What has a fence to do with democracy?


Please note this fine fence. Featured not only on a field in Frome, but also in the Telegraph last week. Some months ago a field on the edges of Frome came up for sale by action. Some of the many people who had used it for years to walk their dogs, pick blackberries, picnic and do country stuff, got together to raise funds to buy the land. However, there wasn’t time to do this before the auction. So they asked the District council to intervene using their fine new powers of Localism to hold up the sale for 6 months while the people tried to raise enough loot. The District – in a non public meeting of 5 councillors – said no, ostensibly because there was not enough support for the idea (hundreds of people at meetings, many hundreds in petitions…..but ‘not enough’).
So the land was sold to a local businessman who doesn’t want people on his land. Whether he has the right to do this, or whether he now applies for planning to build, are not the point of my comment…… my point is that ‘democracy’ is currently a sham because there is virtually no connection between the lowest level (usually Parish or Town) and those higher up. ‘Higher’ Councillors and MPs have no way of really knowing what public opinion is except by reference to the efforts at these most local levels – and currently lobbyists are much more likely to feed them views than ‘real’ people.  And – certainly in Frome – there is no attempt at all to make those links.
The fence is a fine example of where the level with the power is floundering in a morass of ignorance and disconnect from the people – something rare sorties into ‘consultation’ with a clipboard will not fix.  The role of local politicians is surely to find ways of ascertaining what real needs are,  then – through democratic or non-democratic ways – supporting the people to have these needs met?

About the author

Peter Macfadyen

Social activist, ex Mayor and Leader of Frome Town Council, author, public speaker, undertaker, grandfather.

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