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Sunday, 17 December 2017

Knowle relocation project: new FOI request for PegasusLife viability report

There have been a few new Freedom of Information requests related to the Knowle made of late:
Futures Forum: Knowle relocation project: latest FOI request on costs
Futures Forum: Knowle relocation project: new FOI request on S106 cash

In the light of lack of clarity over what the 'overage' might be regarding developers' agreements with the District Council...
Futures Forum: Knowle relocation project: PegasusLife pleading poverty: "specialists in development viability have confirmed that the development cannot afford to meet the council’s policy requirements for affordable housing"

... a further FOI request has just been made:


PegasusLife viability report

17 December 2017

Dear Ms Symington,

I would like to make a formal request under the Freedom of Information Act 2000. I am also making this request under the Environmental Impact Regulations 2004 which require disclosure on the part of Local Authorities.

By way of introduction, a Council spokesperson spoke to the Sidmouth Herald, which published the following statement on 5th December 2017:

“PegasusLife has submitted viability evidence to demonstrate that the scheme would not be viable if it were to provide affordable housing, which the council has accepted.

“The council has had this information independently assessed by specialists in development viability who have confirmed that the development cannot afford to meet the council’s policy requirements for affordable housing.

“Accordingly, the council has required an overage clause to be included within the section 106 agreement, which will seek to obtain a contribution towards affordable housing in the event that the scheme is more profitable than currently envisaged. This approach has been used before and supported by planning inspectors at appeal. If the development is found to be C2 by the inspector then there would be no affordable housing required to be provided.

“However, the Knowle inquiry is still ongoing and is timetabled to conclude today (Tuesday). We anticipate receiving a final decision from the inspector in January.”

http://www.sidmouthherald.co.uk/news/kno...


With reference to the above, I would like you to provide me with the following:

> The full, unredacted “viability evidence to demonstrate that the scheme would not be viable if it were to provide affordable housing.”

> The full thread of paperwork which demonstrates that the “council has accepted” the viability evidence.

> The full, unredacted assessment of this information from the “specialists in development viability who have confirmed that the development cannot afford to meet the council’s policy requirements for affordable housing.”

The 106 agreement has been made available: https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/k...

Nevertheless, I would like you to provide me with:

> The full thread of paperwork which demonstrates the precise mechanisms by which the section 106 agreement “will seek to obtain a contribution towards affordable housing in the event that the scheme is more profitable than currently envisaged.”

I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely,

Jeremy Woodward


PegasusLife viability report - a Freedom of Information request to East Devon District Council - WhatDoTheyKnow
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Knowle relocation project: PegasusLife pleading poverty: "specialists in development viability have confirmed that the development cannot afford to meet the council’s policy requirements for affordable housing"

We await the outcome of the Inspector's views on PegasusLife's plans for Knowle:
Futures Forum: Knowle relocation project: PegasusLife appeal inquiry >>> decision expected end of January

An agreement between the developer and the District Council on 'overage' has been revealed - although a definition of 'overage' might be handy:

In the context of land sales, an overage (also called “claw back”) is used to describe a sum of money in addition to the original sale price which a seller of land may be entitled to receive following completion if and when the buyer complies with agreed conditions.

Overage is often written into a contract of sale where land or property is being sold at an undervalued rate...


Land-sale overage - Wikipedia

In other words, if PegasusLife make more money on the sale of their flats than originally anticipated, then the District Council should have slice of that...

The problem is that what was 'written into the contract of sale' was not very promising - as revealed at the beginning of this year:

Pegasus were not prepared to offer significant ‘overage’ – meaning that EDDC would not be able to ‘claw back’ any excess profits Pegasus might make.

Moreover:

Had the Full Council been aware of the terms of the deal with Pegasus – for example, no significant overage – then then their approval of Pegasus as the ‘preferred developer’ might not have been forthcoming.

Futures Forum: Knowle relocation project: full Pegasus contract published >>> PRESS RELEASE

Other commentators have pointed out the uselessness of this 'overage clause':

A Section 106 Agreement between Pegasus Life and East Devon District Council was published. This shows that the land being considered for development is valued at £5.8 m. Pegasus Life has submitted viability evidence to demonstrate that this scheme would not be viable if it were to provide affordable housing, which the Council has accepted. 

 An “overage clause” has been included where a contribution would be paid if the scheme was more profitable than the forecasted figures. In practice this rarely yields any significant contribution.

Futures Forum: Knowle relocation project: PegasusLife appeal inquiry >>> "the Sidmouth community have been badly treated and let down" >>> a summary of the issues

A letter in the latest Herald makes the same point:


Overage - or no overage?

So, East Devon District Council, desperate to recoup cash for their over-budget office re-location project, have once again allowed PegasusLife to run rings round them, as they seemed to do with their so-called “defence” at the recent Knowle appeal inquiry. The appeal contest was supposed to be between EDDC defending their refusal and Pegasuslife the appellant but to many observers it turned out to be between both of these on the one hand and the Sidmouth community on the other.

EDDC have also entered into an agreement with PegasusLife for the latter to pay “overage” on profits from its 113-apartments development. I understand that any “overage” (i.e. money a seller of land may receive on a developer's profits) is dependent upon the sale of the final PegasusLife apartment:

But what chance is there that EDDC will ever know what profits PegasusLife will make?

