SO, Ambleside is at war. And it’s impossible to choose a side. For or Against?
Progress or preservation?
Two halves of a close-knit community polarised! Families divided by the infuriating contradictions of our unreliable planning system!
There are nuances of course, but I don’t have time for them here. I deal only in crude generalisations.
In one camp, guerilla grannies are sharpening their petitions. In the other, excited yummy mummies are scribbling new shopping lists.
Feverishly working out their likely carbon footprint decrease now they don’t have to charge the People Carrier through to Booths.
Yes, the slathering Big Wide World is coming for Ambleside and the drawbridge is open folks.
It will soon be swamped with opportunistic speculators with bad manners and questionable morals, eyeing up virgin floorspace for exploitation.
‘We dont want Ambleside to turn into London,’ say the people from London who moved to Ambleside to get away from people in London.
I like Ambleside as it is. But this statement is typical of the kind of inward-thinking deployed by those who don’t have to live, shop , work or trade there.
The reality is Greggs, Tesco Express and a slew of outdoor chains planted the corporate high street flag in Ambleside years ago, when we were more naive to these things. Support your independents of course, just don’t pretend that the big boys aren’t already in town.
Even The Spar – whose oppressively tight aisles always makes the experience feel like ‘shopping in a drainpipe’ – are turning mildly vigilante. “Welcome to Amblecity!” says a hand scrawled poster outside the shop after someone cheekily commandeered a Westmorland Gazette billboard. “RIP Ambleside,” they scorn. (Conveniently overlooking that Spar’s head office is in Harrow, Middlesex.) Who are the architects of this outrage? Why the Lake District National Park Authority Development Control Committee, that’s who!
Those fearsome Lakes Planners! That youthful and much-loved crescent of museum keepers and fanged capitalists (I’m generalising). They have ‘previous’.
For it was they who said yes to a £4million conference centre on the shores of Windermere. The very same who stopped The Filling Station Cafe in Keswick opening past 6pm for reasons that are still confusing. And the very same who drove powerboaters from Windermere with their lawyers and legislation.
Tensions are running high. Citizens have taken to sleeping with fully-cocked shotguns under their petitions.
The only hope for peace is a radicalisation of the planning process – give the village people a referendum on such matters.
And keep the corporates and the committees as far away as possible.