Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Local homes for local people

ALTHOUGH there were only around 20 people present, the public meeting at the Woodmead Halls on Monday evening was one of the most interesting I have attended for some time.

It was called to set up a Community Land Trust with a brief to provide more affordable homes for Lyme Regis.

With a young daughter who works in the town, and lives in expensive rented accommodation, this is a subject that naturally intrigues me.

The cost of housing in Lyme Regis is also a big factor in attracting the right calibre of candidate for jobs at the View, with most having to live outside the town.

I am also conscious that the number of second holiday homes, whilst benefiting the local economy, forces up the cost of houses to a level where Lyme is one of the most expensive property resorts in the country.

Couple this with Dorset being a low-income area and there is very little opportunity for young people to get on the property ladder.

So what can be done? If we force all our young people out of Lyme, the town will become a glorified retirement colony with even less opportunities for those who want to work and live in their home town.

Having listened intently to the speakers at Monday’s meeting I think that a Community Land Trust is probably the only solution.

But as the group leader Denis Yell and his fellow members emphasised, it will not be easy and it will not be rapid. But the first stone has been laid and it can only go from strength to strength with the support of the whole town.

And that means that more people need to get involved and it would be encouraging to see a few Lyme-born people taking an interest - for we are the group which could benefit most - and also some younger faces.

I don’t want to be critical of my fellow Lyme Regians (as you know, if you kick one of us, we all limp), but it baffles me that there is such apathy among Lyme’s indigenous population to get involved.

Yet again I was just one of two Lyme born people attending the meeting (the other being Councillor Michaela Ellis).

I often get stopped in the town and told by my peers that I should put this or that in my “rag”. I tell them to write a letter. Few ever do.

But perhaps we should be asking why locals are so reticent to play a more prominent role in local affairs and not just moan about why they don’t.

But back to the CLT meeting. 

Denis Yell and his team have clearly done a good job in getting the project this far. They have the experience and determination to drive the project forward and in future editions of this newspaper I am sure we will be reporting on Lyme’s first Community Land Trust project with local people, and not some disfunctional family from out of town, moving into local homes.

The number of affordable homes built in Lyme in recent years is indeed grim but hopefully more are in the offing.

Of all the benefits that have come to Lyme via the Development Trust and LymeForward, I believe the setting up of a CLT could be one of their most successful.

It could make a real difference to the future of Lyme and I wish them well in all their efforts.

Avoid this parking permit faux pas

AS A former member of the Woodmead Halls management committee, I am fully aware of just how much voluntary work goes into making the halls into one of Dorset’s best community centres.

Every week you will find a team of volunteers, most of which are past the age of retirement, climbing ladders, crawling under floors and wielding a paint brush. The result? The halls are in pristine condition, a credit to Lyme.

The halls also manage and maintain the toilets which are patronised by those using the town council owned car park on which the halls sit. For the privilege, the council  pay an annual fee of around £24,000 I believe.

Negotiations for a new agreement have been going on for around six months between the town council and the halls management committee. They have not always been cordial and on one occasion a leading councillor walked out before the end of the meeting.

The council has a duty to examine all the cost centres to see if they can secure more cost effective services.  That is their responsibility.

In Stan Williams, who is leading the negotiations on behalf of the management committee, they face a determined character dedicated to the smooth running and development of the halls. 

During his chairmanship the halls have raised more than £200,000 which have been ploughed back into the fabric of the building. During that time the council has given around £30,000 in grants.

It would now seem it has come down to the possibility that the council will withdraw parking permits for the volunteers who use the hall, although the council, apparently,  is comfortable with continuing to provide free parking for its staff.

We are talking about very small amounts of money here - and it would be an unbelievably crass act to take those permits away.

A PR faux pas they need to avoid, I think.

EVENT OF THE WEEK... for me!

I KNEW something was up when David Manners invited me to a Royal British Legion committee meeting last week. Whilst being a Legion member, I do not serve on the committee.

“Oh, hello Pip,” they said sheepishly as I arrived at the meeting.

“I’ve got a very pleasant task to perform before we start the meeting,” said chairman Ken Whetlor. I knew then I hade been stitched up. David, who is the vice-chairman, then announced that the branch were presenting me with a certificate recognising “meritous service” to the Legion.

I must admit, I felt a bit of a fraud, especially as sitting around the table were ex-service personnel who had not only served their country with great bravery but were now doing their bit for the Royal British Legion.

The branch had decided to present the certificate to me for compering the Legion Festival of Remembrance for the past 17 years during which time I had come to admire the work of this brilliant organisation. 

Last November’s event was my last as all good things must come to an end and its time the festival took a new direction. I can only say it was a privilege to be part of it.

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