And what if PegasusLife deliberately fails to sell the last apartment(s)?

And haven't EDDC agreed a “viability” clause with PegasusLife so that “overage” is unlikely to happen or be significant?

And would any overage payments compensate for the £3.5 million that this high-end retirement complex ought to be paying towards the “affordable” housing the district so urgently needs?

Mike Temple


Sidmouth and Ottery breaking news and sport - Sidmouth Herald

In fact, this has been a concern for some time:
Futures Forum: Knowle relocation project: deciding to sell >>> 'overage' and the dangers of selling Knowle short >>> one year on (April 2016)

The latest calculations from a correspondent show what attractive profits the developer could be making:

Sidmouth property has a local median price of £412k and, if we take into account other PegasusLife developments around the country, the two-bedroom Knowle flats would expect to fetch £660-825k and the one-bedroom flats £490k - giving an expected income from sales of £70million.
If the comparable data from the Churchill Viability Report for their Green Close development is applied (see below), the costs and likely profit for PegasusLife at Knowle can be estimated:

Gross Income
£70,000,000
Site purchase
£7,500,000
Stamp duty
£365,000
Demolition maximum (industry estimates are £10k for a house)
£5,000,000
Build costs 13,000m2 @ £1,194 per m2 (RICS)
£15,500,000
External works 11%
£7,700,000
CIL (Should PegausLife agree to pay...) @ 10%
£7,000,000
Fees 10%
£7,000,000
Selling costs 6%
£4,200,000
Total costs
£54,265,000
Surplus
£15,735,000

Comment:
"The industry expectation is a 20% profit for PegasusLife which is £14,000,000, that leaves £1,735,000 for affordable housing.  
"Do remember, the estimated costs will be set at maximums and so there should be quite a windfall for East Devon tax payers at stake if PegasusLife get away with a C2 categorisation."

The offer from PegasusLife is rather misleading therefore, as this piece from the Herald last week reported:

Knowle developer will only pay for affordable housing if profits exceed expectations

05 December 2017
Stephen Sumner


PegasusLife's plans for Knowle. EDDC planning officers voiced concerns about development onto the terraces and the impact on the listed summerhouse

The developer behind plans for a 113-home retirement community at Knowle will only pay towards ‘affordable’ housing if its profits exceed current expectations.

PegasusLife had argued its proposals should be classed under ‘residential institutions’ – branded ‘C2’ in planning terms – meaning it would not need to make a contribution. Landowner East Devon District Council (EDDC) had contested it should be classed as C3 for housing, meaning there would normally be a payment towards off-site affordable housing.

An agreement between the parties, revealed last week, shows there is an ‘overage’ clause, so PegasusLife would only pay out if the scheme exceeds its forecasts.

An EDDC spokeswoman said: “PegasusLife has submitted viability evidence to demonstrate that the scheme would not be viable if it were to provide affordable housing, which the council has accepted.

“The council has had this information independently assessed by specialists in development viability who have confirmed that the development cannot afford to meet the council’s policy requirements for affordable housing.

“Accordingly, the council has required an overage clause to be included within the section 106 agreement, which will seek to obtain a contribution towards affordable housing in the event that the scheme is more profitable than currently envisaged. This approach has been used before and supported by planning inspectors at appeal. If the development is found to be C2 by the inspector then there would be no affordable housing required to be provided.

“However, the Knowle inquiry is still ongoing and is timetabled to conclude today (Tuesday). We anticipate receiving a final decision from the inspector in January.”

The section 106 agreement shows that the land is valued at £5.8million. The deal with PegasusLife is worth £7.5million to EDDC, which will put the cash towards its £10million relocation to Exmouth and Honiton.

The dispute about whether the development should be classed as C2 or C3, as well as concerns about overdevelopment and the impact on the site’s listed summerhouse, led councillors to refuse planning permission last December. The developer took its appeal to the Planning Inspectorate. The inspector, Michael Boniface, is set to make a site visit this afternoon to inform his decision.


Knowle developer will only pay for affordable housing if profits exceed expectations - Latest Sidmouth and Ottery News - Sidmouth Herald

Meanwhile, in another corner of the Sid Valley:
Futures Forum: Knowle relocation project: developers lose appeal for 'retirement development' in Sidford >>> Reason: "lack of affordable housing is a critical issue in East Devon"
Futures Forum: Knowle relocation project: developers lose appeal for 'retirement development' in Sidford >>> Reason: overage
Futures Forum: Knowle relocation project: and "sheer hypocrisy" >>> District Council planning officers reject the Green Close development over affordable housing and overage

Although it is understood that the developer there has appealed yet again...
Drakes Avenue | Churchill Retirement Homes in Devon
Inspector throws out appeal to demolish care home for sheltered housing apartments - Devon Live

And so we are back to the slippery notion of 'viability':
Futures Forum: A solution to our housing problems: scrap viability assessments

Because viability assessments are very useful indeed:
Futures Forum: ‘Viability assessments’ allow developers to drop affordable housing

Especially if you don't want to build stuff with low profit margins:
Futures Forum: How to avoid affordable housing
Futures Forum: S106 Management - or how developers avoid affordable housing

Meanwhile elsewhere, PegasusLife have had problems with 'overage' and 'viability':
Futures Forum: Knowle relocation project: PegausLife application to pull down century-old hotel refused > in the New Forest
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Rewilding Britain > restoring intensive farmland back to it's natural and uncultivated state - and becoming financially sustainable

The campaign 'Rewilding Britain was set up a couple of years ago:
Welcome - Rewilding Britain

Although there are arguments about what it really stands for:
Futures Forum: Rewilding Britain >>> " a bio-engineered pastiche", or >>> "a feat of natural renewal"?

