Reprinted from Newsletter 125, dated 2008 June

Chairman’s notes: new housing; climate change

John Brunsdon

Some lament what they consider the urbanization of Glastonbury, but development occurred during every period of history, and was no doubt similarly lamented. Today the town has become “developed out”: few sites are left that are suitable for new building, by virtue of being of high landscape value or too near the floodplain.

Concern has been expressed about the new estate of 240 or more dwellings under construction to the east of the town near the hospital and the huge land-reclamation exercise involved. Such work has a long history. The Lake Village site was built up about 100BC with clay transported from island Glastonbury. The Wells road and causeway to Polsham was built on stone taken from the ruined Abbey. More stone was laid for the railway in the 19th century, and tons more in 1994 to build the western relief road we have now.

We are starting a new exercise in identifying possible building land through the Local Development Framework, so be ready to comment on future proposals.

Climate change

Climate change has always taken place. Over millions of years this country has been covered in ice, ocean, equatorial forest or desert. Species have prospered for millions of years, like the dinosaurs, only to be eliminated by forces outside their control. If we value the climate we now enjoy, we should certainly mend our ways and live less destructively so as not to accelerate change.

We are, however, not in total command of the situation. One Krakatoa-like eruption could produce more toxic gases than all the world’s coal-fired power stations. We will have to learn to live with change and adapt our lifestyles. Somerset was so named because it was the land of the Summer People, who moved to higher ground each winter. Glastonbury was surrounded by tidal marsh until the surrounding land was drained by the monks. In the 19th century cottages in Sharpham regularly flooded in the winter, and their inhabitants used boats to visit Glastonbury market. Old picture-postcards show the railway yard under water and a large lake between the Mead at Street and Wearyall Hill. In the 1950s and 60s the Godney road often became impassable, and Godney could be reached only via Polsham.

Beware of alternative energy provision which could be environmentally damaging. A Severn barrage could be disastrous, and a lot of people dislike wind-turbine farms that can be seen for miles, upset birds and don’t work on a calm day. We are not supposed to burn peat any longer — but we could. Likewise there must be many tons of extractible coal left in Somerset coalfields — but then that is wrong too. I fancy we shall still need Hinkley Point! And the sun.