Ugly Britain

Britain has changed dramatically, and not for the better. Its countryside and towns are littered with pylons, posters, electrical wires, disused petrol stations, car parks, garages, roundabouts. High streets are lined with empty, ugly shop fronts with no one being able to use them due to the extortionate rates levied by lazy and greedy local councils.

And the same bodies employ town planners and architects who seem to be unable to cure their mania for ugly, thoughtless design; we, Joe Public seem to equally at a loss to curb our litter habit also.

Signs proliferate everywhere – in parks, towns and railway stations: keep left, keep right, no dogs, no ball games, don’t smoke, do not leave luggage unattended, stand back from the platform edge. Health and safety legislation has seen crash barriers; handrails and fences multiply, whilst playgrounds are torn up with nothing of value found to replace them

Solar panels cover once green fields, encouraged by subsidies and grants. Wind turbines stand sentry on the crests of hills from Cornwall to the East Riding, and from the beach at Great Yarmouth in Norfolk or Broadstairs in Kent, the view is offshore wind farms.

In our urban lives, little thought is given to how new buildings and street furniture might complement, or at least sit unobtrusively in, an existing site. One shining example are the beautiful, classic red cast-iron post boxes — introduced 200 years ago — and the scarlet telephone boxes designed by architect Sir Giles Gilbert Scott in the 1920s.

Is anything as attractive commissioned today? Not only are phone boxes a rarity in our mobile-centric lifestyles, but most are black aluminium frames with glass panels (papered with adverts) on three sides. The nearby bus stop is the same.

Bad design is right on our doorsteps. Councils oblige you to have multiple recycling bins. The largest stands higher than the garden walls of most terraced and semi-detached houses, making such bins impossible to hide. Might they not be more thoughtfully designed?

And in order to escape all this ugliness, we go to the countryside to enjoy the green spaces, fresh(er) air, and to feel a little more calm and free; if only for a short while. Not so.  On weekend walks, I am dismayed by verges strewn with Foster’s beer cans, packets of cheesy Wotsits, cigarette ends and other pieces of tawdry crap.

I would argue that human being are individuals, so to me, the logic that our homes and streets must have their own characters is inescapable. We cannot continue in making, and as the public, allowing everything to look the same. The ugly and unfriendly world that surrounds us does have a definable negative effect on our mental and physical health, with lucidly planned public squares and parks, uncluttered roadsides and unspoilt countryside being absolutely vital to our well-being and peace of mind.

So In this scenario, no one’s a saint and everyone’s a sinner. We have only ourselves to blame for rubbish, but public bodies are at fault for much of the rest.


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