'Rewilding' is generally thought of as re-introducing larger mammals that had been hunted to extinction:
Futures Forum: Reintroducing wolves to Devon
Futures Forum: Rewilding Devon: the return of the lynx?
Futures Forum: On the River Otter: beavers and rewilding Devon ... and "trying to repair the monstrous damage we have inflicted on nature in Britain"

However, these animals have to live alongside human communities:
Futures Forum: What does 'rewilding' mean for rural communities?
Futures Forum: Rewilding and rural communities: "The only reasonable argument to pay farmers £3bn in subsidies is ecological restoration."

And there is the issue of land-use and farming:
Futures Forum: Wilderness vs farming: How can we produce enough food for both humans and life on the planet to survive?

One idea to try to balance many of these issues is eco-tourism - and this is happening in East Devon:
Futures Forum: On the River Otter: beavers, nature tourism and rewilding

It is also happening on the South Downs, as reported on Open Country on Radio 4 this week:

Rewilding at Knepp Castle


16 December 2017
Open Country

Helen Mark travels to Sussex to explore the wilderness at Knepp Castle Estate. Isabella Tree and her husband Charlie Burrell have turned their estate which was once intensively farmed over to a rewilding project since 2001. Isabella takes Helen to her favourite part of the landscape which has undergone the greatest change since they started restoring the land back to it's natural and uncultivated state.

Helen also goes bird ringing and cattle mustering on the state, now home to long horns, free roaming deer, pigs and Exmoor ponies. She meets a couple who retired and moved to the South Downs for an idyllic country life only to discover the view from their house is more than they bargained for. So is re-wilding the estate really working and should we be doing it?


BBC Radio 4 - Open Country, Rewilding at Knepp Castle

It also featured on Countryfile earlier in the month:
BBC iPlayer - Countryfile
BBC One - Countryfile, Hertfordshire

As covered in the blog on Rewilding Britain - whose chair is also the owner of Knepp:

Second Nature


Charlie Burrell on Rewilding Britain’s focus on developing pilot projects around the country, and a visit by BBC’s Countryfile to his own rewilding project at Knepp



The red deer stags put on quite a show for the BBC, roaring and pawing the ground, and plunging into the water.


Rewilding Britain
19 Nov 2017

As Chair I have been watching Rewilding Britain grow as an organisation and I am delighted that we now have three large-scale rewilding projects in Wales, Scotland and England in our sights. Over the next ten years we’ll be focussing our efforts on establishing these three pilot schemes. From my own experience with our rewilding project at Knepp in West Sussex, it’s clear there’s no better way to inspire other landowners about alternative land use than to showcase a living, breathing example of rewilding in action. Like Knepp, these three projects will – on a much larger scale – take a radically different approach to conventional nature conservation. Rather than being governed by specific goals or target species, they will be ‘process-led’. The driving principle, like ours here at Knepp, will be to establish functioning ecosystems where nature is given as much freedom as possible. And, just like Knepp, they will - we hope - demonstrate that letting nature take the driving seat can work both for both nature and the economy.

At Knepp, we’re seeing a growing interest from people wanting to understand how rewilding works, to experience our ‘hands-off’ approach in action. It’s a surprisingly difficult thing for most of us to grasp – that by letting go, by allowing nature to perform on its own, we can get better results than if we’d spent an enormous amount of time, energy and money closely managing it. Nature can simply do better than us. After all, she was doing it long before we humans ever arrived on the scene.

We’ve had literally thousands of people coming to Knepp this year to see our project – from NGOs, the press, and even from Government, as well as several thousand members of the public. Most recently we’ve had a crew from BBC’s Countryfile. Our red deer stags put on quite a show for them, roaring and pawing the ground, and plunging into the water. It was the start of the deer rut here, and the main harem of hinds stood looking on, singularly unimpressed – it seemed – as the young bloods strutted their stuff. It’s always a pleasure to re-connect people with wild nature, especially here – so close to London, in the most populated part of Britain, where one least expects it. And of course, it’s a great opportunity to share what we’re learning here about the potential for future conservation in the UK.

It’s always a dramatic moment, too, standing in a landscape of thorny scrub that looks more like Africa, surrounded by birdsong, to remind visitors, as we did with the Countryfile team, where this land has come from. Almost all of our 3,500 acres was intensively farmed until 2001. When I took over from my grandparents in 1985 the farm was already failing. Our heavy Sussex clay makes it impossible to compete with modern industrialised farms on richer, lighter soil. After doing everything we could to make a go of it for 15 years – throwing more pesticides, more fertilisers, herbicides and fungicides at the land, buying bigger machinery, investing in infrastructure, making efficiencies, trying to diversify – we realised we could never make conventional farming pay. Our overdraft was rocketing.

