Throw a six to start saving Norfolk’s countryside

PUBLISHED: 06:46 09 December 2017

It's all in the game when it comes to Norfolk's development, says Keith Skipper.

It's all in the game when it comes to Norfolk's development, says Keith Skipper.


It’s all in the game for the future of Norfolk’s countryside, says Keith Skipper.

Still hunting for a perfect festive gift to surprise those outstandingly caring and sensitive people in your life? Well, pull up a chair, listen carefully and prepare to do your bit for the future of Norfolk.

My new board game Groundswell (patent applied for) ought to be in the shops at least a week before our annual frenzy of giving and receiving. It’s designed to bring some of our fast-growing problems into sharper focus around the family hearth.

In many ways it celebrates one of the county’s most endearing habits of paying due homage to all latest fads and fancies, to embrace the true spirit of progress in which they are wrapped – and then quietly shuffle along the same old homely track.

Main aim is to build as few new homes as possible on a testing safari across the county with golf courses, village greens, larger lawns and remaining exotic patches around the Norwich Northern Distributor Road and Attleborough Bypass demanding full-scale protection.

Perhaps a few will pick up echoes of other well-known board games in certain instructions like “Do not pass Hoe”, “Go directly to Bale”, “Miss a turn to Wickhampton” and “Take a Chance on Rushall roadworks” but this could be the first to be specifically targeted at a rural resistance movement.

It must help to be familiar with jargon and abbreviations regularly used by planning departments and developers to befuddle those likely to muster the temerity to oppose “corridors of game-changing essential development with potential to unlock massive economic boosts and thousands of homes and jobs for generations to come”.

For a start, Groundswell contestants need to be aware that ATLAS in this context stands for Activity Team for Large Applications and EIA for Environmental Impact Assessment. ITS does not mean Ideal Touring Services but Integrated Transport Strategy.

It may be a good idea not to make a fuss on stumbling across an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Just move on and tell anyone you encounter in a hard hat that all development land within a range of 50 miles has disappeared overnight.

Of course, those with a sound knowledge of local geography, including the location and destination of all by-roads, must be ahead of the field when it comes to avoiding dangerous spots such as Very Long Stratton, Mortar-on-the-Hill, Thorpe Endless, Shotesham-in-the-Foot, Burston-at-Seam, Stoke Wholly Wild, Kelling Fields, Thirty Mile Bank, Etling Brown and Fedupton-with-Fishley.

Naturally, “planning gains” proliferate as players reach quieter corners like Sloley, Limpenhoe, Little Snoring and Bedingham. Heavy penalties along “Go back 20 spaces” lines are sure to follow acceptance of a new library or doctors’ surgery in exchange for permission to put up 120 executive dwellings on a one-hectare plot.

Other developments along the Groundswell way include going back to the start to attend a Neighbourhood Plan meeting in the event of landing on a concrete mixer or theodolite. Throwing a six-means missing a go in order to read another White Paper on the Future of Rural Communities and “Affordable” Housing Provision.

Settling on any water tap in the first 20 squares brings an extra throw to help ensure sufficient supplies from aquifers and the River Wensum. Alighting on a brownfield site heralds a Campaign to Protect Rural England award of moving on a dozen places and selling your Guide to Pleasant Corners Outside Norfolk at a car boot sale in Burnham Deepdale.

If you are lucky enough to land on the Drawbridge Norfolk square, and your local roots go back at least five generations, you can ignore all future inducements and penalties on the route to the finish on Cromer Beach.

If you are unfortunate enough to land on the Drawbridge Norfolk square, and you cannot pronounce Hargham, Hautbois and Happisburgh, you must take out life membership with the National House Builders’ Federation or attend evening classes in local vernacular at Wymondham.

Yes, this new game is biased marginally in favour of native participants, but surely that makes a pleasant change from having the dice loaded against them during decades of unfair rules being handed down from Westminster and Whitehall.

Groundswell is home-grown. Get it for your loved ones this festive season and build better relationships. And you can tell Santa a village envelope tied up in a green belt is far better than the ribbon development he’s bound to see while flying in over Norwich Airport.

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