Saturday, 18 May 2024

Harmony in the Countryside: Exploring the Devon Village Where Yimbys Outnumber Nimbys

Harmony in the Countryside: Exploring the Devon Village Where Yimbys Outnumber Nimbys
Wednesday, 29 November 2023 08:43

Striking a Balance: The Battle Between Nimbys and Yimbys in South Milton, Devon

In the heart of the picturesque South Milton village in Devon, a unique battle is unfolding—one that encapsulates the broader struggle across Britain between Nimbys (Not-In-My-Back-Yard) and Yimbys (Yes-In-My-Back-Yard). The clash between an acute housing shortage and a fervent desire to preserve green landscapes and heritage has led to a nuanced exploration of development in areas of natural beauty.

Traditionally, Nimbys have vehemently opposed any form of development in their vicinity, aiming to safeguard heritage, countryside charm, and the existing status quo. However, the lack of clearly defined planning guidelines has resulted in what they perceive as exploitative loopholes, leading to a doubling of homes built on protected areas between 2017 and 2021.

In South Milton, a deviation from the typical Nimby narrative emerges. Residents have embraced the idea of controlled development within their natural haven. The village, nestled in a leafy valley adorned with 34 grade-II listed buildings and a grade-I listed 12th-century church, reflects an appreciation for conservation. A neighborhood plan crafted in 2019 outlines the groundwork for an 18-home development on the outskirts—the "Dairy Site."

Nick Townsend, vice chairman of South Milton Parish Council, argues that the chosen location within the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) is discreet, tucked away, and minimally visible, preserving the village's unique charm. The proposed development, situated on a farm edge not within the conservation area, aims to repurpose an existing site, exemplifying a nuanced approach to growth.

South Milton's neighborhood plan, introduced under the 2011 Localism Act, aligns with the "big society" ethos, empowering local communities in decision-making. The plan dictates that six of the proposed homes will be affordable, six designated for self-builds, and six available on the open market. This balanced approach seeks to address the housing shortage while respecting the village's distinctive character.

As the battle between Nimbys and Yimbys unfolds, South Milton becomes a microcosm, navigating the delicate equilibrium between progress and preservation. The Dairy Site development stands as a testament to the community's efforts to chart a course that respects tradition, embraces controlled growth, and ultimately strikes a harmonious balance in the idyllic Devon landscape.

South Milton's Vision: A Blueprint for Community-Driven Development

In the quaint village of South Milton, Devon, a unique vision for community-driven development is unfolding, challenging the traditional Nimby narrative and paving the way for a nuanced approach to growth. The neighborhood plan, overwhelmingly supported by the village's 400 inhabitants, represents a thoughtful balance between progress and preservation.

Crafted in 2019, the plan mandates that any developer must contribute by providing a car park for the village hall and land for a playground, demonstrating a commitment to enhancing communal spaces. Graham Collyer, a resident actively involved in drafting the plan and the author of "A History of South Milton," emphasizes the need for more houses to invigorate the village's lifeblood. Collyer notes a demographic gap, expressing a desire to attract younger adults and alleviate the housing struggle faced by the village's youth.

Collyer highlights the challenges faced by young people in getting on the housing ladder, deeming it "very, very unfair." His perspective reflects a broader concern about the scarcity of available housing sites and long-term rentals in the district. With only eight houses available for long-term rent in South Hams last summer, the housing situation is described as a nightmare.

The planning authority initially proposed building 39 new homes in the parish over 15 years, a number deemed "ridiculous" by Nick Townsend, vice chairman of South Milton Parish Council. The community, in response, set boundaries on what they considered acceptable, prioritizing more affordable housing for locals. The plan also ensures residents have control over the occupancy of the new homes, addressing concerns about the prevalence of second homes.

The "St Ives clause" embedded in the plan dictates that the Dairy Site development will be reserved for individuals who live and work in the area, preventing the village from becoming dominated by second homes. This strategic approach aims to strike a balance, acknowledging the economic benefits brought by second homes while safeguarding the community's vitality.

Though still in the pre-planning stage, the vision for the Dairy Site development represents an ordinary yet profound aspiration of the community. Andy Bond, the site owner, underscores their collective commitment to what's best for the community, signaling a promising future where thoughtful, community-centric development takes center stage in South Milton.

