Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Grown man cries

At the (very foggy) start to today, I don't think that I realised that there'd be tears in my eyes twice today. It's a cliche to say that something is enough to make grown men cry, but in my case it's not much of a statement because I cry easily. Certain works of art in particular - whether written, painted or filmed - bring out the soft side of me, but today's reasons were different. Firstly we had Sir Mark Prescott's tribute in the Racing Post to Anthony Gillam, who died on Sunday. Anthony Gillam's participation in life, tragically, ended four years ago, when this true gentleman sustained injuries in a fall out hunting which all but killed him. And now his life has ended too, and the world, in particular the racing world, really is the poorer for that. This really is one of those instances when it is true to say that we should not send to know for whom the bell tolls, because it genuinely does toll for all of us: all of us who are involved in the sport of racing have been slightly diminished by his passing, because our sport is significantly the poorer for the fact that he is no longer one of those charged with its smooth and just running. I only wish that I'd known him better than merely as an acquaintance whom I liked and respected, to whom I looked up, while I had the chance. Carpe diem.

The second set of tears came this evening in Forest Heath District Council's offices as the 14 members of the planning department voted unanimously to reject Lord Derby's application to develop Hatchfield Farm. While I haven't put anything like the time or energy into the campaign that was devoted by Rachel Hood and others, the Hatchfield Farm issue has still been a major presence in our lives. It had seemed too much to hope that it would be knocked on the head completely tonight (and realistically it might still not have been, because there is always, of course, the potential for an appeal) but when, seemingly out of nowhere, the momentum came to throw out the application - after excellent speeches from Richard Fletcher, Hugh Anderson and William Gittus, the councillors, headed by Warwick Hirst and Andy Drummond, one by one outlined the reasons for their opposition - suddenly built up and a vote was called - which was carried, 14 to none. It was a very moving moment. So that's great. Whether it will end there, of course, remains to be seen, but so far it is very much so good.

One would hope, incidentally, that Lord Derby, if he wishes to retain any semblance of respectability, will not appeal the verdict. He has repeatedly been quoted as saying that he would not do anything to harm Newmarket, and has only been putting forward his scheme because he believes that it would not be detrimental to the town. If we give him the benefit of the doubt, we can accept that he has, hitherto, said that because he believes it, and thus has not been lying. However, if he sticks to his story, I'm afraid that he will only be doing so henceforth without credibility. As one councillor put it this evening, in almost these exact words, "No sane person would assert that this development would not be detrimental to the town unless he was set to benefit financially from it". That, on top of the fact that so many local people have put so much time, money and effort into making their opposition public (for instance, you can be very sure that the likes of Henry Cecil, Michael Stoute and Luca Cumani would only absent themselves from evening stables three days before the Derby if they felt very strongly about the issue) must surely make him question his assertion that his plans are in the town's best interests. As a former officer, he must realise that when a soldier believes himself to be the only trooper on the parade ground marching in step, there must come a time when he should question whether it is not, in fact, all the others who are in step, with him the only man out of step. For Lord Derby, surely such a time is now - so it would be very disappointing indeed if it were to turn out that tonight has merely seen a battle won, with the remainder of the war yet to be waged.


problemwalrus said...

Great news that the tide has turned against the housing development!

Nathan said...

Hopefully a line can now be drawn under such a sad state of affairs. Some places are just meant to be left to nature...