L.I.F.E. is a four letter acronym

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High above Poundbury on Dorset there is an ancient fort; the Great Western railway planned to cut an embankment through it but due to a local protest back in the 1850s it had to curve around the site and tunnel underneath part. The shadows are of the Archaeologist and me, thinner than is customary

I suppose acronyms have been with us forever. This is a little known section from the First Folio version of Romeo and Juliet:

Romeo: She loves me, Mercutio.

Mercutio (swiping right): Like BFFs?

Romeo: Better, she’s…

Mercutio (showing Romeo a small portrait he’d come to in his dating portfolio): OMG, have you seen this Siren, bro?

Romeo (looking over his shoulder): Lol, that’s your sister…

I’m not sure how many were used in common speech – as in spoken as words themselves: my parents had ITMA (It’s that man again) so I suppose it’s not a new thing – but I noticed first with the advent of the YUPPY (Young Upwardly-mobile Professionals), soon followed by the likes of DINKIES (Double Income, No Kiddies) and now that I’m no longer an aspirational worker bee but a father of two resource-constrained under-performing investment funds , I find being a SKIN (Spend Kids Inheritance Now) most apposite.

Acronyms came to mind today because I found myself in Poundbury, on the outskirts of Dorchester. For those of you who have avoided knowing about Poundbury it is an overspill development that caused a degree of controversy when it started because it was the brainchild of our heir to the throne showing us what good planning (because he says so) can do to a piece of gently rolling English countryside.

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Poundbury centre; the plinth will have a statue of the Queen Mum eventually

I do get we need more homes. I’m not a great fan of blank walled concrete or sheet glass but there’s something amiss here. Mostly I think because it feels oddly foreign – sort of English pastiche meets Antwerp-on-Tiber, the mix of styles clash rather. Some of it feels fine, mostly it feels confusing. And twee. Definitely twee. Too perfect. Villages can be just so but towns need a bit of tat to set off the good stuff. It really isn’t very English to get it all right.

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Why do I think ‘Canton’ rather than ‘County’ when I see this street scene

But then again, having one person in charge of ensuring continuity can, over time, create something unique that others will enjoy. I live in Dulwich. I’ve raved about it as a wonderful piece of village wrapped round by London and in large part that is due to the vice like control that the Dulwich Estate has on the design and redevelopment of buildings in  these parts.

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In the rest of the country the over-aching controls are those of the planners, political appointees working within the constraints of the Planning Acts. That’s true of Dulwich too. But on top we also have to obtain permissions from the commissioners of the Estate. Why?

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Well, without being too boring and legalistic, in 1967, during one of the two really socialist periods of government we have had in this country the then Labour party introduce the Leasehold Enfranchisement Act (asleep yet?) to enable tenants of mining cottages in mining towns and villages to buy their houses off the freeholders rather than be forced to renew the leases on poor terms. There were rules, mostly that the leases had to have been at least 21 years long to begin with.

But in the kind of unintended consequence trap that politicians regularly fall into, it wasn’t in those northern working class heartlands that this legislation worked. Nope, it was in rich boroughs of London and other cities where large landed estates had controlled the property for years –  Westminster (and the Grosvenor estate under the Duke of Westminster), Chelsea (Under Earl Cadogan and the Cadogan estate) and Dulwich (under the Dulwich Estate) where these rules were utilised by well advised bankers and self advised lawyers.

However the landowners had one weapon; they could introduce a Scheme of Management that imposed the sorts of leasehold controls on freeholds that aren’t normal. So in these places the look of the environment was in the hands of a few locals to determine. And by and large they have worked to keep these boroughs unique, and valuable.

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Currently our Scheme is being challenged as too officious. But, and here we get back to the acronyms, that’s because we are all NIMBYs at heart. People complain about the scheme as it affects them but if it keeps Dulwich the way it is, and the house prices high, well that’s ok then.

Not In My Back Yard. Yep, we can lol all we like when it’s someone else’s problem.

About TanGental

My name is Geoff Le Pard. Once I was a lawyer; now I am a writer. I've published three books - Dead Flies and Sherry Trifle, My Father and Other Liars and Salisbury Square. In addition I published an anthology of short stories, Life, in a Grain of Sand this summer. A fourth book will be out soon. This started life as a novel in a week on this blog and will follow later this year. I blog about all sorts at geofflepard.com and welcome all comments. These are my thoughts and no one else is to blame. If you want to nab anything I post, please acknowledge where it came from.
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10 Responses to L.I.F.E. is a four letter acronym

  1. You had me at Mercutio swiping right ! ☺

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Ritu says:

    Brilliantly put!!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Rowena says:

    I don’t think your Aussie mate from beyond the flow would fit into your estate. I naturally move against the flow.
    However, I do appreciate that enforcing certain standards could be advantageous. Our next door neighbour is selling his villa. He’s in a nursing home or might have passed away.
    You know how it is when you’re selling a place. You want everything perfect. However, as much as you can spruce up your own property, you have no control over your neighbours. Our lawn needs a mow out the front. The neighbour in the back villa has a very yappy barking dog but I think the agent must’ve slipped it a sedative during this morning’s open house. It didn’t make a sound.
    Fun & games!
    xx Rowena

    Liked by 1 person

  4. jan says:

    My small town is constantly talking about adding more housing – especially in the downtown area which is already difficult to drive through. So I guess I’m a NIMBY too!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Change is everywhere and sprawl. I love the look of the houses in your neck of the wood. Whimsical and inviting. ❤ ❤ ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Sacha Black says:

    YUPPIES – lol!!! love the paragraph of acronyms you’re hilarious

    Liked by 1 person

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