Turning to rewilding was, certainly, a leap of faith. But the long and bitter experience of running a failing business had convinced me we had to do something with the land, rather than fight against it all the time. Above all, we had to find something that was financially sustainable for our land.

So, in 2000, we cleared our debts by selling our dairy herds and farm machinery and, in stages over the following six years, allowed the fields to revert to nature. Inspired by grazing conservation projects in the Netherlands, I began to understand the vital importance of herbivores in the landscape, how using even domesticated animals as proxies for some of the megafauna that would have been roaming our land before human impact, can generate biodiversity. The different grazing techniques and physical disturbance from our free-roaming Old English longhorn cattle, Tamworth pigs, Exmoor ponies, and red and fallow deer – from trampling and puddling to rootling, rubbing, snapping branches and de-barking trees – together with their ability to transfer nutrients and disperse seeds over wide areas, has created (and continues to create) all sorts of opportunities for vegetation and other wildlife.

Numerous endangered British birds like nightingales, cuckoos, spotted flycatchers, whitethroats, lesser spotted woodpeckers, woodlarks, skylarks, lapwing, peregrine falcons, red kites, ravens and sparrowhawks are now breeding at Knepp. We now have all five UK species of owl, and 13 out of the UK’s 17 species of bat. We’re the only place in Britain where turtle doves (the most likely bird species to go extinct within our shores by 2025) are actually rising. We have the biggest breeding UK population of rare purple emperor butterflies having had none for at least 50 years. Every month we discover more species that have found us. It feels like we’re living in the middle of an ever-evolving miracle.

But it’s not just wildlife that’s thriving. Tourism has provided us with an important alternative income stream. This year, 1,300 people came on wildlife safaris and 2,500 stayed with us in our camping and glamping site. Our old farm buildings (that used to cost a fortune to maintain) now bring in rent as storage space, light industrial workshops and offices. Businesses in these buildings employ around 200 people locally, bringing jobs back into the countryside. We also sell 35 tonnes of premium organic, pasture-fed beef, venison and pork a year. We are constantly learning, but I think it’s fair to say that our days of struggling to farm on our poor clay soil, and losing money year-on-year, are well and truly over.

It’s a story that people find astonishing and I never tire of seeing the excitement our rewilding project inspires. So I have big hopes for Rewilding Britain’s three pilot projects and how they will help to engage people in the concept of rewilding. Because it’s only when you’re actually standing in a landscape that is humming, buzzing, brimming with life that you can feel the difference; that you can appreciate how easy it is to restore nature, even to places that had once been, in terms of wildlife habitat, virtual deserts. And if these projects can demonstrate, at the same time, that there are positive benefits for people and communities, that jobs and important public services are being created by restoring living landscapes, then I hope we’ll also be able to make a strong case to encourage other landowners across Britain to take the leap into rewilding. And no doubt we’ll be providing Countryfile with exciting stories for decades to come, too.

To find out more about Rewilding Britain’s four principles guiding their approach to rewilding, read more here.

Charlie Burrell is the owner of Knepp Estate, and Chair of Rewilding Britain.


Second Nature - Rewilding Britain
The Burrell Family & Modern Knepp Castle — Knepp Wildland

The press has been very interested in the project:
Rewilding Farm Creates Refuge for England’s Rare Turtledoves - National Geographic
On safari in the South Downs: the 'rewilding' of Knepp - Telegraph
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Saturday, 16 December 2017

Old vs young: "Baby boomers have built an empire and empires need protecting: God forbid that house prices fall and housing becomes cheaper for young people!"

Are older people 'stealing the future' from younger people?

... whether it's about housing:
Futures Forum: "Bad news for people trying to get on the property ladder" >>> Sidmouth's property inflation rate is one of the highest in the country
Futures Forum: The South West: "This is where the young people are struggling to get on to the property ladder which is why towns are banning holiday homes."
Futures Forum: Elderly to blame for housing crisis...?

... or jobs:
Futures Forum: “We need a more balanced community." >>> "The Sid Valley needs a ‘long-term vision’ to attract more young people and families,"
Futures Forum: Sidford, employment land and the demographic time bomb
Futures Forum: East Devon's demographic time bomb >>> "the District Council has a duty to create balanced communities"

... or wealth:
Futures Forum: The widening wealth gap: "Shifts in who owns what property are now fuelling the wealth gap between rich and poor, while also creating sharp wealth divides between young and old."

