Short story about the dilemma facing a local Councillor when he has to decide if land that he owns should be retained for the general use of his village or made available for the development of much-needed affordable homes for local people.  The winning entry (500 word limit on a rural theme) in the Freerange Theatre Company Playframe short story competition and published in the Winter 2016/17 edition of the ACES Terrier Magazine. Used by the Theatre Company as the storyline for the play ‘Tin Can Lurky’ performed at rural venues in the North West.

Burton
Typical rural affordable housing development at Burton-in-Kendal of the type that the author helped SLDC to develop.  This site has nothing to do with the story below which is fiction. Photo courtesy of Impact Housing Association

Affordable Principles

He looked across to the field on the far side of the village green.  It had been his finest ever speech as a Councillor.  He had swayed the Planning Committee but at what cost?

He thought about all that the green meant to him.  He had grown up here, born in the house that he still lived in; with its magnificent view across to the field.  Development there would completely enclose the green, blocking his view.  He had spent his whole life on that green: cricket in the summer, football in the winter, hanging about with his mates after school.  Chasing the girls, his first kiss, returning home from the church after his wedding, walking across it each day to work.

As the years passed he’d watched his children play on it. They had enjoyed all the same things that he had; running in the village sports, parading at harvest festival time, carol singing in winter, watching the Morris Men dance in spring – activities for every season.

Nothing should be allowed to spoil it.  He wanted it to remain as it had always been.  Development would change everything, destroy all those memories for him.  It wouldn’t look the same, enclosing it with modern houses that wouldn’t fit in with the character of the village, bringing more traffic to clog up the narrow streets.

Some Councillors shared those views.  Some residents were even more extreme; organising petitions, writing to the Planning Committee, putting up posters to oppose the development. Rumours circulated about the type of people who would live in the new rented houses; off-comers, dole scroungers, drug addicts, criminals.

He thought back to his speech. He had spoken with authority.  His remarks were based on a lifetime’s knowledge and experience of the village.  No one on the Planning Committee knew more about the history of the village than he did.  They had listened as he had laid it out for them.  They had shown him respect.  His arguments were disputed but he had been convincing.  The motion was carried.

He thought about the points that he had made.  The houses were vital.  Young families couldn’t afford to buy homes in the village.  They were forced to leave.  This was a development by a Registered Social Landlord.  The rents would be affordable. Tenancies would be restricted to local people.  They had children who would breath life back into the village, fill the schools, support the pub and the post office.  Giving up part of the green was the price that residents would have to pay to stop the village dying.

He thought about what he hadn’t told them.  About the promise he had extracted from the Developer in return for his support; that his grandson would be offered the first tenancy when he left the army next year.  He would see his great grandson grow up and play on the village green outside his house.  Something he had almost given up hope of seeing.

©David Lewis Pogson 2016

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