Ye old kingly PR power is undiminished post 1649

Tony Gosling tony at
Wed Nov 19 02:32:41 GMT 2014

followed by In the public interest? The stories they didn't want us to know

Back off, Prince Charles... The countryside is 
too vital to leave to its grasping owners
The Prince of Wales and his ilk ride roughshod 
over legitimate concerns for preserving our landscape
Catherine Bennett  The Observer, Sunday 16 November 2014

What to do for the best, regarding the countryside? Photograph: Chris Ison/PA

In the latest sermon he has entrusted to Country 
Life magazine, the Prince of Wales returns to a 
favourite theme: the inability of most of his 
future subjects to connect with the countryside, 
or “land”, as its owners generally call this 
facility. It is not that town dwellers do not 
treasure the country, he concedes, presumably 
aware that every survey and the membership of the 
National Trust tell us that; more that they do 
not value the countryside in a special way 
natural to those who know the soil. Urban 
dwellers might want to picture, for example, Tess 
of the d’Urbervilles slicing turnips or feeding a 
mechanical thresher: “The perspiring ones at the 
machine, including Tess, could not lighten their 
duties by the exchange of many words. It was the 
ceaselessness of the work which tried her so 
severely, and began to make her wish that she had never come to Flintcomb-Ash.”

“One of the things that strikes me most 
forcibly,” the prince writes, “is the majority of 
the population has lost any real connection with 
the land.” The British are particularly 
inadequate in this respect, he thinks, being “now 
four or five generations removed from anyone who 
actually worked on the land – and it shows in 
their attitudes”. Without accusing the 
non-country bred of wilful damage, the prince 
suggests that towny ignorance might easily 
encourage neglect, or worse, of “the rich natural 
tapestry that is the countryside”. For instance: 
“It would not only be a folly to lose 
agricultural land, it would be equally foolish to 
use it in ways that are not environmentally sustainable in the long term.”

What is the answer? “Somehow,” says the prince, 
“we need to find a way to put a value on our countryside, with all its facets.”

Assuming he is not a stranger to the sort of 
countryside valuation readily available in the 
pages of Country Life, but after something more 
metaphysical, we can do no better than study the 
prince’s own methods, as he nurtures large parts 
of that rich natural tapestry. Many of us are 
familiar with his rustic experiments at 
Highgrove, for example, his milk in Waitrose, his 
grants to hill farmers and his own contribution 
to Hardy country, the fantasy Poundbury estate 
once described by Stephen Bayley as “fake, 
heartless, authoritarian and grimly cute”. An 
anonymous opponent, against further expansion, 
calls the prince “that rapist of Dorset”. The 
countryside is full of surprises. Who, for 
instance, knew that a deep and timeless 
connection with the land can be compatible with a 
desire to build executive homes over it?

In Truro, for example, Prince Charles, as current 
proprietor of the Duchy of Cornwall, not long ago 
defeated an army of protesters, including every 
member of Truro council, to build, with his 
partners at Waitrose, 100 houses, a supermarket 
and a “Cornish food hall” on what was formerly 
pasture. In one of several controversial Newquay 
developments, he is providing 174 more new homes, 
having reduced the proportion of affordable units 
to 27.6%, or 48. One councillor told the Bureau 
for Investigative Journalism: “The bottom line 
for me is that the Duchy of Cornwall acts like any other developer.”

Earlier, outside Bath, the Duchy terrorised 
natives with its determination to erect own-brand 
carbuncles on sustainably farmed land and green 
belt. In one of many objections to the plan, 
before it was rejected, the local vicar, Dr 
Catherine Sourbut, wrote : “The Duchy is clearly 
enthusiastic about the possibility of the huge 
financial gain to themselves if the proposed 
housing development goes ahead on this world 
heritage site currently owned by them.”

Yet country folk must find some way of living off 
the rich natural tapestry, regardless of the 
nonsense spouted by city-based ramblers and 
conservationists, and Prince Charles is one of 
many investing in housing estates, where solar 
panels and wind farms are not a more appropriate 
revenue-stream. The Country Landowners 
Association recently issued a lobbying document, 
Tackling the Housing Crisis in England, in which, 
contrary to the pro-brownfield arguments 
compellingly advanced by the CPRE and my 
colleague, the Guardian’s Simon Jenkins , it 
laments “the lack of ability to bring land 
forward for development as a key factor behind 
historic, long-term housing undersupply”. 
Recommendations included building on the green 
belt, as generously supplied by its members, and 
ignoring “spurious conservation area status” 
since “good design will mitigate against the 
visual impact of new housing”. To assist in 
greenfield building, the CLA urged a reduction in 
“disproportionate planning regulation”.

