Planning in the media

The government must seize the opportunity presented by the UK's empty properties, Anne Ashworth said in The Times this week.

Such properties should go some way to help the housing shortage, she argued. "It is kinder to the environment to refurbish an old property than build new homes on green belt land."

The Affordable New Homes Show was not so affordable, according to The Guardian. The show complements the government's HomeBuy scheme, under which key workers and other first-time buyers can purchase a share of a property. However, it featured one apartment in London's King's Cross that cost £435,000, more than 15 times the average income of a nurse or firefighter. "Countless housing associations vied with each other to offer a range of flats all over the capital," the paper reported. "Most of the properties on offer cost between £200,000 and £300,000, with buyers asked to fork out £80,000 for the minimum share. Most require a minimum income of £25,000."

One answer to the housing crisis came from an elderly woman who rejected the chance to make £2 million in her "personal battle to keep celebrities and owners of second homes out of her picturesque village", according to The Independent. Isobel Waterhouse donated four cottages as affordable homes in East Portlemouth, Devon, the sixth most expensive place to buy a home in the UK. Around 30 of the 40 properties in the village are owned by outsiders, "rich yachtsmen, media personalities and celebrities". Waterhouse, whose grandparents bought the cottages after the First World War, lamented: "I was born here and should hate to see this village die."

Rural decline of a different sort was featured in BBC1's Countryfile, which reported on the slump in independent petrol stations in the face of cheap supermarket forecourts and rising fuel duty. The number of petrol stations has fallen to 9,300 across the country, fewer than it was 95 years ago. The situation is getting worse, with an average of 600 closing each year, forcing rural motorists to drive miles just to buy petrol. The programme also visited Blackpool and Scarborough to see how they are faring now the summer has ended. With an eye to research by English Heritage into how such towns use historical assets to attract visitors, Scarborough is using its castle and harbour as a force for regeneration and Blackpool is aiming to be a year-round attraction.

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