It was reported last week in the Sunday Observer about how the foreign and London rich were driving ordinary people out of London and changing the city for ever.
The risk was that the city could lose its identity and soul. It said this is what happens when property becomes a global currency. The greatest attraction to foreigners and others is the savings on property taxes which are phenomenally low. This made me think what people throughout the country, and here in Rye, are experiencing. We have a housing boom where it is becoming more and more difficult for even middle waged couples to get on the housing ladder.
It is probably not foreigners buying up property here but wealthy people looking to buying up property as an investment for their future – the second or third home as a hedge against inflation which will not stay low for ever. Whilst one cannot blame them, the effect is to reduce the stock of homes for local people. We are chronically short of housing, and especially affordable homes. Like London, young people are either living longer with their parents, or moving further afield where job prospects and cheaper housing are available. So what is the solution? Given the critical housing shortage – why not apply punitive council tax rates to houses which are empty for most of the year. Why not halve the £600.000 limit of George Osborne’s Help to Buy scheme, to stop subsided mortgages fuelling the bubble? Most of all pressure to bear on developers who sit on sites of undeveloped land badly needed for homes.
Last week I attended the East Sussex Parish & Town Council Conference with the Town Clerk. It was a full agenda covering both morning and afternoon. After the welcome address and introduction by Cllr Carl Maynard, the Lead Member for Transport and Environment , Cllr Chris Dowling, the Lead Member for Community Services and Becky Shaw the ESCC Chief Executive there followed several speakers covering all aspects of road safety including the need to change people’s attitudes to driving. Whilst fatalities from car accidents had fallen dramatically due largely in the improvement of car design serious injuries were still very high. Analysis showed that older drivers, inexperienced drivers and alcohol featured in most accidents. The afternoon session gave time for groups to seek solutions to various hot spots in an area of West Sussex where speeding was the problem. An invigilator recorded each group’s suggestions for analysis. The last session looked at building on community strengths for older and disabled people followed by a discussion as to what we can do for ageing communities and what support can be offered. It was very much a thought provoking day which was well presented on an overhead screen. The conference was well attended from town and parish councils and council officials. I was pleased I attended.
It has been reported that Rye is becoming a town of cafes and tea shops with two more applications approved by Rye Town Council, but not after much soul searching at the recent planning committee. Perhaps market forces will cause the balance to move the other way as some discover the competition is too hot for them! Tea shops might seem good for visitors. Unfortunately, food retailers are unable to compete with the supermarkets which are more than ever frequented by local people for better value. If a supermarket one day opens here I guess it will be the same problem for Rye’s remaining shopkeepers.