Golf v agriculture in the Brain Valley

THE loss of high grade agricultural land in the Brain valley to make way for a proposed golf course extension was raised by Braintree's MP Alan Hurst in the last Commons debate before the recess.

THE loss of high grade agricultural land in the Brain valley to make way for a proposed golf course extension was raised by Braintree's MP Alan Hurst in the last Commons debate before the recess.

Under threat is a hamlet known as the Green, midway between the villages of Black Notley and White Notley. In the adjournment debate which allows MPs to raise any issue they like, Mr Hurst complained: "The golf course already has 27 holes, and its owners intend to extend it by a further nine holes, and thus the little hamlet of the Green will become surrounded by a golf course. To some hon. Members, that might seem to be paradise, but to those who do not play golf it is not.

"Primarily, the concern is the loss of high-grade agricultural land, and the extension is strongly opposed by the residents. It is also argued that there is probably not a need. My political division already has eight golf courses and adjacent divisions have others close to our boundaries.

"Should it not be incumbent on those who make applications of this kind to provide numbers to show there is insufficient provision at present?"

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Mr Hurst continued: "Local plans are mysteries of philosophy that few follow until a problem comes along, at which point people study them with great ardour. The local plan has this to say about the development of golf courses: 'The development of golf courses on prominent sites, scarp slopes, valleys, exposed plateaux and ridges will not be permitted.'"

Mr Hurst said: "The proposed course is to be on very high ground overlooking the whole sweep of the Brain valley, which has already been defaced by the existing course. The local residents are therefore concerned that there will be a fundamental breach not only of their privacy but of the local plan.

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"The final argument against the extension to the golf course, which would cause great harm to local residents, is the dangerous condition of the country road that winds its way along the slope of the Brain valley between the proposed golf course and the existing one. One can imagine the risk to the lives of motorists and golfers as the golfers walk across the road with their trolleys, chatting to each other about the state of play at hole 27, as they make their way over to hole 28.

"I raise this matter not because I am opposed to golf or because I believe that there should not be golf courses. There should, however, be a limit to the number of golf courses and to the number of holes that each course is permitted. We should strike a balance between the construction of golf courses and the preservation of our historic and scenic countryside, and we should give the latter the greater priority."

EUROSCEPTICS have my permission to throw this newspaper in anger at the cat. The Secretary of State for Transport is unable to provide the mileage of trunk roads in the six individual counties of the East of England – but he is able to do so in metric for the combined euro region.

Liberal Democrat Norman Lamb (North Norfolk) asked Alistair Darling how many miles of trunk road, broken down by county – Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Essex, Hertfordshire, Norfolk and Suffolk – have existed in the East of England in each of the past 20 years.

One of Mr Darling's junior ministers, David Jamieson, gave the reply in metric for the East region. In 1983 it was 1,195.3 km, rising to a high of 1,272.6km in 1997, before falling to 1,139km in 2001.

Just in case you're about to head off this holiday to discover the delights of either of Europe's twin political "capitals," I can add the following information. The distance from Bury St Edmunds to Brussels (as calculated for me by the RAC's Internet travel service) is 294.6 miles and from Harwich to Strasbourg it's 553.6 miles, both routes using the Dover-Calais ferry. In kilometres, the respective calculations are 471.4 and 885.7.

A WEEK is certainly a long time in politics. Last week, a confident Tony Blair flying off to Washington to receive the adulation of the United State congress for his support in the Iraq war. Overnight on Thursday, he arrived back at Heathrow, showing the pressure over the furore over the apparent suicide of Government scientist Dr David Kelly and Downing Street's alleged "sexing up" of the dossier on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.

Dr Kelly was identified as the BBC's informant by three newspapers – The Guardian, The Times and the Financial Times – on July 10 after their journalists had the scientist's name confirmed to them by the Ministry of Defence.

On his flight home, Mr Blair insisted: "I did not authorise the leaking of the name of David Kelly." Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon and the top official in the MoD, permanent secretary Sir Kevin Tebbit, will have to explain their part in the affair to Lord Hutton, who is heading the Kelly inquiry. Hutton will want to ascertain whether Alastair Campbell, the Government's director of communications, either oversaw or was aware of the naming of the scientist.

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