... or the climate:
Futures Forum: Brexit: and the future for climate change >>> anti-intellectualism and inter-generational theft

The generations are literally drifting apart:
Futures Forum: Brexit: and Britain's cities growing younger and its small towns growing older at a faster rate than at any other time in recent history

There are some good ideas out there, though:
Futures Forum: A solution to our housing problems: an intergenerational home

And one project in Somerset is really managing to bring the generations together:
Futures Forum: Regeneration from the roots up >>> "every community has the power to build a strong and secure future for itself" >>>

The last piece looked at a recent article in the Guardian which looked at the issues:

'Older people have pulled up the ladder': inside England's oldest and youngest towns

Minehead has the oldest population in England, Manchester the youngest. What do they tell us about the way we live now?
Duncan Stevens (holding ball) with two other players at Minehead bowls club
 ‘Buying a house was never easy’: Duncan Stevens (holding ball) at Minehead bowls club. Photograph: Sophie Green for the Guardian
‘Baby boomers have built an empire and empires need protecting,” says Reuben Young, a millennial who runs the pressure group PricedOut. “When younger people say, ‘We want our own house, we want to build more’, baby boomers see their empire as being under threat. God forbid that house prices fall and housing becomes cheaper for young people!”
Young is speaking at the Battle Of Ideas at the Barbican, close to the City of London, in October. Part of a panel addressing the question “Have Wrinklies Cheated Millennials?”, he offers some compelling arguments that they have: “Millennials will pay, over the course of their 20s, nearly £50,000 more in rent than baby boomers did at the same age. Millennials won’t have as big a pension as baby boomers, they’ll be paying more in taxes to fund an ageing population, and they are often spending half of their take-home pay renting homes they can be evicted from with just two months’ notice. You would be mad not to admit there is systemic intergenerational inequality in this country.”
Some of the baby boomers in the audience do not, however, take this lying down. “The idea we have created an empire makes us sound like Bond villains,” one woman says. “I’ve got kids who are 16 and 18, who I actually care about,” says a 50-year-old man with a lilting geordie accent. “I’ll fund them through university, and will probably help them get a house. My mother has helped me throughout my life. When she was young, nobody had a house. Wake up! People didn’t have central heating or fitted carpets until the 1980s. This fantasy that young people have it hard is really annoying. They need to stop acting like victims.”
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Are millennials Generation Rent or Generation Whinge? Dr Albert Sabater, a geographer at the University of St Andrews and a member of the ESRC Centre for Population Change, believes these conflicts are just a taste of things to come. According to Sabater, such divisions are exacerbated by the fact that the old and the young now live more physically separate lives. “The population of the UK is ageing fast,” he says, “and that ageing is occurring unevenly across the country. British society has been slowly segregating in many ways, and one of these is where the old and young live.” This is, in part, for the reasons Young identifies: people in their 20s and 30s can’t afford to live in areas where house prices have rocketed since the baby boomers bought in the 1970s and 80s. So we are creating ghettoes of young and old, renters and homeowners.
Sabater worries that this will prove damaging for society; both last year’s Brexit referendum and the general election in June showed clear evidence of a division in attitude and political orientation between the two groups. The old and the young appear to be arm-wrestling over the future of the UK: witness the recent Momentum meme attacking wealthy homeowners, painting them as smug and self-interested. Physical segregation is likely to make that confrontation worse.
A young man holding a phone, face out of shot
Pinterest
 Students at Manchester University live in the area with the youngest population. Photograph: Sophie Green for the Guardian
This segregation can be seen within parts of the country – Sabater says central Bedfordshire shows the most marked separation between old (65-plus) and young (25-40) districts – and also between parts of the country. The place with the most elderly population is west Somerset, where the median age is 53.9; the area with the youngest population is central Manchester, where the median is 30.1 (statisticians consider median age to be a more reliable measure than average age, which tends to be distorted by numbers at the extremes). So what does it feel like to live in an area where the age profile is so skewed? And is the notion of an intergenerational war real?
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Minehead is the largest town in west Somerset, with 12,000 residents, and is geographically isolated; you have to take a meandering bus ride from Taunton to reach it. It is best known as home to one of the three remaining Butlin’s holiday camps, and the high street is full of rundown cafes and charity shops. There are a surprising number of tattoo parlours for a town of older people.
One of Minehead’s star attractions is the West Somerset Railway, a heritage line running to Bishops Lydeard, close to Taunton. You can’t help seeing it as a metaphor for this part of conservative, pro-Brexit Britain: steam trains; staff in old-fashioned uniforms tending litter-free, flower-bedecked platforms; lovely little stations set among rolling hills. This is England circa 1952, which is just the way the steam enthusiasts like it.The stereotype of well-off pensioners living in multimillion-pound houses and taking frequent mini-breaks to Florence is based on perceptions of a relatively small group in the south-east of England. Pensioners in their £250,000-plus bungalows in Minehead may be doing OK, but paradise, it quickly becomes apparent, this isn’t. That applies to west Somerset generally: life can be tough, especially in the farms and villages up on the moors. “People say, ‘You live in such a beautiful place,’” one farmer tells me, “but you can’t eat scenery.” Another local describes the conditions in which some people live as “picturesque poverty”.
But it is not how Alex de Mendoza, chairman of the Minehead chamber of commerce, wants it. He thinks that, for the economic health of the town, the proper Minehead to Taunton rail link, axed in 1971, should be restored to create jobs, encourage commuters and let visitors to Butlin’s get to Minehead without clogging up the roads. A 60-year-old former professional oil rig diver who runs a hotel, he is frustrated with the heritage line for opposing the plan, and with residents for being so resistant to change. “People come here, they retire and they want the town to remain in aspic,” he says. “It’s a dormitory for the elderly.”
There are young families in Minehead, but they live primarily on two estates, made up mostly of social housing. Minehead exemplifies Sabater’s point that old and young tend to live separately: the old in bungalows on the edge of town and, for the more prosperous, big Edwardian houses up on North Hill; younger families with low disposable incomes live on the estates; younger single people, many of them working at Butlin’s, are in private rented accommodation in the centre.
Growing up in Minehead can be problematic, despite the allure of moorland and sea. The town’s secondary school has struggled in the past (De Mendoza sent his son away to board) and there are few jobs for school-leavers, other than at Butlin’s or in a supermarket. The young who do stay can get bored and restless, and there are problems with antisocial behaviour, underage drinking and recreational drug use.
A further problem is that the large number of retirees has driven up property prices, and younger people on low incomes find it hard to get on the housing ladder. “Prices are too high for youngsters,” one woman living in social housing with her 12-year-old daughter tells me. “I feel older people have pulled up the ladder behind them.”
Jean Parbrook, Minehead’s 67-year-old Tory mayor, has to navigate the competing demands of past and future, sleepy bungalowland and sleepless Butlin’s, which makes ends meet in winter with “adult weekends” frequented by drunken stag and hen parties that mortify elderly locals. Parbrook wants the town to prosper, but sees her role primarily as protecting the interests of residents, particularly the “anonymous elderly” who in later old age can feel isolated and insecure. They are also the ones who have suffered most from cutbacks in local services, not least in public transport. Bungalowland is a dreary place to be marooned.
Richard Growden at his shop in Porlock, near, Minehead, selling antlers and pet supplies
Pinterest
 Richard Growden in his shop in Porlock, near Minehead, where the population are ‘old and bold’. Photograph: Sophie Green for the Guardian
Parbrook accepts that there is some tension, but defends older people from accusations of selfishness: “It wasn’t all beer and skittles when we were young. Yes, you probably could get a mortgage more easily, but you had to pay 15% interest.” The street she lives in, she says, is full of people who bought their houses decades ago, worked hard, brought up families and paid off their mortgages. She and her husband paid £25,000 for their house in the 1980s, and it’s now worth around £200,000. They are not speculators, she insists; they haven’t made a fortune.
Minehead bowls club has almost 200 members, with several in their early 30s, the club’s youth section. I put it to the chairman, 72-year-old Duncan Stevens, that, with rising house prices, spiralling tuition fees and now Brexit, the young feel that the oldies have hung them out to dry. Echoing Parbrook, he thinks they fail to realise how tough it was for his generation. “When we were in our 20s, buying a house was still a major undertaking. Or it certainly was for me. It was never easy.”
Stevens, a retired commercial salesman, needs two sticks to walk, but that doesn’t inhibit his bowling – he zips across the green in a wheelchair. “As far as Brexit is concerned, I can understand that they might think we’ve pulled up the drawbridge,” he admits, “but there’s a lot more to it than that. We’re of an age that we all voted in the original referendum [in 1975], but what we have now in the EU is not what we signed up for. Lots of us feel we were conned into it.” He made what he considers a rational choice and tried to read everything on Brexit that he could, though he drew the line at the Treaty of Rome. Brexit dominates many of the conversations I have in west Somerset, which voted leave by 60% to 40%.
In Porlock, a pretty village five miles west of Minehead that boasts the most elderly population in the country, I meet 55-year-old Richard Growden, proprietor of Squires, a shop that sells “pet supplies, retro paraphernalia and quality antler work”. An ex-army man, Growden stresses that local people like to live independently, have a conservative (and Conservative) mentality rooted in hunting and farming, and were keen to be rid of EU regulation. “Personally, I wanted the UK to be back in control of its laws,” he says. Do elderly people here worry about the impact of Brexit on the young, I ask. “No, they aren’t bothered at all.” Just because they’re old, he explains, doesn’t mean they have to defer to youth: “They’re old and bold.”
With its silent marshes and gorgeous cream teas, Porlock is a haven for the old, prosperous, content: a paean to the past. But Watchet, an engaging harbour town with a population of 4,000, 10 miles east of Minehead, may point a way forward. In 2013, a group of locals founded Onion Collective, to help regenerate the town and provide jobs. Their aim was to create a place where they could bring up their children, and where those children would have everything they needed if they wanted to stay.
Naomi Griffith, a director of Onion Collective, grew up in west Somerset, where her parents ran a zoo, but left when she was 18. “Like pretty well everyone who grows up here, I wanted to escape as soon as possible,” she says. “As a teenager, it’s not very exciting.” After a decade away – studying in London, travelling in South America and working as a teacher and event manager – she came home. “I wanted to live somewhere where there was a sense of community, and that definitely does exist in west Somerset.” What doesn’t exist is jobs. “If you’re a woman who wants to be there for your children, but also wants to have a decent job, you haven’t got a hope in hell.”
She and her co-founders opened a visitor centre in Watchet, helped art galleries get off the ground and encouraged microbusinesses and creative industries to move in. “We are seeking to create the kind of vibe and opportunity that exists in Bristol,” Griffith says. The group is developing a site next to the harbour, and hoping to get funding for a bigger gallery, workshops and a cafe. It is also doing a feasibility study to try to establish an industry that could sustain hundreds of jobs in the area, to replace the paper mill that used to employ 170 people before it closed 18 months ago. “We are trying to think what a new industry would look like,” Griffith says. “Something that will employ a couple of hundred people and last for a hundred years.”
