Government officials have announced that the historic Isle of Wight town of Shanklin has been selected as Britain’s first set-aside town. During the next six months the municipality and surrounding villages will be evacuated, businesses will be closed and utilities will be cut off. The area will then be left to lie fallow for a two year period.
Set-aside is an old farming method where a field is left unused, or fallow, for a period of time to allow the soil to replenish nutrients and thus remain fertile for the next phase of crop rotation. In 2007 a government think-tank hit upon the idea of using this technique to revitalise parts of the country during recession.
‘This is a radical new form of urban regeneration,’ explained a Whitehall spokesman. ‘Once Shanklin has been set-aside, the area will no longer be subjected to the every-day wear and tear that afflicts other urban areas. There will be no demand for precious fuel resources, traffic congestion will ease and housing problems will be non-existent. In short the town will have time to draw breath.’
Purpose-built camps are being built in disused airfields across the country to house the residents of Shanklin, where they will be provided with food and water for six weeks before ‘making their own arrangements’. Opposition to the scheme has been surprisingly muted although under new legislation, Shanklin’s dispossessed lose their citizenship during the fallow period, so the town’s population are not eligible to take part in national politics. But one visitor to Shanklin found it very unsettling; ‘It is like a ghost town. Nobody on the streets, all the shops shut; nothing happening anywhere,’ he reported, unaware that the scheme hasn’t actually started yet.