I was recently discussing sites for new housing development with a fellow villager and something she said made me stop and think. I was saying that one site being considered in the neighbourhood plan, and for which I was volunteering, giving landscape advice to the development brief, had to be considered in light of the fact that views to the church were available across the site from the road approaching the village.
She interrupted me, saying, ‘why on earth is that important?’ And this response stopped me in my tracks. Views of landmarks such as churches are so much a part of the landscape consultancy work we do in site analysis, assessment of impacts, development of layout and design proposals and comparison of sites’ suitability for development that I had just taken it for granted that everyone bought into the idea that views of churches (and the like) were important enough to protect.
My first reaction, after a hasty effort at justifying why on earth that was important, was to snobbily put it down to her own ignorance. And maybe it was, but it did make me think for the first time about the reasons why views of landmarks might be important.
All good reasons why we should protect important views, but the lesson for me was not to assume that everyone would agree, and that, for some people other factors might outweigh the positives of retaining views …
I still think that in most cases such views are worthy of protection, but next time somebody questions why this should be, I’ll be clearer about my answer.