By SIMON JENKINS FOR THE DAILY MAIL
What do the Royal Family, Shakespeare and the English countryside have in common?
The answer is they are ‘things about Britain’ most treasured by the British people in polls at the time of the Millennium. To threaten any of them would be unthinkable.
After six years chairing the National Trust — from which I retired last week — I am left with one gloomy fact: one of these treasures is indeed threatened. The English countryside.
It is not about to disappear, covering as it does some 80 per cent of England’s land area, but its fate can be clearly seen by anyone driving up the M1 through the East Midlands.
Rolling farmland is replaced by warehouses, bleak housing estates, wind turbines and advertising hoardings in fields. It is the start of the ‘tat’ that is familiar the world over when planning control collapses.
I am sure politicians such as David Cameron, George Osborne, Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg never rose one morning and declared: ‘This is just how I want England to look.’ They have probably not noticed.
They holiday in ‘unspoilt’ places at home or abroad, and see England only from train and car windows.