In my previous blog I dealt with English organisations buying up chunks of our country. Concluding that this was not desirable; and allowing it to happen made us Welsh look like a bunch of spineless, forelock-tugging wimps. (Though that may not have been immediately clear.) Within days the National Trust announces that it is launching an appeal to raise £3m to buy a 16 acre stretch of Llyn coastline. What is going on? Are these people determined to prove me right?
Not only is the announcement slightly weird for following so closely on the heels of my earlier discourse, but it arrives complete with its own, internal absurdity that I could not have predicted. The NT says that it wishes to buy this stretch of coastline “to protect it from ‘unsightly and inappropriate’ tourism development”. I can see, and even applaud, the logic. So why is Visit Wales (i.e. the Wales Tourist Board) saying that it will match pound for pound any amount raised?
Visit Wales is the organisation that gives out awards to caravan parks and the like. For Visit Wales to chip in to this appeal is like the Licensed Victuallers funding the Temperance League. What the hell is going on?
And another thing . . . I may not be all that familiar with land prices but three million quid for just 16 acres – or £187,500 per acre – seems a wee bit pricey. Is there a gold mine on the land? More likely a great part of the amount being raised is future NT capital and revenue costs.
Putting aside the cost, it appears that we are being asked to ‘save’ a stretch of Welsh coastline. We are told what it is being saved from, and I can accept this. So all we need to know now is for whom it is being saved. Is it the locals? Is it the wider Welsh nation? Or is it the tweedy and be-fleeced members of the English middle classes who wish to enjoy an ‘unspoilt’ Wales? I suggest it is the last of these.
I further suggest that if this trend is allowed to continue then vast swathes of Wales will become as if preserved in amber. What jobs are created will go to Guy and Hermione; as the indigenous locals are squeezed out to make way for grizzled and horny-handed practitioners of ‘traditional’ country crafts, such as the accountant from Solihull who took a course in saddlery.
Saving an area from tourism is a laudable aim, but you then need to allow the indigenous population alternative business opportunities and employment. We need Welsh answers to Welsh problems . . . which is what devolution promised, and has failed miserably to deliver. The proof? That in 2010 I can still blog about the National Trust and countless other English bodies buying up our homeland.