Amazingly it was still sunny when we started the second day of Nick Clegg's tour around Cornwall with a visit to the Community Land Trust project in Blisland, near Bodmin. There we met local MP Dan Rogerson and councillor Sandra Amy.
There are lots of villages in Cornwall where local people simply cannot afford to buy homes and houses very rarely come to the market in any case. This leads to a downward spiral as people move out and into the (slightly) more affordable towns. The houses that do come up for sale tend to be bought by retiring couples and second homers and so fewer people are using the local services. In Blisland's case this means the multi-award winning Blisland Inn and the wonderful local shop / post office. If these go then the village will die.
To give you an example, in Blisland and the surrounding area, the median average wages are about £16,000 per year. Houses that come up for sale cost on average £360,000. In Rock the situation is far worse with bare building plots costing a million plus.
So the Community Land Trust has stepped in with the support of the parish, district and county councils to build a second phase of 13 new homes, two of which will be flats. Of these, six will be for social rent and seven for affordable sale in the £120,000 range. Through planning controls and working with the local housing associations, the CLT will try to ensure that the homes stay within the affordable market.
However, things could be so much easier. The Government recently rejected an amendment (supported by both Lib Dems and Tories) to give legal definition to a CLT. This would have made it easier for the trust to build and to retain homes within the affodable sector. As things stand there are some loopholes and so these houses could leak on to the open market fairly quickly.
The homes themselves use geothermal pipes to provide heating. Simple boreholes and a compressor use the natural heat in the ground to provide very cheap (and environmentally friendly) home heating.
After Blisland, we headed off to Liskeard and a mixed use farm with local MP Colin Breed and the new PPC for South East Cornwall Karen Gillard.
Whlst on the farm we discussed a range of topics including the rocketing price of 'red' diesel. This is the fuel that farmers can buy to power their agricultural machinery and it is markedly cheaper than that which you buy at the pumps. The theory is that keeping red diesel cheap helps to keep food prices down. Except that the price of it has risen by about 60% in the last year and this has had a massive impact on farmers' incomes and on food prices.
We also discussed the remarkable recent rise in the price of lamb and, to a lesser extent, beef. A combination of rising fuel prices, blue tongue virus, more meat eating in developing asia and problems in New Zealand have combined to see the rise and kept a number of stuggling farmers afloat.
One issue particularly concerning farmers in the county is bovine TB. The Government's own report was muddled and inconclusive and there is a desparate need for some clear scientific thinking on the matter. Most of the farmers here have a clear view that badgers are the cause of TB spreading, but all would be happy at least with the proposed trial if only the Government would allow it.
Finally, it was off to Saltash for another of Nick's town hall meetings. I remember in the 1992 election when Paddy arrived for a visit to Saltash and declared how wonderful it was to be back in Devon again. Nick manage to avoid that particular foul up and answered questions on nuclear power, rights of way, engaging young people in politics, farming and many more.
Then it was off to Plymouth to catch the train.
Many thanks to Nick for coming for so long. I hope he learned a lot from it. He certainly provided a huge boost for local members, councillors and the PPCs.
Pics: Nick with Dan Rogerson MP at the Community Land Trust Project in Blisland; Nick with Karen Gillard and Colin Breed MP on the farm near Liskeard; Talking Cattle; Nick addresses the town hall meeting in Saltash.