Thursday, November 19, 2009

Some local 'charm'

There I was lamenting the sudden closure of the Sawrey Stores, a valiant village shop that for several years supplied us with milk, odds and ends on our way to and from the Shack.....
I admired the lady who ran it and advised all our guests to use the shop rather than the Hawkshead alternatives nearby.

And then I happened across her last blog entry, which offers no explanation for the closure but does include a rather sarcastic snipe at the Shack and ourselves!

"Funny how there was no mention of their plans to let it out, not sure what the council planners might think, especially as there is such a shortage of affordable housing in this area"

Sadly the blogger has disabled comments and so we're unable to respond directly to her, so I'll just put her right on a few things here instead:

In our first planning application we offered to restrict the occupancy to local-only, as we too have concerns about affordable housing and were prepared to put our money where our mouth was: the LDNPA rejected this restriction

Incredibly, some of the most vociferous local objections to our proposed plans for the Shack were that - I quote - "they plan to live in the house instead of it being used as a holiday let"!
These objections came from 'locals' who for some reason sought to maintain the very situation that has probably contributed to the closure of the Sawrey Stores - i.e. few permanent residents

We finally got the Shack's planning permission after 5 long hard and expensive years of battling - understandably some of our domestic circumstances shifted in the meantime and we in the end lived in the Shack for 6 months

We are now obliged to live in a nearby tied house linked to one of our jobs - this is a very common situation here in the Lakes. The Shack remains our only owned home and one that we use and cherish a great deal

I don't need to tell anyone reading this that starting a new-build in a recession means making a few harsh decisions about how to keep your head above water - renting the house out sometimes being one of them

We dedicated a sizable portion of the Shack's building budget to using local suppliers and companies (often at much greater expense than available alternatives) , and therefore feel that the project supported the local economy as much as possible
The shopkeeper's comments of course show how complex a rural, tourist-driven economy is, and also - sadly - that we make assumptions about our neighbours' circumstances based on presumed greed and dishonesty. This isn't unrelated - the seasonal 'boom and bust' of the tourism calendar means that quality, ethics and consistency are relegated in favour of whatever-it-takes-to-make-a-quick-buck (before my month of recovery in the Maldives) , and the sheer exhaustion of customer service at the cliff-face of visitors in their thousands takes its toll on people's faith in human nature.

We struggled a great deal with the principles of letting out the Shack and I used to think that in an ideal world of course we'd be rich enough to keep the place entirely for ourselves. But now, after 6 months of guests, I've now changed my position as I have been won over by the appreciation of our visitors. After the pain of the planning and build it's extremely gratifying to hear feedback on how the design of the house works for people, what makes it special and how the experience of staying at the Shack can be healing, cathartic, eye-opening.

Importantly for us, the Shack also works as an educational experience - few visitors have had the opportunity to stay in a self-build contemporary building or an eco-building in this country - and with the rise of Grand Designs et al there is a huge curiosity to experience this first hand and to take some of that experience onwards into one's own life.
It's very exciting to think that the Shack can inspire more great architecture, and that our hospitality is part of that.