Edwards On ... Good ideas can survive our bureaucracy

Last month I was in China for the summer congress of the International Association of Horticultural Producers. Among discussion of issues common to horticultural production around the globe, we visited a vast new park just built on the outskirts of Qingdao city, currently the site of a horticultural Expo.

Everything in China happens fast and large. Millions are moving from rural areas into fast-expanding cities. That process happened in Europe centuries ago, over a much longer period of time and probably at the cost of much greater environmental damage. You can't make an omelette for tens or even hundreds of millions without breaking a few eggs, but it might surprise some in the West to discover that the Chinese are doing their best to do the job well.

I don't have many friends who would live happily with Chinese politics, but it is not without its advantages. Things happen fast when decisions are made. There is a cost in time and money to the legal system that protects us so well from exploitation and compensates us for loss. Perhaps it's this and the size of the population that makes China so strange to my eyes. So much happens so quickly and for such apparently small cost.

Earlier this month, I attended a presentation on the London Garden Bridge. It made me think that perhaps we can do impressive things on a whim. The Garden Bridge is the sort of wonderfully simple idea - a garden on a bridge across the Thames - that you'd think our bureaucratic society would simply suffocate. There are so many parties to please - at best you'd expect it to sit with a committee for decades before coming to life as a mockery of itself.

But somehow a brilliant design has been drawn up, excitement has been generated, money has been raised and it all looks like going ahead. The organisers have even resisted the temptation to litter the Bridge with "leading brand" partners - the sort of thing that would keep me away. It's all going so well. Let's hope the landscaping is ultimately delivered in the same spirit.

Tim Edwards is chairman of Boningale Nurseries

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