The greatest threat to the natural and built environment of the South Hams comes from inappropriate development.
This is not a new problem. Back in July 1961, a mere four months after the Society held its first meeting, the Kingsbridge Gazette reported: “The South Hams Society has lost little time in taking action on several current planning problems.”
And less than two years later, to quote an editorial published in our February 1963 newsletter: “Every day a tree disappears, a new house is built, a beauty spot is threatened, and it is only through societies such as ours that something can be done to prevent further destruction of our precious and fast diminishing heritage ... Already the dreaded phrase “an area ripe for development” is being used in the South Hams. Let us see that it is used with discrimination. We cannot sit back in silence. Today, in our crowded island, positive plans are needed for both town and country. Man must be made to beautify his surroundings, not destroy or defile them”.
As is sadly all too obvious, little has changed since. And many of the problems are now magnified.
It is no longer individual houses, but housing estates that are being built. Entire woodlands are being felled to clear the way for construction. Speculative developments are springing up everywhere throughout the South Hams, invariably driven purely by the desire for profit rather than any thought of community benefit.
Genuinely affordable housing is certainly needed. But only in the right places. What is not required are yet more over-glazed over-sized grand designs despoiling our coastline or a multiplicity of new estates of executive style residences, targeted at second home owners and wealthy retirees from outside the area.
Recently, regrettably, demand for such properties has been exacerbated by Covid, compounding the challenges facing the Society.
Inevitably some development will always be necessary. But getting the balance right between open-market and genuinely affordable housing, the number of primary residences and second homes, long-term rental properties and holiday lets, and a sufficient supply of social housing remains essential.
Consequently, and much as we have done now for more than 60 years, the Society will continue to campaign for the right development in the right places, and strongly oppose all inappropriate development wherever proposed.
We remain concerned to prevent trees being felled for no good reason, and we make every effort to do as much as we can to both raise awareness of as well as prevent the problems caused by congestion and all forms of pollution.
In doing so we help to ensure the future economic viability of the South Hams as both an area of outstanding natural beauty and somewhere where individuals and families still wish to continue to live, work and visit.
But we are relatively few in number and our resources are under ever-greater pressure. So if you think you could help we would really like to hear from you.
Elsewhere, on this website and on our Facebook page, you will find evidence of the work we are currently doing.
But only by working together can we hope ultimately to make a real difference.