Friday, March 27, 2009

Alice, I hope your neighbours don't read the Times...

Alice Miles has had a piece published in today's Times, entitled "Don't blame second-home owners for all rural ills".

She starts off with a fairly uncontroversial reflection on a consultation exercise in her village regarding a proposal for some affordable housing, noting that 90% of respondents had rejected all of the options. So far, so worthy. And then the wheels not so much fall off as sprout Boadiccea-like spikes...

Whilst she acknowledges that second-home owners are usually blamed for the unavailability of affordable homes, and admits that, in some holiday areas, there are too many, her real fire is turned on what I might effectively describe as 'permanent villagers'.

In the sort of blanket attack that indicates that Alice has her village home on the market, she asserts, "As a rule, rural people work far less hard than city people and pay less tax. Their quality of life is high, compared to the city dweller on his hamster wheel.". Gosh, Alice, don't beat about the bush, tell your neighbours how you really feel, why don't you? She goes on, "The relative laziness is accompanied by lack of imagination and a poverty of ambition.".

I've got to say that, if I was one of Alice's neighbours, it would be time for the pitchforks and flaming torches, as she clearly has no respect for her community, and is happy to tar them all with the same brush that journalists too lazy to actually seek out the truth use so freely. Oh, sorry Alice, that's a lazy generalisation, isn't it? You don't mind though, do you?

The reason that rural dwellers pay less tax is... trumpet fanfare... because they earn less (duh!) - excluding of course those city people with their second homes who invest their money so as to avoid paying levels of tax of which they disapprove. And yet their quality of life is higher. Might that be because they live a less consumer-oriented lifestyle, with less pressure to buy all of that 'stuff' that advertisers think we must have?

I don't know, if truth be told, although Ros has referred to issues of rural isolation and poverty that she encountered as a district and county councillor. However, perhaps if Alice did her own consultation exercise, she might discover that the truth, as it usually is, is rather more multi-faceted...


asquith said...

Perhaps she lives near Robin Page. I can understand berating country folk if you have to share a village with him! :)

Jock Coats said...

I understand she's in Devon. I spent last night in a pleasant dinner meeting with my Oxfordshire Community Land Trust colleagues and the manager of the county wide CLT project in Cornwall who today will be trying to get our local RSLs to combine and fund us working on CLTs in Oxfordshire.

We were discussing his experience of convincing local residents that they needed some more affordable housing in their communities and basically he said he had never really experienced a problem - getting in most cases 100% support in the ensuing planning applications by doing real on the ground door to door and local community meeting consultation and being prepared to make adjustments to projects where neighbour had genuine causes for concern.

In the couple of cases where he has experienced some local resistance he noted that it was mainly from "native" residents, and particularly in right to buy homes who felt that since they had managed i, nobody else should be given a hand up in their back yards.

But as the comments from the Times article seem to be suggesting at the moment at least, she is the one whom most people see as out of touch with her part-time community. The country will come to rely more and more on what she describes as these lazy, unambitious (yet usually working longer days than even worried bankers) yokels. But even they will not be able to work in their low paid jobs if they have no roof over their heads.