We elect local, district and county councillors (and MP’s) believing they are listening to us and will respond to our concerns – but there is now a huge disconnect between those who are governing and those who are governed.
Question – what is the major concern for people in the Torridge and North Devon areas? I would suggest it is mass housing development.
Question – what is the major industry of our area? Answer – Tourism. Visitors come to our area to enjoy the tranquillity and beauty of our designated Biosphere, Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and various Sites Of Special Scientific Interests. They do not come down here to sit in traffic jams, breathing in polluted air, while admiring the vast new housing estates!
Since the beginning of the 1990’s thousands of houses have been built in N Devon and Torridge particularly in the Barnstaple, Bideford and Northam areas. Thousands more are planned. Why? Because most county and district councillors owe their loyalty, not to local people, but to their political party’s national policies. The government believes we need to build hundreds of thousands more houses, despite the fact that there are, at any one time, over a million empty homes in the country (second homes and homes bought and sold for a profit and often lying empty for extended periods).
What is urgently needed is a fair and just housing policy that puts the environment and ‘local commonwealth’ before the vast profits being made by national house builders. Further, every second home owner should pay 3 or 4 times the amount of council tax – and the first priority should be to build affordable homes for our young people. We live in an area with the second lowest wages in the UK.
The level of house building is unsustainable? Are the health services expanding, the schools being built, the road network and sewage capacity being expanded, the jobs being created?
Will our councillors listen and respond? Not on their past record. So, what can we do about it? Answer – We need a new movement of ordinary people rooted in their communities, united by common values and principles, who will listen and respond to local concerns.
There is such a movement. It is called Torridge Common Ground, part of a greater movement now stirring in the country at large.
See website at www.torridgecommonground.org.uk