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Saturday, 24 January 2009

Genesis: new readers start here

All this started when my neighbour pointed out a snippet on the Canterbury City Council website. They had decided to "dispose of" a slice of The Downs. Came as news to me. Bad news. Bad enough to get me off my backside.

Later on, I'll rant about the various forms of wrongness that the proposal suffers from, but the one that hit me first and hardest (and still does) is that this is public land - in Newspeak a Public Open Space. Initially this was just a strong and restless unease, but it crystallised when I found out more about the history of this strip of land.

Over a hundred years ago there seems to have been a small rush of people bequeathing or gifting some or all their land to the Council (Herne Bay Rural District Council, as was); this was both intended and taken as a public-spirited, charitable act. At the time, entrusting their land to the Council would have felt as certain and secure as putting their money in the Bank of England. They believed the Council would do right by them.

In the two-way relationship between the voters and their representatives, there are rights and responsibilities, expectations and duties, on both sides and in both directions. In a nutshell, there is a bond of trust, and it is that trust that makes democracy both possible and powerful. If that trust is tainted, twisted or trashed, we may as well be living in any tinpot, half-baked, third-rate country on earth.

And this is where Canterbury City Council comes in...

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