Saturday 6 November 2010

Unsustainable sustainability #1

If there's one thing that gets on my wick ... I'll rephrase that ... Of the numerous things that get on my wick, one is government documents which could be a page and a half of foolscap but are actually 50+ pages of forewords, executive summaries, vision statements, overarching strategies underpinned by horizontal themes (can something which overarches be underpinned - abutted, perhaps, but not underpinned, I think?) outcomes, aspirations and general meaningless SHITE piled on in shovelfuls to disguise mother and apple pie platitudes as actual content.

Like police marksmen laying bets on how many song titles you can get into evidence to an inquest, I'm convinced civil servants these days have lines on how many times they can get the s-word (sustainable) into a consultation. Therefore, from time to time in these columns, I intend to expose some more egregious examples which come to my attention of what I call "unsustainable sustainability" - i.e. general government and public sector wank-speak.

The first offering is the following extract from Western Isles Council's "Main Issues Report". This is a document to "encourage early engagement in" the process of preparing its Local Development Plan (the document against which applications for planning permission (building licence) are judged). The culprit is the reminder on page 4 that:-

Scottish planning policy indicates Plans should:

  • facilitate sustainable development of area, supporting increasing sustainable economic growth;
  • contribute to high quality sustainable places; and
  • protect and enhance environmental quality as an asset for that growth.
A couple of observations about that matchless prose: leaving aside the issue of whether there's an article, definite or indefinite, missing before the word "area" in the first bullet, I can understand the concept of sustainable economic growth but is increasing economic growth not, by its very nature, unsustainable? But that's a mere quibble in face of the question: what in the name of friggery is a "sustainable place"?

"Places" are fixed, marshy, have nice views, expensive, far away, enclosed, dangerous, dark or they're parking or birth places or even (and this was Carol's contribution when really pressed for things places could be) where otters breed. That came out of left field, right enough, but it only serves to underline that the one thing places are not is sustainable. Later in the WIC document there's reference to "a 'place-making' vision". These people are speaking a different dialect of English from the one I speak.

A place-making vision of a sustainable place near Stornoway
Actually, it's not all Western Isles Council's fault and a lot of the blame for this nonsense lies at the door of their political masters in Edinburgh, the Scottish soi disant Government. Remember what I was saying in Vende Se about planning being a bureaucratic nightmare in Scotland? Below are the hoops the SsdG makes WIC jump through to prepare its Local Development Plan - click to see it large:-

I like the injunction in the second column of the last row "Engage as necessary". Is that not the order between "Fix bayonets" and "Fire at will"?

And note how the whole process takes 3+ years and no sooner has it been completed than they've got to start monitoring and reviewing it again. Talk about the Forth Bridge. In the good old days, the Council left a deposit draft in the local library for 6 weeks, which nobody looked at, then it was sent down to London to be rubber stamped by the Secretary of State. An old man in a red cardy could do it in his lunch hour whereas, nowadays, the holders are likely to have impaled themselves on their own stakes before the end of Year 2.

"Is that Western Isles Council? I'm phoning to engage with your Local Development Plan ..." 


Kathie said...

Did you know that in the 19th century the Azores (especially Flores and Corvo) were sometimes referred to as the "Western Isles"? I discovered this usage while researching my immigrant ancestors on old US Census enumerations online.

Cuidado com lontra ;-)))

Anonymous said...


Kathie said...

What, no dish yet on the Royal Betrothal? Inquiring minds want to know!!!

Kathie said...

Hope you've battened down the hatches securely!

Ponta Delgada, 20 de Novembro de 2010, "Protecção Civil: chuva forte nos Grupos Central e Oriental":

[alternatively, copy/paste the following into your browser window, without spaces]

O Serviço Regional de Protecção Civil e Bombeiros dos Açores informa que, segundo o Instituto de Meteorologia, prevê-se:

Para o Grupo Central
No período entre as 03 horas de 2010-11-20 e as 12 horas de 2010-11-21
Chuva por vezes FORTE

Para o Grupo Oriental
No período entre as 03 horas de 2010-11-20 e as 18 horas de 2010-11-21
Chuva por vezes FORTE

O SRPCBA recomenda que sejam tomadas as precauções habituais em situações desta natureza.


Kathie said...

Returning to the concept of sustainability, there's this on today's Azores GaCS blog.

Horta, 22 de Novembro de 2010:

Quase metade das freguesias dos Açores foi distinguida no concurso “Eco Freguesia: freguesia limpa”

In relevant part, "Completam a lista premiada ... cinco das Flores (Ponta Delgada, Fazenda, Lajes, Mosteiro e Fajã Grande)..."

Parabéns, Fajãgrandenses!

Kathie said...

Here's the URL, for pasting line-by-line without spaces into the browser window: