Friday, November 11, 2016
My Back Yard - Friday
I see the earnest-looking woman making a bee-line towards me, even as I navigate past the less pressurised lunchtime shoppers. I’ve already dodged the wino in the empty shop unit doorway, and swerved the Big Issue salesman, who in truth has almost given up pestering me with his entreaties. I’ve told him at least once that I already help the homeless. It didn’t go down well.
There was a time when my wife used to lovingly pack me sandwiches, so I could keep going through the working day - after all many people want to view homes in their own lunch hour. But she tired of making them, just as I tired of eating them and I now welcome the chance to stretch my legs and walk to the shop for a meal deal. Of course I have the dilemma of the healthy eating - taste-free range - or something with flavour and big numbers on those nutrition information panels. Fortunately my close eyesight is failing, in line with my resolve.
My resolve to dodge street surveys and charity-chuggers trying to sign me up on a direct debit to support abandoned donkeys in Greece, hasn’t faltered though. I can sidestep faster than a rugby wingback, even with my battered back, so I’m already dummying left, before zig-zagging right past the bloke in the disabled scooter, as the woman with the leaflets comes closer.
‘Excuse me sir.’ She calls stridently, before showing surprising agility and sidestepping to block my path. ‘I know you don’t I?’
This isn’t great. Telling a past client I haven’t recognised to push off, isn’t going to foster repeat business and if they are a buyer, or tenant, I might still be jeopardising office revenue. Reluctantly I stop.
‘Aren’t we near neighbours?’ Presses the woman waving a black and white, home-printed leaflet, in my face.
We might be, my wife tends to know the names and occupations of people in our road, I prefer not to intermingle. You never know when you might be repossessing their house. Fist name terms don’t always go well, when the locksmith is drilling through the front door and the kids are sobbing on the lawn….
The woman confirms her address - next road down - and smiles triumphantly.
‘Then you are just the sort of person who will want to support this.’ She says, handing me her leaflet. I scan the piece of clumsily edited A4 and my heart sinks. It’s an objection to a big new development, planned for a green space not far from my home. The stern-faced woman is looking at me challengingly. She’s a NIMBY - not in my back yard - protestor. They are all late middle-aged and have the glassy-eyes zest of converts, without any of the naive charm.
‘This is a scandal.’ She continues, blocking my path completely. ‘ There’ll be no green fields left in this area if they get away with building this monstrosity.’ I know all about the proposed development - it’s my job - and I’m conflicted. People need homes to live in, my two sons will need sensibly priced homes themselves. But I also know if planning is granted, the landowner will become a multi-millionaire overnight, and the prices will be astronomical too. Paradoxically, the social housing element the planners will insist on, also conflicts me. There are some people you’d rather not live in the same school catchment area.
‘We’ve put all the links on our leaflet and a draft objection letter template,’ Continues the woman, forcibly handing me the leaflet. ‘And it has the email addresses’s of the local councillors, so we can make our feelings known’ She’s presuming she knows my feelings. Big mistake. Better not let her know I sell houses for a living. I’m hoping she’s unaware, or surely she wouldn't have stopped me?
‘I trust we can count on your support.’ Says the woman forcibly, as I make to leave. ‘We can’t let these people ruin our lifestyle.’
I know the developer won’t use an agent to sell the homes. I know they won’t put in sufficient flood prevention and the schools are already overflowing. I also know the prices will be unaffordable to most.