22 Oct 2007
And now, some good news…
Following on from the last post, I thought some good news might be in order. I was very heartened by a story in the Independent on Saturday called Spinster rejects £2m in battle to keep stars away. Near where I live in Devon is the beautiful village of East Portlemouth, which is opposite the larger town of Salcombe. It is one of the most gorgeous places in this part of the country, but as a result, has become very attractive to wealthy second home owners.
Both Salcombe and East Portlemouth have become a magnet for celebrities such as Kate Bush, Jonathan and Richard Dimbleby and Rik Mayall, as a result of which the price of properties in the area make it the 6th most expensive place to buy a house in Britain. I was in Salcombe a while ago, and looked in the local Estate Agent’s window (purely for research purposes you understand), and was stunned by the prices in the town.
Local people are being driven out, and indeed a visit to Salcombe is an odd experience, the street lined with top end designer clothes shops most oft-frequented by the yachting set. I remember going there on holiday in the late ’70s, before this process had begun in earnest, and there was still a strong local community. Now, the local lifeboat crew has problems recruiting enough members as none of them can afford the local prices.
It is in this context that today we salute Isobel Waterhouse, 71, who rather than sell the four cottages she owns in East Portlemouth for as much as £500,000 each, has donated the cottages to the newly formed Waterhouse Trust, to be kept in perpetuity so as to provide affordable rented accommodation for young families. According to the Independent, the first tenant is a young man whose family has built traditional wooden boats for over a century. With villages under threat from a variety of directions, ensuring affordable housing for its key workers is one of the things central to their survival.
Indeed, one of the things that emerged from the Oil Vulnerability Audits recently conducted in Totnes was the fact that the majority of the staff in the two businesses studied live outside the town as they cannot afford to live in it. This means that for the businesses in question (and, by extension, for most others), the fact that their key workers have to travel long distances to work increases the oil vulnerability of the business. We can say that, on a larger scale, the failure of local authorities to provide affordable housing increases the oil vulnerability of the town.
By putting the houses in trust, Miss Waterhouse has both ensured that some local families will be able to live and work in their community, but has also saved a significant amount of carbon oxide that would otherwise have been released. We need more people like this, putting the preservation of their communities before personal gain.