Anyway, conversation segued past a litany of squashed cats and onto the petition opposing a planning application along the lane. Near the Manor end of the lane is an old stable block that has been turned into an office for a small business specialising on the import and export of fresh fruit. It’s been there for at least the last five years and we all seem to rub along just fine. They’ve now put in an application for a double-storey back extension and parking for a further 13 cars.
I signed the petition a week ago, more out of politeness to the person asking me than in any particular rage against the application. When I first moved here someone knocked on my front door asking me to sign a petition complaining about the noise coming from the microlight club up the road. I declined on the basis I rarely heard them and when I did they didn’t bother me.
The man was aghast, like I’d made some massive faux pas, like I'd pissed on his shoes or something and there was a rather awkward stand-off at my front door. It was much more than just surprise or embarrassment. I was an affront to him. It was like I was declining to be a member of his club, of his tribe, of his town. It became clear to me that in future it would be much easier to just say yes and so that’s what I’ve done ever since, with one exception (see below).
But I am vexed about it. One the one hand I would never want to harm any small business, least of all one that is finding its way and thriving. Good for them, I think. After all I am, at least in theory, the owner of a small business. A very small business.
On the other hand, what was once one of the finest lanes I’ve ever seen is on the retreat. Paton’s fence-line was a ghastly act of small-minded vandalism. Increased traffic to and from the barns is another. And the fruit importers’ cars are the third. And it really does make a difference to us dog-walkers. I used to be able to walk the lane confident of not meeting a car. Now I have to keep Bobby on the lead as I will definitely meet two or three and, even though he’s nine, he still thinks he can hurl themselves at them and come off best. Is this really a reason to oppose a planning application for a small business just trying to expand? I doubt it very much, and I expect you do to. I certainly wouldn’t have given it a second’s thought in Tooting. Perhaps my dead cats are on my mind.
Then again, when does a small business become too large for its environment? After all, there’s a huge site for light industry at Halesfield all of two miles away, designed specifically to attract businesses like this – there may even be grants and tax breaks to go there.
Finally, there’s this. On the original planning application, five or so years ago, space was allowed for eight cars, which seemed reasonable to me and I avoided signing the petition accordingly. But ever since there’s always been around twice as many cars there – say fifteen. Whether that was deliberately dishonest on their part I have no idea, but I certainly felt hoodwinked. Now they want another 13 spaces. So, let’s take the difference between last time’s application and the reality into account this time and double their number. Does that mean we can expect roughly forty cars a day to park there? That certainly isn’t a small business any more, and what may not seem much in Tooting is a hell of a lot down what is basically a glorified footpath.
And with that I have become a fully paid-up, certified, nimby. Or, as I prefer to think of it, a Shifnal tribesman.