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One danger that you don’t face in Minehead is being knocked over in the street by young people hurrying along while looking at their phones. Manchester has 100,000 students and exemplifies New Labour’s attempt to use “studentification” to boost urban regeneration in the early 2000s. The old, predominantly white working class has been pushed out to the north and east of the centre; halls of residence and flats for young professionals have moved in. There is a splurge of hipster coffee shops in the Northern Quarter, near Piccadilly Gardens, and an area unselfconsciously dubbed “New Islington”. The Blairite dream lives on.
Zoë Padley and Danielle Lovett on one of their houseboats in Manchester
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 Zoë Padley and Danielle Lovett in Manchester. Photograph: Sophie Green for the Guardian
In the middle of New Islington is a marina where I meet Zoë Padley and Danielle Lovett, who come to represent millennial Manchester for me. They are living on houseboats because it’s cheaper than a city centre flat and gives them freedom. “I’ve got solar panels on my boat,” Lovett says, “and can decide how I live and be more environmentally friendly.”
New Islington, in the old industrial Ancoats area, is a stark example of the way the working class is being squeezed out. Lovett believes it is deliberate “social cleansing” by the council, and claims she knows of one elderly resident who was moved to Rochdale when the council estates here were razed.
Lovett and Padley have archetypally millennial jobs. Padley describes herself as an artist/designer/performer; Lovett teaches art to disadvantaged children. Both are motivated by environmentalism, personal freedom and protecting their community: they recognise the creation of the marina was part of the process of gentrification, but are now doing what they can, through their residents’ association, to prevent further erosion of the remaining population’s rights; there are still some old council estates to the north.
Whether millennials are choosing to be free, or having freedom thrust upon them by social change, is a moot point. “I’m 35 and I still have a 25 grand debt from going to college, and what did it get me?” Padley asks. “There just aren’t the jobs available now. My mother did half the training I did and is working [as a designer] at the BBC and for big opera companies. The flow of jobs and opportunities was just easier then. There were fewer people, it was more relaxed, there was less scrabbling for work.” Jobs were also more structured, with fewer short-term and zero-hours contracts. Precariousness and freedom are different sides of the same coin. Padley points to the paradox that in a world that is so fluid and unstable, the opportunities can seem both boundless and nonexistent.
“A lot of young people feel the older generation doesn’t understand how hard it is, particularly with housing costs,” says 23-year-old Stan Platford, who studied photography at Manchester University and is looking for a lecturing job. “I do think the older generation have to take some of the blame. The vote for Brexit really annoyed young people, because we’ll be picking up the older generation’s mess. It’s the same with the banking crash in 2007: rich old bankers messing around with money and leaving the younger generation to pick up the bill. I’d love to own my own house, but that seems a million miles away. We’re stuck renting.”
Most of the young people I meet think they are getting a raw deal in terms of housing, tuition fees and jobs, but rarely blame the older generation as directly as Platford does, tending to see it more as societal cock-up than boomer conspiracy. “Manchester is very deprived and everyone is struggling,” says Jack Houghton, a 22-year-old from Barrow studying politics and modern history. “The system is skewed against youth, but there are lots of other people who are disadvantaged, too. Right now, I’m living in a house. I don’t own it, but some people don’t have a house at all and are literally living on the streets.”
The students I meet are idealistic. They feel far more strongly about climate change and social injustice generally than tuition fees. They are also determined to be the generation that makes a difference. “It’s a good lesson for us that, in 50 years, when we are old, we need to give the young a leg-up,” says 26-year-old geography student James Shuttleworth. “We need to look to the future and not repeat the mistakes of the past.”
That idealism fed the support for Jeremy Corbyn that was so apparent in June’s election. “Corbyn has excited a lot of students,” says Cameron Broome, 20, news editor of the Mancunion, Manchester University’s newspaper. “You hear the chant on the bus, in the club; last week I even heard someone chanting, ‘Oh Jeremy Corbyn’ in the street. He’s addressing young people’s concerns head on.”
A woman sitting and a man walking along the seafront at Minehead
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 ‘People come to Minehead, retire, and want the town to remain in aspic.’ Photograph: Sophie Green for the Guardian
Broome and his housemate, American studies student George Flesher, also 20, both come from Dewsbury, west Yorkshire. They and four others live in a house in Fallowfield, a suburb that has been colonised by students. “A lot of the properties are owned by a few companies or a few landlords,” Broome says, “and they all charge a similar rate. The ownership is oligopolistic.” It is nonetheless cheaper, and he thinks less claustrophobic, than living in one of the nearby halls of residence.
Neither Broome nor Flesher blames the older generation for the problems faced by the young. “It’s swings and roundabouts,” says Flesher. “My mum and dad bought a house in their 20s and had all that, but not as many people went to university back then.” Dewsbury voted heavily in favour of Brexit, but Flesher is reluctant to attack his home town and sees the referendum as a catch-all protest against “the hand they [working class voters in the north] have been dealt”. He thinks they have to be taken seriously, rather than written off as British “deplorables”. “The best way to engage with them isn’t to insult their intelligence,” he says, recalling shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry’s infamous white van man tweet. As well as students, I meet some apprentices who are training with the charity Rathbone. Only around a third of 18-year-olds (and less than that in Scotland and Wales) go to university, yet because they are vocal, visible and tend to be disproportionately from middle-class families, they get the lion’s share of attention. The apprentices I meet complain that, at school, everything was geared towards university entrance; careers advice – a victim of cutbacks in education – was poor, and they had to fight for an apprenticeship.
