Backlash over Trust's 'smack in the face' for rural families
The chairman of the National Trust came under fire from the Westcountry yesterday after he said children raised in the countryside had no automatic right to live near their parents' homes when they grow up.
Sir Simon Jenkins, who was speaking in a personal capacity at the Home Builders' Federation conference, said the majority of new homes should be built in towns and cities.
"Somehow it is considered the right of people in the country to have their children living next door at public expense," he said. "I don't understand it."
"Are you going to say that people who have lived in the Windrush Valley (in the Cotswolds) for 100 years have a right to go on living there? No, I'm afraid they don't. Sorry."
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Sir Simon, who owns homes in west London and rural Wales, suggested introducing four different listed "grades" of countryside – one of which could include a "presumption against development".
He added: "I want building to take place in towns on the whole. I want there to be massive incentives to build in towns because it makes more sense."
But Sir Simon's views were given short shrift in the Westcountry yesterday with Councillor Mark Kaczmarek, Cornwall's housing portfolio holder, saying they were a "smack in the face" for rural communities"
"He's clearly got no idea what it is like for people that struggle to afford a home in their own community," Coun Kaczmarek said.
"I don't think Sir Simon Jenkins, who has a second home elsewhere, should be commenting at all."
Peter Harding, assistant chief executive of the Community Council of Devon, said it had conducted 170 surveys in rural communities across the county which showed most needed 8-10 new affordable homes.
"It is clearly of benefit to rural communities on the long term if they have people living in them," he said. "I don't think rural areas should just be regarded as a heritage asset."
Former Truro and St Austell MP Matthew Taylor – now Lord Taylor of Goss Moor – reviewed the impact of spiralling house prices on rural communities in 2008.
He said: "Sir Simon appears to have forgotten that even the most beautiful village is only a living and working community if the next generation can afford to live there and bring up their children there – otherwise schools and shops will close.
"Preserving villages as museum pieces is not protecting the countryside. Of course development needs to preserve what is special but we also need homes for the next generation and it is not impossible to do both.
"At the end of the day we need affordable homes for people who work in the countryside, where pay is often low.
"If they have nowhere to live communities will die."