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Only architects fail to see true value of nature

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Both Will Alsop and Martin Pawley have written recently on greenfield, brownfield and housing density issues. Their columns are designed to provoke, but I'm concerned at their failure to raise the central issue.

The environment that a person encounters is a reflection of his inner being. From time to time, each person needs a means to maintain and restore his or her mental balance.

Until recently, in the UK, meditation was rarely taught.

People here use the reflected tranquillity of quiet space, natural materials and growing things to restore inner balance.

Until other methods become widespread, the local woods, the much-scorned suburban garden, remain for most of us as much a need as food and water.

Only architects struggle with this concept. Most people know it intuitively. Other things being equal, the desirability of any office/living area will be defined by the ease of access to safe green space.

Ask any commuter. Ask any estate agent. Walls and paved areas do not cut it. The height, shape, composition and quality of buildings matters little compared with what is between these buildings. This is why people fondly remember the time when 'London was a collection of villages'.

The green belt is there, free, for all. With the current architectural mess in our cities, no other justification for maintaining it is required. Do we need public access to another stately home and garden? The answer depends where it is. If it restores balance, yes we do. And if we do, the acquisition is priceless.

Stephen Penfold, Jenkins & Potter Consulting Engineers

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