Transition Culture

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22 Oct 2007

And now, some good news…

deFollowing 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.

Categories: General

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Caroline Walker
22 Oct 12:16pm

Yes, this is indeed good news and I would like to flag up that in Hartland, North Devon we have a Town Trust which owns 7 properties in the village for rent to local people: they had 6 for a long time then an old lady in the village left them her cottage. The trust is run by a group of local volunteers who make sure that the tenants are local people in need. I think we need a movement like Vinoba Bhave’s in India many years ago which encouraged landowners to gift land to the landless. Perhaps there are many older people without relatives to leave their houses to who would like to leave a legacy to a local property trust, if more existed?

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Leanne Veitch
26 Oct 12:14am

We have a similar problem here in Australia, where the 60+ generation are pricing out their childrens’ generation by keeping hold of family homes, not moving on to smaller housing when their adult children move out, and investing for their retirement in the property market, thus raising property prices still further out of the reach of young couples.

In Melbourne where I live, it is not uncommon to see very average bungalows in working class areas fetch well over half a million Aussie dollars (220,000+ pounds). Workers cottages closer to the city are fetching close to a million (440,000 pounds).

More and more people in their twenties and thirties are simply having to face the reality that they will never be able to afford their own home, while their parents’ generation commonly own one or two homes and investment properties.

Of my friends (all of which are University educated and employed), only my husband and I and another couple have a mortgage, and none of us own our home outright. And in both these cases the homes we live in are very basic – well below the standard our own parents had as their first homes, yet it takes two incomes to make ends meet.

Australia may have been labelled “The Lucky Country” once upon a time, but the label is empty now.

James Samuel
1 Nov 1:08am

Wow! I used to live in Salcombe and take the ferry to Portlemouth regularly. My Grandfather, John Baylay, started the Island Cruising Club there. My uncle is still there. What a small world. Thanks for the inspiration.

6 Nov 8:11pm

Here in West Wales house prices have soared as many retired people escape here from the rat-race of English urban living. there are few jobs and those with jobs no longer earn enough to get or sustain a mortgage. There isn’t enough social housing and so inevitably the young leave.
On a positive note: A friend just informed me of the existence of the Walter Segal Trust. This makes possible self-build social housing on a low impact, low cost basis. This is already supported by the Community Self Build Agency in south west England. This and the Lammas Ecovillage start making a solution here in West Wales seem possible.

liz macdonald
10 Mar 7:28pm

Good for Isabel Waterhouse!!!I knew her mother and she would have so approved!My father lived in Salcombe and I lived there too for some years–it became a ghost town in the winter with all the absent holiday home owners.I see no conceivable reason for them having any say in the day to day life of East Portlemouth–how dare they!I hope that the social housing is approved-the village is saved–and WELL DONE Isabel!!!