bias in consultation processes may well be with us long after the Save our Valley campaign is over.
Yugoslavian Medal for Bravery
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