Friday, July 20, 2007

Community Strategy leads Rural Continuity

South Somerset is made up of a diverse mix of town, village and rural localities.

If you want to live in an idyllic village with fields, animals and 'air' you can, but where you have to work to support that lifestyle, or how to get from home to the shops, cinema or even the pub without access to transport can be an insurmountable problem.

There is a major problem about balance - Where do you start?

More employment, building factories and encouraging office development creates new jobs, but if this comes first then staff will have to travel from where they live now.

More transport, to allow the staff to travel to work generates extra traffic and leaves people living where they do now - so the need to build houses for the workers in the jobs you have created isn't there any more.

If you do build houses first then people will have to travel away from home until there is work locally.

What should a rural community do?

The first thing is NOT to do is to drive young people looking for their first home away from the village - so we need affordable homes in rural villages. This aim is totally incompatible with government's drive for low cost housing on brown field land while preserving 'the green belt'.

We need to bring parcels of land in to use in all our rural communities both for local people to stay local and to relieve the pressure on rapidly growing towns swelling uncomfortably under the weight of focussed development. To make this work there must be efficient mass transport (either bus or rail) to link small rural locations to centres of economic activity for either work or play day and night.

Agricultural land at £3,000 an acre suddenly becomes development land at 100 times the price if you add 'hope value' to a potential site.

Paying such a high price for land makes houses too expensive.......unless we find a way to release land in communities for development at a price that makes the housing affordable. If we can do that then some of the money saved can be used to create improved transport infrastructure and go towards supporting both shops and offices / workplaces to locate in secondary settlements that offer a higher quality of environment than big towns while still offering all the facilities.

The Sustainable Community Strategy being developed by South Somerset Together is attempting to collect and rationalise the conflicting demands on retaining viable rural communities.

Read the initial issues document and give your opinions about the development of the strategy by accessing