The only practical objection, given the anarchic 
construction that has been assiduously cultivated 
by the coalition, is how much further the CLA 
could extend its members’ right to disfigure the 
landscape before the results drive yet more 
spectators towards Ukip, thereby endangering 
continuation of the most developer-friendly 
government in recent history. Certainly, once 
Cameron and Osborne are gone, there may never be 
another Conservative administration so besotted 
by sprawl and bungalows, to the point that one of 
their own senior MPs, Nadhim Zahawi, questioned  the planning reforms.

Could it really get any better for the CLA, in 
the absence of any buddhas to blow up, than the 
trashing of open land next to 
Stratford-upon-Avon, courtesy of that one-man 
Taliban, Eric Pickles? Supposing Prince Charles 
were capable of consistency, his true allies 
would surely be romantic townies, idealistic 
about preserving unspoiled and historic 
landscapes they will never inhabit; his enemies 
the landowners in and around this government, who 
are happy to vandalise any shared heritage they can’t see.

Only the sustained opposition of Penshurst 
villagers, ending in judicial review, prevented, 
for instance, Viscount De L’isle, a direct 
descendant of Sir Philip Sidney, from erecting 
faux Tudor houses in an area of outstanding 
natural beauty, though not in a spot where it 
would have intruded on his own tapestry. Again, 
only after protests and judicial review was the 
Duke of Gloucester, Charles’s relation, prevented 
from building a wind farm over Grade 1 listed Lyveden New Bield, c1604-5.

The Tory MP, Richard Plunkett-Ernle-Erle-Drax, 
with a deep countryside connection extending over 
7,000 acres of Dorset, showed similar defiance 
when he faced public opposition to a 175-acre 
wind farm. The prime minister’s cousin by 
marriage, Philip Shirley, is still hoping for an 
executive estate on land owned by his family 
since the Domesday Book. In Somerset, another 
ancestrally qualified countryman, the Marquess of 
Bath, intends to run a cable car across the 
Cheddar Gorge, complementing the landscape 
celebrated by Samuel Taylor Coleridge. As much as 
one regrets the ignorance of reed-bed sanitation 
or organic cheesemaking afflicting most city 
dwellers, most of us are, at a guess, innocent of comparable barbarism.

But how do we find a way to put a value on our 
countryside? We could always learn from that most 
connected of countrymen, Sir Reginald Sheffield, 
8th baronet and David Cameron’s father-in-law, 
whose hugely unpopular wind farms, on one of his 
less favoured estates, earn him £1,000 a day.

Royal Family granted new right of secrecy
  Special exemptions to be written into Freedom of Information Act
  By Robert Verkaik, Home Affairs Editor
  Saturday, 8 January 2011

The Royal Family is to be granted absolute 
protection from public scrutiny in a 
controversial legal reform designed to draw a 
veil of secrecy over the affairs of the Queen, 
Prince Charles and Prince William.

Letters, emails and documents relating to the 
monarch, her heir and the second in line to the 
throne will no longer be disclosed even if they are in the public interest.

Sweeping changes to the Freedom of Information 
Act will reverse advances which had briefly shone 
a light on the royal finances – including an 
attempt by the Queen to use a state poverty fund 
to heat Buckingham Palace – and which had 
threatened to force the disclosure of the Prince 
of Wales's prolific correspondence with ministers.

Lobbying and correspondence from junior staff 
working for the Royal Household and Prince 
Charles will now be held back from disclosure. 
Buckingham Palace confirmed that it had consulted 
with the Coalition Government over the change in 
the law. The Government buried the plan for 
"added protection" for the Royal Family in the 
small print of plans called "opening up public bodies to public scrutiny".

Maurice Frankel, head of the Campaign for Freedom 
of Information, said that since the change 
referred to communications written on behalf of 
the Queen and Prince Charles it might be possible 
for "park keepers working in the royal parks" to 
be spared public scrutiny of their letters written to local authorities.

The decision to push through the changes also 
raises questions about the sincerity of the 
Liberal Democrats' commitment to government 
transparency. In opposition, senior Liberal 
Democrats frequently lined up to champion the 
Freedom of Information Act after it came into force in 2005.

Ian Davidson, a former member of Parliament's 
Public Accounts Committee (PAC), told The 
Independent: "I'm astonished that the Government 
should find time to seek to cover up royal 
finances. When I was on the PAC what we wanted was more disclosure not less.

"Every time we examined royal finances we found 
extravagance and indulgence as well as abuse of expenses by junior royals.

