Government proposals to “reform” planning regulations are being presented as making it easier for ordinary people to get their lofts converted, or as a blow against climate change by lifting restrictions on erecting wind turbines.
In reality the proposed changes will make it easier to build more nuclear plants, motorways, out of town shopping centres and airport terminals.
By chance, it comes in the week that New Labour was due to publish a new energy white paper widely trailed as supporting the building of new nuclear power stations.
Local government minister Ruth Kelly promises the new planning regime will be “fairer, faster and more accessible for all”, but the plans are intended to prevent major projects being constantly delayed by public inquiries. That explains why the CBI bosses’ organisation has welcomed the plans.
Environmental organisations warn the changes will reduce the possibility of the public objecting to their communities being blighted by a government which is acting to increase air traffic, road use and the soaring profits of the major supermarkets.
If these plans go through they leave us with only one effective response – direct action.
Post office closures
The government’s announcement last week of 2,500 post office closures drew strong opposition from London mayor Ken Livingstone and Scottish first minister Alex Salmond.
Salmond described the plans as “savage destruction”. Livingstone insisted that instead of closing post office branches, the government should be opening new ones.
They are both right, and there is a chance to raise a storm of protest over the closures.
If Salmond and Livingstone called for a wave of revolt and backed the postal workers’ strike over pay and closures then the government would face a powerful alliance.
Every local campaign to stop a post office closure wins thousands of people to its side. If they are coordinated, then the closures and privatisation could be halted.
All it would take is a serious determination to confront the government.
Test, test, test
Children in Britain are the most tested in the world – and it shows.
According to an article in last week’s Observer, an unprecedented number of psychologists are now needed to help pupils deal with the strain.
From the age of seven, children are made to sit national tests. From seven they are pressurised not to “fail”. Schools are forced to spend more and more time making sure that they keep their place in the league tables.
It’s no coincidence that the two countries at the bottom of a recent Unicef study of children’s well-being were those with the most testing – the US and Britain.
The government’s focus on exams means that what children are taught gets narrower.
Schools should be about helping children learn to understand and question the world – that is the kind of education that is worth fighting for.