Navigating the Housing Debate: South Milton's Pragmatic Stance in a Nation Divided

In the ongoing saga of Britain's housing crisis, the village of South Milton in Devon emerges as a beacon of pragmatic compromise. Aiming for a middle-ground amidst the often impassioned housing debate, South Milton's residents, neither staunch Nimbys (Not-In-My-Back-Yard) nor fervent Yimbys (Yes-In-My-Back-Yard), present a nuanced perspective.

The Nimby camp, often associated with vehement opposition to development, is seen by some as a defensive line against profit-driven developers encroaching upon the countryside. Critics, however, decry Nimbyism as small-minded localism, often marked by loud protests. On the opposite end, Yimbys, advocating for more housing where it is most needed, reflect the frustrations of a younger generation grappling with diminished prospects of homeownership.

For those aged 25 to 34 in Britain, homeownership has dwindled from 67% in 1991 to a mere 41% today, according to ONS data. The housing shortage exacerbates various societal issues, including ill-health, lengthy commutes, stress, disrupted family dynamics, and limited career opportunities due to geographical constraints.

John Myers, co-founder of the Yimby Alliance, contends that the housing debate transcends mere property acquisition, impacting diverse aspects of life such as health, well-being, and economic productivity. The shortage of housing, he argues, gives rise to a cascade of challenges, affecting everything from job choices to family stability.

The debate over the green belt, initially conceived as a protective barrier against urban sprawl post-World War I, is central to the housing discourse. Yimbys challenge the romanticized image of the green belt, highlighting its expansion over the last four decades to cover 12.6% of England's land, compared to 6% for all residential buildings and their gardens. This stark reality contrasts with the picturesque imagery often associated with the green belt, revealing a complex landscape of monoculture and industrial sites.

As South Milton navigates its unique path in this national discourse, the village serves as a microcosm, embodying the need for a balanced approach that addresses the housing crisis while preserving the essence of the countryside. In this middle-ground stance, South Milton reflects the quest for solutions that go beyond mere binaries, acknowledging the nuanced complexities of the housing debate.

Shifting Tides: South Milton's Embrace of House-Building Signals a Broader Change in Public Sentiment

In the bucolic village of South Milton, an unexpected openness to house-building challenges traditional norms, suggesting a seismic shift in public sentiment on the contentious issue of housing. This departure from the typical Nimby stance may be indicative of a broader change, reflecting concerns echoed in recent polling from the Land, Planning, and Development Federation.

The survey reveals that 69% of voters across the political spectrum share apprehensions about the scarcity of housing in Britain. Notably, both homeowners and non-owners express equal worry about the insufficient number of homes being constructed. Seizing upon this collective anxiety, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer recently declared himself a Yimby, aligning with the Yes-In-My-Back-Yard movement. Labour's promise to empower developers to overcome local planning objections aims to address the housing shortage, part of a larger commitment to achieve the elusive 300,000-home-a-year target set by the Conservatives.

The Labour Party's strategy involves the creation of "Labour new towns," a vision encompassing the development of what Starmer terms the "grey belt." This innovative approach entails repurposing disused land within the green belt, including wasteland and unused car parks. However, John Myers, co-founder of the Yimby Alliance, maintains cautious optimism about Labour's embrace of Yimby-ism. While acknowledging the cleverness of Starmer's "grey belt" distinction, Myers emphasizes the importance of scrutinizing the details, particularly in areas with acute housing shortages such as York, London, Cambridge, and Reading.

Myers underscores the challenge of navigating public sentiment and parliamentary hurdles, recalling the historical caution even Margaret Thatcher exercised when attempting to reform the green belt. He emphasizes the Yimby commitment to advocating for sustainable reforms that garner broad consensus, acknowledging the sensitivity of homeowners, who constitute two-thirds of voters in the country.

Elizabeth Bundred Woodward of CPRE cautions that Starmer's grey belt idea contradicts the primary aim of green belt policy, which is to prevent sprawl. As the debate evolves, the delicate balance between addressing the housing crisis and preserving cherished landscapes remains at the forefront, illustrating the intricate dance between public sentiment and pragmatic policy reforms.

Beyond the Green Belt: Navigating the Housing Dilemma with Nuanced Approaches

The debate over housing in Britain is at a crossroads, with South Milton exemplifying a nuanced approach that challenges conventional narratives. In the midst of this discourse, the role of the green belt is a focal point, prompting discussions on containment, regeneration, and ecological impact.