I also talk to working-class teenagers on a leadership programme run by the youth charity Reclaim. They see Brexit as a damaging decision imposed on them by the old. “We felt locked out,” says 14-year-old Fatma Shami. They also feel they suffer inherent class disadvantages. “The establishment have a set scheme for their own children,” 17-year-old Regina Tomiwa Adeleke says, “and working-class people are not treated in the same way. Middle-class children have more equipment, more resources and more things that might motivate them to follow in their fathers’ footsteps. We should be given the chance to prove that we can be creative.”
Despite these gripes, what is really striking is how articulate, ambitious and determined to change the world these teenagers are. When I ask what jobs they hope to do, 16-year-old Hamaad Akhtar, one of four siblings being brought up by a single mother in Salford, announces: “I want to be prime minister.” The rest of the group start to cheer.
***
Walking around Manchester, looking at new apartment blocks advertising “modern city living: no complications, no compromises”, I start to think differently about the intergenerational divide. The young aren’t the only victims of spiralling property prices and age segregation. As Lovett and Padley make clear, the old are also suffering.
“There’s always a danger that regeneration becomes gentrification,” says Rishi Shori, Labour leader of Bury council and the lead on social cohesion in Greater Manchester. “You’ve got to ask what it means for the people who already live there, otherwise they can get pushed to the margins. Economic growth in Greater Manchester has been driven by people coming in from outside. The question is, has it been inclusive growth? And it’s fair to say that parts of it haven’t been.”
George Flesher and Cameron Broome, students outside their house in Fallowfield, Manchester
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 George Flesher and Cameron Broome outside the Manchester house they share with four others. Photograph: Sophie Green for the Guardian
“In the past two decades, we’ve had a massive influx of young people into the city as the student population and the economy have grown,” adds Paul McGarry, head of Manchester’s Age-Friendly initiative. “Many older people, particularly from poorer backgrounds, see themselves being pushed out of urban areas by a young, wealthier, socially mobile population. If you live in an area where most of the older population has left, either because it’s died out or the local housing has been changed to encourage young people to move in, the social networks that many older people depend on have vanished. The services, the shops, the day-to-day encounters that older people rely on are weak.”
To counter these changes, the city’s Age-Friendly team is redesigning estates to make them more accommodating to older people, setting up an “older people’s nightclub” to make the centre less forbidding and establishing community hubs, such as film clubs that show the movies older people want to see, rather than the CGI blockbusters the multiplexes favour.
This is an inversion of the intergenerational war we usually hear about, and is exemplified by the way different areas voted in the EU referendum. Central Manchester voted remain by 60% to 40% – the exact reverse of west Somerset – but seven of the 10 areas that make up Greater Manchester voted leave. The older communities with once strong social bonds feel dispossessed. They miss the old greasy spoon that is now a bar selling craft beers to rootless, socially adaptable, young liberals. McGarry’s team are trying to convince those often workless fifty- and sixtysomethings that Manchester still belongs to them, too.
The financial challenges faced by younger people are manifestly a problem. David Willetts, executive chair of the Resolution Foundation, and Paul Johnson, director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies, have shown conclusively that the young are being disadvantaged, especially in terms of housing and income. But to see the new political landscape entirely as a battle between wealthy older people and struggling millennials would be simplistic and misleading.
Sue Heath, a professor of sociology at Manchester University, believes the disparities within, rather than between, generations remain crucial. Yes, some older people have good pensions and large houses, but there are millions of poor older people, too. Similarly, for some of the young, the bank of Mum and Dad will ease their passage through university and on to the housing ladder. “At the level of people’s everyday lives,” Heath says, “there is still a huge amount of interdependency between the generations.”
Alex Smith, founder of North London Cares and South London Cares, is extending into Manchester. His charity aims, through clubs, one-to-one relationships and community action, to bring together young and old, middle- and working-class. He seeks to demonstrate that their ways of life need not be antithetical, pointing out that the young and the old are the two groups in society most susceptible to loneliness and isolation. His organisation attempts to restore a sense of community, the perceived absence of which underpinned the Brexit revolt.
Smith is suspicious of the narrative that pits old against young. He accepts Sabater’s argument that there is increasing physical segregation, and that the young’s reliance on social media is accentuating that separation. But he doesn’t believe there is an inevitable psychological gulf.
“Headlines, news stories and statistics don’t capture the meaning of relationships between people,” he says. “It’s not a zero-sum game, where older people are doing well at the expense of younger people. People don’t perceive that within families, and I don’t think they perceive it more broadly in society, either.”
Minehead and Manchester may be different worlds, but they have many problems in common. The battle between young and old is part of a much bigger war.
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'Older people have pulled up the ladder': inside England's oldest and youngest towns | Inequality | The Guardian
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