Questions and answers
Q: Isn't this just "NIMBY-ism?"
A: No! Gower's special charm and appeal comes in no small part from the beauty of its natural environment - the 'N' in AONB (Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty). Anyone who appreciates this will oppose all inappropriate development on Gower - whether they live on Gower or not.
Q: There just aren't enough homes on Gower for all the people who want to live there - surely we need development?
A: Gower's small size is in many ways its own worst enemy. It means that even a small new develoment can have a disproportionate effect on its natural landscape. But one thing no-one can do is make Gower bigger - it's bounded by water on three sides! So the reality is that we either just keep building until it's covered with houses and tarmac - or we stop now. Otherwise it's a bit like having a cake in the larder when you're on a diet - "just a little bit more" is soon followed by "where's the cake gone?!??"
Q: So is all new building bad?
A: No. Proportionate, moderate and well planned building that is well designed and in keeping can be fine - even within the Gower AONB. At its best, a good building can even enhance the natural landscape. Just think of some of the picturesque fishing villages in West Wales and the Westcountry. But turning fields into housing estates never does anything other than ruin an envirnoment....
Q: Well I agree with what you say but no-one's building near me - shouldn't I be OK?
A: Every new development sets a dangerous precedent. It makes it easier for the developers to get their way next time around. So it could be coming to a field near you soon..... (you can see a thought-provoking animation of how urban creep kills green spaces here)
Q: I'm opposed to a planning application and so I've signed a petition - is this enough?
A: Every little helps, but the best way for people to object to an inappropriate planning proposal is to write individual letters of objection to the Swansea City Planning Department. It takes a little bit more time but it has a lot more impact.
Q: A developer has sent me a letter telling me that their proposed development could benefit me - why should I object?
A: A letter from a developer to a resident is not a legally binding undertaking to do anything either now or in the future. It is not part of any formal planning application and nothing in it is enforceable. There's nothing to stop a developer writing to you with an opinion and promises to do all sorts of things - and there's nothing to stop you from taking it with a pinch of salt!
Q: What about affordable houses for local people?
A: This is not a simple topic - there's lots of arguments for and against. On the face of it, it seems like a no-brainer - people need to live somewhere and it seems pretty unfair if local people grow up and are unable to live in the area they know and love because of sky-high house prices. But there are, unfortunately, no easy answers. Look at it like this: "Once upon a time there was a lovely green field that was so nice, everyone wanted to live there. So one person built a house on it, then another, and then another, until in the end there was no field, only houses. By that time, no-one could quite remember why so many people had wanted to live there in the first place - it just looked like any other part of town and not special at all." Gower's a bit like that field....
There are other problems too. Unless we were to build so many houses on Gower that there was a surplus (not a good plan for Gower - remember the green field in the story above), demand will always drive up the price of the 'affordable' houses so that they are out of reach for the many. Perhaps the only way to stop this happening would be to make sure the houses were so undesirable that few people actually wanted to live in them - not a good idea either!
Of course, there can be a happy compromise. Planning policy acknowledges this and makes provision for affordable developments to be built where needed. For example, there's an excellent, well designed and well built development of affordable housing in Llangennith. A last word of warning though. Developers often try to play the 'affordable' card to try to persuade planners to let them build more houses. But few developers really care about whether local people can afford their houses - they just want to make as much profit as possible and sell them to the highest bidders. So they may describe their planned houses as 'affordable', but what does this mean? My house was affordable for me, yours was affordable for you and so on - every house is affordable for someone!
You can read more thoughts on the question of affordable housing here.