Planning in the media

The deluge that engulfed Cornwall last week focused attention on cuts to flood defences and similar events that struck Cumbria last year.

The Guardian reported that one of the UK's best-loved landscapes may be reshaped over the next decade to ease the risk of catastrophic floods. Millions of pounds worth of damage in Cumbria last year has prompted local planning bodies and the Environment Agency to consider restoring meanders, flood meadows and plantations in the valleys of the Lake District. The strategy aims to slow rainfall from the Pennine chain and Cumbrian fells which led to devastation at bottlenecks in the region's rivers. The paper reported that Carlisle City Council and the Environment Agency estimated that £38 million defences, installed after the River Eden wrecked 1,844 properties in 2005, saved at least £48 million by holding firm in last year's deluge. Concern over budget cuts is focused on 70 projects at risk of the axe, including a £100 million scheme for central Leeds, "which has twice escaped major flooding by less than a foot in the past five years". Meanwhile, the News of the World claimed an exclusive for a story reported by other papers that prime minister David Cameron has slashed England's flood defence budget while assuring voters it would stay "roughly the same". "The last government spent £2.36 billion on flood defences but the coalition's spending review pledged £2.1 billion up to 2014. That is a cut of £260 million, about £50 million a year."

The Sunday Telegraph claimed that three members of the government, including a cabinet minister, are prepared to risk their jobs rather than support a high-speed rail link. The paper cited Welsh secretary Cheryl Gillan, Foreign Office minister David Lidington and government whip Jeremy Wright as opponents of the plans. The paper claimed two other ministers are strongly opposed to the link. In an opinion piece for The Times, Winckworth Sherwood senior solicitor Richard Bull predicted the project will face serious objections from middle England. "Localism is the new show in town, but the government's overriding interest will be to ensure that essential development is made a reality without encountering too many obstacles. Certainty of outcome and local public involvement in decision-making make uncomfortable companions."

The Heritage Lottery Fund's grant of £10 million for a visitor centre at Stonehenge will "restore the dignity" of the site, according to The Daily Telegraph. The paper quoted an English Heritage spokesman: "We want to get rid of the traffic and modern clutter. At the moment we are not doing it justice." But the move was heavily criticised by Marcus Binney, architecture correspondent of The Times. "Will the Heritage Lottery never learn? While Britain's heritage crumbles it fiddlefaddles with daft and hideously expensive interpretation and exhibition centres, doing increasingly more harm than good with its politically correct schemes which have no place in an era when money should be concentrated on essentials and emergencies."

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