Gloucestershire Echo have reported the very well attended and interesting Cheltenham Under Attack talk from Jonathon Porritt. Jonathon Porritt spent six years as director of Friends of the Earth and now heads Forum for the Future. He holds strong and important views on the unsustainability of continued economic growth. Local MP Martin Horwood played a major role in the meeting and spoke well about the issues.

Here are some notes from Tim Courtney about the meeting (slightly edited).

Jonathon Porritt said how he educated (in the mysterious workings of government agencies) by his time at the SW RDA. During his time there he was surprised that the figures were excitedly ‘talked up’- 3% growth but if things go well, then almost up to 4%!!!

He described the issue of ‘Finance fetish’ – Where everything has to be discussed in terms of maximum financial growth as opposed to using some wealth to increase quality of life for people and that the Housing figures of the RSS were based on unsustainable economic growth figures

He stated how top down development planning doesn’t work. The local people should decide how the towns grow, although he doesn’t subscribe to the argument that people can declare their towns ‘full’

Importantly he noted how the economy is inextricably interlinked with national growth figures. Crudely if population growth is 2% and the GDP is 1% then we have a decreasing national wealth. A little bit more wealth is spread among many more people. GDP is also very misleading in many other ways,

If housing is only placed in certain towns then they will grow continuously whilst other towns that require growth or not given enough housing. And there are places that actually require housing

During his time at the sustainable development commission he ended up giving up trying to count the over-use and misuse of the word ‘sustainable’ to make otherwise unpalatable things palatable! One of the misuses being ‘eco towns’ and ‘sustainable urban’ extensions Sustainable is as it says and should have appropriate infrastructure in
place so unsure this.