Who? Where? Why?
The 'Development' of East Anglia has been the most frightening thing for those of us who have lived through some of the changes. Braintree is, at the moment, the most rapidly developing town in the UK, despite the poor infrastructure. Prescott, together with his London mandarins, is currently plotting a staggering increase in the urbanisation around Stanstead, the M11 and poor Sudbury. This is being done despite all three established tiers of local government being opposed to it. I've been reading with a growing sense of wistfulness, the account of the peasants' revolt which started around here out of a frustration with govenments' tampering with ancient rights. At least they had a pretty good idea who to skewer with their pitchforks.
Those of us who are concerned with conservation, and the retention of the region as a distinct part of Britain, are fighting a losing battle with a remote government intent on exploiting what is here against the clearly-expressed wishes of the local population. In fact, it is difficult to find any local elected representitive who can say any word in favour of what is being planned. This is being imposed unwillingly on the region by a remote urban Government who are using the insidious, and historically unique, device of by-passing the traditional layers of government of County, District and Parish councils by setting up unelected bodies with little public accountability to push through these unpopular measures
It turns out that the decision to urbanise East Anglia has been taken by a government organisation called 'GO-East. This is a quango that is supposed to promote government policy and ensure that local issues are represented to the minister. It guides regional planning and housing laws and has set up several 'forums' to cover the 'environment', rural affairs and what is euphamistically called 'sustainable development'. These 'Forums' cook up policy initiatives which are then sent to GO-East for approval. There is also the EERA (the Eastern Englan Regional Assembly). You didn't realise you'd voted for a regional assembly did you? Well you haven't. This is supposed to be the representitive voice of the region with seventy members chosen from local govenment and from what, in the bizzare Blairite jargon is called the 'Community Stakeholders'.
Just in case there is anyone who is still following this, I have to mention the EEDA. This is the East of England Development Agency. The EEDA is another quango, appointed by the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry. Their fifteen members are supposedly appointed from business, local government, the voluntary sector, trades unions and education. This uango has spawned seven more quangos, called, rather cutely, 'parnerships'. The EEDA seems to have a wide brief that includes Agriculture, food-processing, tourism, leisure, heritage, and in forming a 'Regional Economic Strategy'. Of course, there is also the EU, who have their own organisations intent on planning the future of East Anglia
What has all this got to do with Local History? The local historian records change and is, in many cases, the guardian of the local culture, desperately recording the heritage as it disappears. He is the recorder of what is beautiful in the region as it is destroyed, scrabbling around building sites checking for the archaeological record before it can be removed by impatient developers, and reminding local people of what is being being lost in the quality of their lives. He, or she, can also take lessons from history, and warn of the consequences of actions taken as short-term pragmatic expediency. We are like the bad-tempered prophets of the Old Testament, shaking our fists, cursing the times we live in, prophesying dooom, and bewailing the abandonment of the Law and ancient rights.