Landscape guardians seek harmonious change: Foundation aims to mediate between protesters and developers. David Nicholson-Lord reports

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The Independent Online
A pressure group was launched yesterday which argues that motorways can be beautiful but wants to ensure that 'disasters' such as Twyford Down are never repeated.

The Landscape Foundation, which includes Tory peers and leading conservationists and landscape designers on its board, plans to act as an 'environmental Acas' - a reference to the Government's employment conciliation service.

By mediating between developers and protesters in controversial developments such as roads, dams and power stations, it hopes to create 'structures which are as beautiful as the landscape which surrounds them'.

TheEarl of Lindsay, the foundation's chairman and a Conservative spokesman in the House of Lords on landscape issues, said the group's founders were 'convinced that the environmental impact of change need not be the disaster some predict'.

Among the founders are Lord Pym and Earl Jellicoe, former senior Conservative ministers, David Puttnam, a former president of the Council for the Protection of Rural England, and leaders of the Landscape Institute, the professional body of landscape architects. Its patron is Sir Geoffrey Jellicoe, the distinguished landscape architect.

Developments singled out for praise for their 'harmony' with nature include the JCB factory at Rocester in Staffordshire, the Sainsbury Savacentre on the banks of the river Wandle at Collier's Wood, south-west London, the Megget reservoir in the Scottish borders, housing in Long Acre in Covent Garden, London, and stretches of the M4 motorway in Berkshire. 'Even motorways can have a beauty of their own if they are sensitively aligned, follow the landform and are imaginatively planted,' it adds.

However, members of the foundation denied setting themselves up as 'apologists' for development. They attacked the Government for 'crazy' road schemes such as Oxleas Wood in south- east London and the M3 extension at Twyford Down outside Winchester and criticised the Department of Transport's decision to disband its landscape advisory committee. Lord Pym supported criticisms of Twyford Down, adding: 'Everyone has reservations about aspects of roads policy. It is the quality of the development that matters.

'If there was a much greater public awareness of that I suspect there would have been a tunnel under Twyford Down.'

Hal Moggridge, a former president of the Landscape Institute, said that the long-term impact of Twyford Down on the city of Winchester could be very serious. He added: 'There is little doubt that places which are beautiful do better economically.'

The foundation hopes to become a landscape version of the Royal Fine Arts Commission and is planning a pounds 350,000 exhibition on Britain's landscape movement at the Victoria and Albert Museum. It will also sponsor awards, scholarships and research into issues such as the design of power lines, waste incinerators and rural industries.

It argues that business will provide the extra money needed to preserve landscapes - for instance through a 'toll' tunnel at Twyford Down.

Lord Lindsay said the 'great sadness' of Twyford was that if the scheme had been delayed for another two or three years, a private sector tunnel would have been built.

(Photographs omitted)