Archive for the ‘scottish parliament’ Tag

Empties are like chewing gum on pavements

Here’s a telly review from The Observer last weekend which pretty much represents the reception of The Great British Property Scandal. I particularly liked the last line.

The Observer, Sunday 11 December 2011

There’s too little time and space to get into the intricate successfulnesses of (Restoration Man) George Clarke’s two programmes on The Great British Property Scandal but, trust me, he is now doing for empty homes what Jamie has been trying to do for food. National Low-Cost Loan Fund might not sound the foxiest soundbite in the den, but it’s his answer, and it would work, by getting government and councils to let absent landlords (not all ill-intentioned) borrow £1,300 bloody quid and do up their empty homes to a lettable standard.

The angrier he got, the angrier I, and I hope you, got. The government/council lunacy of having families cooped in damp, rat-infested, poke-holes possessed of staggeringly dubious electrical safety, while round the corner lies a perfectly good “empty” which the owners, what with no one lending anything, can’t afford to twitch up to a lettable standard, hurts in that very bad way that happens when your mind hears stupidity.

Clarke managed, eventually, to show how even a little money can turn it around: the family needing not to live in squalor did up the house themselves, more than willingly and actually rather tastefully; the nice owners/landlords got some rent rather than a crippling mortgage for emptiness and a whole family was newly happy. Simples? I have already joined the website which allows you to help in your own area, or at least find out who in charge locally is helping/ unhelping. Empties are like chewing gum on pavements. We never noticed them: now we do.

{published courtesy of The Observer}

And here’s how the project was mentioned last week in the Scottish Parliament:

Motion S4M-01551: Joan McAlpine, South Scotland, Scottish National Party, Date Lodged: 08/12/2011

That the Parliament welcomes the Channel 4 series,
The Great British Property Scandal, which, it believes, highlights the problem of long-term empty homes; understands that there are 25,000 long-term empty homes in Scotland; welcomes the Scottish Government’s funding for the Scottish Empty Homes Partnership, which is hosted by Shelter Scotland, and further welcomes the Scottish Government’s ongoing consultation on extending council tax charges for such homes, with the intention that additional revenue raised is re-invested in affordable homes, including the re-use of empty homes.

Supported by: Adam Ingram, Sandra White, Fiona McLeod, Annabelle Ewing, Gil Paterson, Chic Brodie, James Dornan, Bill Kidd, Dennis Robertson, Margaret McDougall, John Mason, Marco Biagi, Margaret Burgess, Richard Lyle, John Finnie, Mike MacKenzie, Paul Wheelhouse, Mark McDonald, Colin Keir, Kevin Stewart, Drew Smith, David Torrance, Gordon MacDonald

Thought for Food

Landshare map

Landshare map

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall of River Cottage

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall of River Cottage

eBay, Couchsurfing, Freecycle, Park At My House – one of the greatest strengths of the Web is connecting and aggregating supply & demand. Landshare plugs into exactly that power – it links people who want to grow their own fruit & veg (but can’t get an allotment) with people who have bits of land they can grow it on. This could be an arthritic granny who can no longer do her garden, a property developer with some wasteland, a hospital with overgrown former gardens, a church with glebe land, anywhere where unproductive land can be safely used to grow your own and the resultant produce shared between growers and land-owner.

The project started last summer when the series producer of River Cottage came in to Horseferry Road with members of the Keo Films team who produce the show. The idea was to develop a story featured in the TV series by exploring how the Web could facilitate the kind of land sharing Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall had highlighted on screen. What immediately appealed was the simplicity and clarity of the proposition, and the fact that it revolved around this core strength of the Web. It also felt very much of the moment – even more so now, 6 months on.

We started by building a first phase site at www.landshare.net to test the level of interest. Using the Autumn series of River Cottage as a springboard, we had 15,000 registrations within 10 days. The mix was healthy in terms of the balance between would-be Growers and Land-owners. We also had people register as Landspotters – participants who might know of potentially usable land in their locality – and Facilitators – participants who could help vulnerable people, those in need of help on the computer front and anyone requiring extra support to take part. Like-minded groups and organisations were also able to register interest.

The plan is for the next few months to see the design and build of the service, as well as the follow-up work on partnerships with all manner of enthusiasts small and large, local and nation-wide. The focus is on amplifying the inspiring work of existing land share-type initiatives and champions in the field, as well as helping the sharing of best practice and providing a UK overview – as opposed to stomping in with great big broadcaster wellies.

Issues of legal compliance have been considered and worked through from the off. Since the process involves transactions and meetings in real life a good deal of thought has gone into how to make those work effectively and safely. Projects like School of Everything (in which Channel 4 has invested via its Education department and 4iP initiative), which likewise involves real-life encounters, have provided useful precedents and approaches to such issues.

It’s always a good sign when a project has an organic feel of wholeness and rightness and Landshare has that vibe for me. The new year saw it flagged up as a trend-setter for 2009 in The Guardian and rippling over the pond to be picked up by Huffington. It has caught the eye of the Scottish Parliament. All these are promising indications that Landshare is the right idea in the right place at the right time. So here’s to a fruitful 2009…

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