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Don’t ignore this warning from nearly 80 years ago

PUBLISHED: 08:02 18 November 2017

A section of the NDR is officially opened with a mass ribbon cutting and vintage cars traveling along The stretch of road that is completed.
Byline: Sonya Duncan
Copyright: Archant 2017

A section of the NDR is officially opened with a mass ribbon cutting and vintage cars traveling along The stretch of road that is completed. Byline: Sonya Duncan Copyright: Archant 2017

Archant 2017

Keith Skipper: Before we pat ourselves on the back about the NDR we should listen to the wise words of J B Priestley.

It would be churlish to deny excitement in some quarters over the arrival by instalments of Norwich’s Northern Distributor Road. “A brave new link with the future” one city worthy assured me recently.

He urged me to stop living in the past and to embrace all kinds of Norfolk development as symbols of hope for generations to come. I suggested it was still important to learn from the past and pointed him towards sharp warnings handed out in the 1930s.

The dangers of devaluing deep-seated qualities for short-term gain were highlighted in Our Nation’s Heritage, a rich collection of prose and verse pieced together by J B Priestley.

His postscript cast another dark shadow over a country preparing for war. He cited ribbon development as main scourge behind so much “spoiling, carelessness, nastiness and stupidity”.

He drew discomforting pictures of increasing traffic on new roads and by-passes while builders threw up hundreds of houses beside them in haphazard fashion.

“The town, instead of stopping properly and giving the meadows and woods a chance, now straggles on mile after mile. The new houses and shops look a mess. And one nice bit of real England has gone for ever.”

If that much was obvious the best part of 80 years ago – and Priestley included Norfolk in his famous English Journey started in 1933 – where on earth are the valid reasons for excruciating excesses of today?

Thousands of new houses and all that goes with them are being imposed on the Eastern counties. There’ll be many more tears of sadness at the loss of precious green spaces, blurring the friendly and familiar into functional uniformity as spoilers and speculators are encouraged to let rip.

Inducement to follow stars in the East simply ooze out of surveys organised by wise men weaned on selling exercises. There’s cynical method in their cheerful marketing. Pleasant spots must spell rapid growth and a vibrant future.

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