Charles Moore Charles Moore

The Spectator’s Notes | 3 September 2011

‘Up for Grabs’ shouted a notice at the ticket office at Sissinghurst. It was not easy to buy a ticket without signing the National Trust’s petition which the slogan advertised: ‘For decades our planning system has protected much loved places from harmful development. Now the government’s reforms turn this on its head, using it primarily as a tool to promote economic growth instead.’ Each signatory then declares: ‘I believe that the planning system should balance future prosperity with the needs of people and places — therefore I support the National Trust’s call on the government to stop and rethink its planning reforms.’ But one of the main ‘needs of people and places’ today is more housing. Why does the National Trust, which has saved so many good houses, endorse the pernicious English view that new houses have to be bad? Why does it not stop obstructing, and instead use its enormous skills and resources to build thousands of handsome houses for people of modest means, adding to our heritage as well as preserving it?

•••

As the school year starts, the Eton College News and Events reports how the headmaster greeted new boys in 1942: ‘It is my job to induct you into Eton. I didn’t say “welcome” and I didn’t say “Good morning”, because many of you will find this one of the most distressing inductions you will ever undergo. You may have been big pots at your junior schools, but here you are nothing… You may have heard it said that you are here to be prepared for a life of distinction. Not a bit of it. You are here to be kept off the streets during your difficult years. So you will be made to work every hour God gives you.

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