"Everywhere we looked, there were savings to be 
made for the Government. This sends the wrong 
message about public disclosure and accountability."

Paul Flynn, another member of the committee, 
described the special protection for the Royals 
as "indefensible". He said: "I don't think it 
serves the interests of the public or the Royal Family very well."

Mr Frankel said he believed that Prince Charles 
was the driving force behind the new law.

"The heir to the throne has written letters to 
government departments in an attempt to influence policy," he said.

"He clearly does not want these to get into the public domain."

Later this month, lawyers for the Cabinet Office, 
backed by Prince Charles, will go to court to 
continue to resist Freedom of Information 
requests of ministers to publish letters written 
to them by the Prince of Wales.

A spokesman for Buckingham Palace said that the 
change to the law was necessary because the 
Freedom of Information Act had failed to protect 
the constitutional position of the monarch and 
the heir to the throne. He explained that the 
sovereign has the right and duty to be consulted, 
to encourage and warn the government, and by 
extension, the heir to the throne had the 
constitutional right and duty to prepare himself for the role of King.

"This constitutional position relies on 
confidentiality, so that all such correspondence 
remains confidential," he said.

But he said that change would also mean that 
correspondence not covered by the absolute 
exemption would be made public 10 years earlier 
than under the current disclosure rules.

The Palace's position was backed by Professor 
Vernon Bogdanor, research professor at King's College London.

He told The Independent: "The essence of 
constitutional monarchy is that the Queen and 
other members of the Royal Family remain 
politically neutral. The Queen meets the Prime 
Minister once a week, when both are in London, to discuss government policy.

"The heir to the throne has the right, and 
perhaps the duty, to question ministers on policy 
so as to prepare himself for the throne. Such 
discussions are only possible if they remain 
confidential. Otherwise the neutrality of the 
Queen and of the Prince of Wales could be undermined.

"When the Queen meets the Prime Minister, no one 
else is present – not even the Queen's Private 
Secretary. For this reason, it is right that the 
Royal Family should be exempt from FOI."

The Government claimed that the thrust of the 
changes announced yesterday would make it "easier 
for people to use FOI to find and use information 
about the public bodies they rely on and their taxes pay for".

The Ministry of Justice intends to increase the 
number of organisations to which FOI requests can 
be made, bringing in bodies such as the 
Association of Chief Police Officers, the 
Financial Services Ombudsman, and the higher 
education admissions body UCAS, and also all 
companies wholly owned by any number of public authorities.

In the public interest? The stories they didn't want us to know

*In 2004 the Queen asked ministers for a poverty 
handout to help heat her palaces but was rebuffed 
because they feared it would be a public 
relations disaster. Royal aides were told that 
the £60m worth of energy-saving grants were aimed 
at families on low incomes and if the money was 
given to Buckingham Palace instead of housing 
associations or hospitals it could lead to 
"adverse publicity" for the Queen and the government.

*A "financial memorandum" formalising the 
relationship between the sovereign and ministers 
set out tough terms on how the Queen can spend 
the £38.2m handed over by Parliament each year to 
pay for her staff and occupied palaces.

*The Queen requested more public money to pay for 
the upkeep of her crumbling palaces while 
allowing minor royals and courtiers to live in rent-free accommodation.

*As early as 2004 Sir Alan Reid, the Keeper of 
the Privy Purse, had unsuccessfully put the case 
to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport 
for a substantial increase in the £15m-a-year 
grant to maintain royal buildings.

*The Palace planned to go ahead with refurbishing 
and renting the apartment of Diana, Princess of 
Wales at Kensington Palace after it had lain empty since her death in 1997.

*A letter exchange revealed a tussle over who has 
control of £2.5m gained from the sale of 
Kensington Palace land. Ministers said it 
belonged to the state, while Buckingham Palace said it belonged to the Queen. 

+44 (0)7786 952037
Twitter: @TonyGosling
uk-911-truth+subscribe at
"Capitalism is institutionalised bribery."

"The maintenance of secrets acts like a psychic 
poison which alienates the possessor from the community" Carl Jung

Fear not therefore: for there is nothing covered 
that shall not be revealed; and nothing hid that 
shall not be made known. What I tell you in 
darkness, that speak ye in the light and what ye 
hear in the ear, that preach ye upon the housetops. Matthew 10:26-27

Die Pride and Envie; Flesh, take the poor's advice.
Covetousnesse be gon: Come, Truth and Love arise.
Patience take the Crown; throw Anger out of dores:
Cast out Hypocrisie and Lust, which follows whores:
Then England sit in rest; Thy sorrows will have end;
Thy Sons will live in peace, and each will be a friend.  
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