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23 August 2006
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The Perfect Village

Polperro and Wye (the South West and the South East)

Programme 5 - Friday 25 August, 10pm

Theme: The risks of successfully adapting – the tourist attraction and the threat of expansion killing the village identity

A traditional Cornish fishing village, Polperrohas a history of fishing and smuggling dating back to the 12th century. Pilchard was the main catch brought into Polperro, and these fish were sold as far afield as Italy. Although fishing is no longer the main industry, a few commercial boats still work from the harbour. Historically it was Polperro’s geography which aided smugglers. They would bring their contraband ashore into small coves and hide it in caves. Today tourism is Polperro’s main industry. The village, with its narrow winding streets and cottages overlooking the small harbour, draws visitors in with its charm - cars are not allowed into the village. The buildings are made either of granite or whitewashed cob with grey slate roofs, and many look over the harbour from the steep hillsides.

On the surface, Polperro looks as if it hasn’t changed for centuries, but in fact it exemplifies a delicate balance between the tourist village of today and the fishing village of yesteryear. It could, without careful management, slide into being a fishing village cum heritage theme park - a victim of its own success and adaptability.

Wye village in Kent has a population of 1,500 and is in an ‘area of outstanding natural beauty’. As a strategic crossing on the Great Stour River it’s been an ancient regional centre since Saxon times and is steeped in history. The original local industry was chalk-cutting and whiting manufacture - the disused chalk pit is nearby. There are 86 listed buildings in Wye, the majority of which are located on the original medieval streets.

It is also home to Wye Agricultural College, once part of the University of London. Imperial College took over in 2000 and bought 850 acres of the surrounding land. After phasing out the agricultural degrees in favour of science options they now want to build a £1billion research centre. This, they say, will regenerate the area and create thousands of jobs in the picturesque village. The villagers, united against the common enemy, are vehemently opposed to the plans, which will turn Wye into a small town. Locals have launched a campaign to stop the development going ahead.

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