Monday, March 16, 2009

A clash of opinions

I was interested by this story today, about villagers in Dorset taking what some may describe as “direct action” and others as “criminal action” to try and prevent increasing numbers of homes in their village being bought up as holiday homes and thus destroying their community.

I don’t think that there can be any real debate about what is happening and why. I know the Dorset Coast well, I think it is one of the most stunning places in Europe and so I don’t think it is any surprise that city dwellers like to spend time there as I am one of them. Now I have no where near the resources to own a second home (hell I’m only just about to buy my first!) but there are those that do and I have quite some sympathy for them wanting a holiday home somewhere like Dorset.

However I also have real sympathy for the locals because these houses are only occupied for a few weeks a year, this wrecks the local economy by reducing demand for local businesses and services and drives house prices through the roof. A vicious circle develops and slowly a community dies. And that is a tragedy.

The trouble is what do we do about it? Indeed should we do anything about it?

The Liberal in me is naturally hesitant to do anything to place restrictions on what property people can own and what they do with it. For the most part these people have worked hard to earn their money and as long as they are contributing their fare share through taxation for public services they should naturally be completely free to enjoy the fruits of their labour as they see fit.

My heart though also keeps nagging me and asking whether the state should intervene in some way to prevent small communities like this being destroyed? Should the free market really be allowed to ride rough shod over centuries of history? Aren’t some things more important than money? (Insert caveat here about only if you have enough of it to live it!)

In an ideal world of course those with sufficient money to buy these homes would have the sense to realise that honest though their intentions in buying them may be they are none the less having a detrimental effect on the area and so would chose not to do it. We do not however live in that ideal world, more’s the pity.

So my answer? Fuck knows! Yet I can’t help but have a lot of sympathy for the villagers involved.

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