I’ve always been a strong supporter of the environment and was pleased to be asked by CPRE director Kevin Fitzgerald to be guest speaker at the Hertfordshire branch meeting at Wheathampstead. I’ve been vice-president of the society for many years and this was a chance to set out a vision for our county’s countryside in 2026.
I often find myself concentrating on the threats facing Hertfordshire: massive development, water shortages, airport expansion and the like, so I was pleased to have an opportunity to set out a more positive vision for our county. I explained to the CPRE members my belief that as a country we need to learn to understand the social value of the countryside amenities so often taken for granted, the post offices, local hospitals, small schools and of course GPs surgeries.
I said that development should always meet the needs of Hertfordshire’s people and should include enhancing our landscape and improving our infrastructure, particularly public transport, footpaths and cycling routes. I called for a rich mix of landscapes and an increased emphasis on youth leisure activities in the countryside.
I mentioned the importance of strengthening the connection of local farmers with food outlets, such as farmers markets, restaurants, shops, hotels and butchers, and the exciting possibility of developing a Hertfordshire cuisine. I also welcomed Hertfordshire University’s scheme to set up a centre for planning excellence.
My final message was the need to improve our Hertfordshire chalk rivers, especially the Beane and the Mimram. And I told them how pleased I am that the Secretary of State for Environment has now ordered the Environment Agency to conduct a report into the chalk rivers. My final words were,
“Let us enable people locally to take charge and achieve social value and to share a vision of a Hertfordshire countryside robust, healthy and thriving, where the rivers surge, where trees and hedgerows flourish with wildlife and green spaces are open for the enjoyment of all and with an improved Green Belt, worthy of the name and all next to well-planned towns meeting our housing needs, having been enlightened by our University.”