“NIMBY”: a byword for lazy-minded prejudice

Has there ever  in modern history been a sillier, yet also brutally effective, term of abuse than “nimby”?  It is a word which might have been formulated by a brilliant but cynical advertising copywriter or perhaps one of the more cunning spin-doctors lurking evilly in the corridors of Whitehall.

It squashes any debate around planning issues by the simple expedient of characterising anyone not in favour of the development in question as being motivated entirely by personal greed and selfishness.

I am in the nimby firing-line having written in the Independent today about onshore wind turbines, and the welcome news that the rate of developments being given planning permission has reduced over the past year.

There has been the usual “robust” response in emails to me and on the message-board with  much name-calling along nimby lines. One reader sneered that I was lucky to live in such an idyllic setting (in fact, it is ordinary working countryside).

The new cliché in these arguments  is the rather extraordinary accusation that those who express opposition to a development are interested in their “views”.  A view, of course, is a landscape. Would these people have mocked Wordsworth’s concern for his views, or Constable?  When did rural beauty become an irrelevant self-indulgence?

In fact, being concerned for one’s back yard is, as I have written, a sign of engagement with the community, not insularity. In my experience, the people who could be described as nimbies are precisely those who campaign for libraries or village post offices, who arrange litter-picking walks, who argue for (or against) by-passes around towns. They know that that if they are not concerned for their little part of the country, no one else will be.

Whenever the nimby accusation is deployed, I smell desperation, lazy-mindedness and a weak argument.