East Anglia: Region must not become victim of its own economic success, says broadcaster Griff Rhys-Jones
12:27 26 April 2014
East Anglia could become a victim of its own economic success, according to Griff Rhys-Jones.
The broadcaster and comedian, who lives in Holbrook, Suffolk, said the strength of East Anglia economically and as a tourist destination could result in pressure for careless development.
“What’s important is that that pressure doesn’t result in us losing what’s bringing people here,” he said.
“East Anglia is a good example of how by preserving what you have carefully, you will end up with something people want to come to see.”
Residents should be suspicious, he said, of “get-rich-quick schemes”.
He added: “In Bradford we see somewhere that’s been ruined by lack of success. East Anglia is a place that is threatened by success. The problem is to make a balance between the two and ask ourselves what we want.
“We have the capacity as a species to lay waste more efficiently than we have ever done before and that’s just dangerous.”
Mr Rhys-Jones was speaking ahead of his appearance in Woodbridge’s Riverside Cinema to talk about his new book ‘Insufficiently Welsh’ on Sunday.
The book coincides with his new TV programme ‘A Great Welsh Adventure’ in which Mr Rhys-Jones explores his Welsh heritage by sampling the traditions and landscapes of eight Welsh regions.
He has in the past been vocal on local conservation issues, and campaigned against a proposal for a solar farm in Tattingstone as well as a bid by National Grid to erect pylons between Bramford and Twinstead, Essex.
Both projects have since hit the buffers: the solar farm proposal was refused by Babergh District Council while National Grid shelved their plans for pylons until the early 2020s.
Mr Rhys-Jones referred to the Gunfleet Sands Offshore Wind Farm in Clacton as an example of good planning for renewable technology, but complained that an application had now been submitted to put a similarly sized turbine in Wherstead, “on some of the most beautiful land in the Orwell estuary”.
“We have 100 in Clacton, why not make it 101 rather than this piece of tokenism which will ruin this most beautiful landscape?”
However he insisted Suffolk had a “record to be proud of” in terms of planning and conservation.
Referring to the Tattingstone solar farm proposal, he said: “We could effectively find better sites for solar farms, brown field sites rather than grade one agricultural land. If we jump on the train to London we pass a lot of abandoned wasteland and car parks and we have to ask ourselves, why aren’t we using these spaces? The reason is that they’re not being included in the legislation.”
The country as a whole was being “sold a pup” with the idea that the greenbelt was no longer necessary.
“We need it more than ever. This particular government has been driven by the treasury to believe that all construction is good, because we live in a post-industrial world.”
Since most industries no longer employed large numbers of people, “the only real mass employer is that building trade and they (the government) want to encourage them to build indiscriminately in all directions.”
The next conservation battle to be fought, he said, would be over legal changes which would see members of the public held liable for the costs of applying for a public inquiry into planning decisions which would be a “prohibitive and aggressive act”.
Griff will be discussing his new book, showing clips from his TV series ‘A Great Welsh Adventure’, and previewing his forthcoming film about Dylan Thomas starring Tom Hollander, at the Riverside Cinema in Woodbridge on Sunday, April 27, at 7.30pm.
Tickets are priced at £8 and are available from Browser Bookshop on 01394 388 390, or the Riverside, 01394 382 174.
Griff Rhys-Jones has said he has previously discussed plans to make a TV series exploring East Anglia.
Although it seems no such plans are underway, the broadcaster said he had suggested the idea when first approached about making his most recent TV series on Wales.
“I never make these decisions; I get a letter from people saying they have got a great idea for a programme. I have wasted most of the last 10 years trying to sell ideas to television executives.”
In his new TV programme, ‘A Great Welsh Adventure’, Mr Rhys-Jones said he was revisiting “the land of my aunties”.
The presenter was born in Cardiff before moving to Essex, and both his parents are Welsh. Childhood visits to the principality were spent in “gloomy houses” with a colouring book, he said.
While making the series, he said, “I was going beyond the gloomy houses, beyond the south-west and Cardiff into the countryside and I really did get to rediscover Wales and how really extraordinary and beautiful it is.”
Travelling through Wales, he said, presented “a vision of British ruralness”.
“One of the things that I find, and we are so lucky to have, is you can be in the flatlands of Britain and in six hours on the train you can be in the mountains of Wales.
“There aren’t many places in the world where you can make that transition. We are like a continent of nature.”