Elizabeth Bundred Wood, of CPRE, emphasizes the fundamental purpose of the green belt—to contain urban development within its boundaries, fostering urban regeneration and mixed-use development. Contrary to the notion that the green belt must be visually pleasing or immediately useful, its primary function lies in managing urban sprawl. Wood contends that wholesale building on the green belt is unnecessary, citing ample opportunities for housing redevelopment on brownfield sites. Furthermore, she highlights the existence of around half a million homes with planning permission yet to be built, suggesting these as viable starting points for addressing the housing shortage.

The consequences of unchecked housing developments extend beyond aesthetics, affecting local landscapes, ecology, and overstretched village services. Wood underscores the multifaceted role of the countryside, emphasizing its significance for renewable energy, food security, and biodiversity preservation in a country grappling with alarming levels of species endangerment.

Neighborhood plans, introduced as a tool to empower communities, have seen adoption by 1,190 communities since their inception. However, John Myers, co-founder of the Yimby Alliance, expresses reservations about their effectiveness, citing burdensome procedural hurdles and a lack of consensus. While South Milton showcases the potential success of such plans, the rarity of widespread agreement poses challenges to their broader implementation.

Anna Clarke, of The Housing Forum, suggests that the limitations of neighborhood plans stem from the rarity of consensus, particularly in areas where some oppose new housing. She advocates for a more strategic, national-level approach to housing policy, acknowledging the need for diverse solutions on different levels. Clarke emphasizes the role of national leadership and targets in navigating the complex landscape of the housing crisis.

As the debate evolves, South Milton's example underscores the importance of embracing nuanced strategies that balance the imperative for housing with the preservation of landscapes, local ecologies, and community well-being. The challenge lies in finding common ground that goes beyond localized interests, recognizing the need for comprehensive solutions on both a local and national scale.

Beyond Equality: Rethinking National Housing Strategy for Sustainable Development

Amidst the intricate tapestry of Britain's housing debate, a critical perspective emerges—calling for a shift from the prevailing approach of equalized housing distribution to a more nuanced, strategic plan. The plea for national and sub-regional strategic planning underscores the need for comprehensive frameworks that transcend the current ethos of spreading development equally across regions.

The existing strategy, characterized by a "share the pain equally" mentality based on current targets, is deemed insufficient by critics. The call for strategic planning reflects a desire for a holistic, overarching examination of whether new towns or developments should be established in specific areas. This departure from an egalitarian approach seeks to align housing projects with the unique characteristics, needs, and potentials of each region, fostering more sustainable and context-specific solutions.

The absence of a national and sub-regional strategic planning framework is identified as a crucial gap, one that inhibits the exploration of diverse strategies beyond a uniform distribution of housing targets. Advocates for this shift believe that such an approach would enable a more thoughtful, evidence-based consideration of where and how new towns or developments could be most beneficial, steering away from a one-size-fits-all mentality.

In navigating the complex landscape of the housing crisis, the plea for strategic planning echoes the sentiment that addressing the multifaceted challenges requires a nuanced understanding of each region's dynamics. By fostering a more flexible and responsive approach, national and sub-regional strategic planning may pave the way for a future where housing development aligns harmoniously with the diverse needs and aspirations of different communities.

Charting a Sustainable Path Forward for Housing

In the intricate tapestry of Britain's housing debate, the call for a recalibrated approach resonates as a guiding beacon. As the current strategy of equalized housing distribution faces scrutiny, the plea for national and sub-regional strategic planning emerges as a key to unlocking sustainable development.

The absence of an overarching framework that considers the unique characteristics and potentials of each region is identified as a critical gap. Advocates for change seek a departure from the prevailing ethos of 'sharing the pain equally' and advocate for a more nuanced, evidence-based examination of where new towns or developments should take root.

The need for strategic planning is not merely a quest for an alternative; it is a call for a thoughtful, context-specific, and flexible approach to housing development. By acknowledging the diversity of challenges across regions, such planning aims to steer away from a one-size-fits-all mentality, fostering solutions that resonate with the distinctive needs and aspirations of different communities.

As Britain grapples with the housing crisis, the push for strategic planning offers a vision of a future where sustainability, adaptability, and community well-being are paramount. In navigating this complex landscape, the evolution from equalized distribution to strategic planning becomes a crucial step toward charting a path that not only addresses the current housing challenges but also sets the foundation for a more harmonious and resilient housing future.

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