Prince Charles laments loss of craft skills in communities

The Prince of Wales has urged communities not to lose the dwindling skills that shaped the built environment and prevent specialist trades from disappearing “at an alarming rate”.

Ahead of his 70th birthday in November, the prince also said he was “deeply concerned” that young people were growing up without a basic understanding of how the world works and our relationship with food.

In an editorial published in the Mail on Sunday, he said his decision to consolidate four of his charities into one – the Prince’s Foundation – would help garner the talents of people across the country.

He said: “My hope is that by creating a place where we can teach building, design, textile and Stem [science, technology, engineering and mathematics] skills alongside food and farming education programmes, we can begin not only to create the vocational capacity to protect, regenerate and re-use our historic heritage, but also to create our future heritage, and to inspire a new generation to adopt healthier and more sustainable ways of living in their communities.

“This is the sort of practical action to which I attach the greatest importance as, I suspect, do countless other parents and grandparents.

“I have long believed in a genuinely integrated approach to the way we deal with the challenges of the world around us. I believe that everyone deserves a chance to succeed and that the best can be achieved through giving people the skills, knowledge and, above all, the self-confidence to do so.”

Dumfries House



Dumfries House, which will serve as the headquarters of The Prince’s Foundation. Photograph: Danny Lawson/PA

The new charity will have its headquarters in Dumfries House in East Ayrshire.

Lamenting the loss of certain skills, the prince wrote: “If we had to start again tomorrow, it is far from certain whether we would have the knowledge or experience to recreate them.

“Stonemasons, carpenters and other artisanal craftsmen and women who specialise in a whole range of unique heritage crafts, have been disappearing at an alarming rate.

“Their skill seems too often swept aside in a race for cheaper, faster building techniques that often produce homogenised, mono-cultural buildings that are not in harmony with the natural environment in which they appear and offer little consideration for the people who live in them.”

Charles said he believes new construction “should respect the timeless principles of proportion, scale and local identity and be sympathetic to their surrounding environment, whatever that may be”.

And he said people’s knowledge of food and what makes a healthy diet had “in some cases, disappeared altogether”.

He said: “It concerns me deeply that there are now groups of children who, for example, could not tell you which animal produces the milk you might have for breakfast.

“This lack of knowledge of food and farming can only signal bad news for future generations who are already besieged by processed food filled with sugar and preservatives of every kind.”

He said he hoped the creation of the new Prince’s Foundation would allow people to get the skills to allow their communities to thrive.

Homeless deserve a royal wedding invite | Letters

In response to the Conservative leader of Windsor council’s demand that the police clear Windsor of homeless people for the royal wedding (Report, 4 January), could I just add that as a frequent visitor over many years, from childhood to my pension days, I have never been subjected to aggressive and intimidating begging. What I have been subjected to more and more are the appalling and highly visible consequences of the social policies of this government and its Conservative-led predecessor. I see more and more homeless people in Windsor as everywhere. In Windsor I see more and more women out in all weathers selling the Big Issue and responding to the support and interest of passersby with warmth and appreciation.

Windsor has a history of accepting people through hard times. My mother and her family were among the many Jewish people who fled the terrible bombing they experienced in the East End of London and made a temporary home and community in Windsor, where they were welcomed and escaped the horrors of the blitz. That’s one of the reasons why we have spent so much time in Windsor, first with her, then with our daughters and then with our grandchildren.

There is a problem that needs dealing with here, but it is not of the people victimised by savage cuts in housing, welfare benefits and social care. It is the problem of a government that refuses to act as though it had a responsibility to all its citizens not just a coterie of well-heeled supporters and funders.
Peter Beresford
Professor of citizen participation, University of Essex

Rather than sweep all homeless people off the streets lest they be seen by visitors to the town coming for the wedding of Prince Harry, how much better it would be if Harry were to provide a celebratory meal, a royal luncheon, for these homeless people on that day. Something I believe done in past times by kings and princes celebrating a royal wedding.
Anne Rogers
Bedford

A more proactive way for the royal borough to “clear” the rough-sleeping problem would be to set up a Crisis at Christmas-style shelter for the wedding weekend with professionals and volunteers available to help solve the problems of the borough’s homeless.

And why not make it a country-wide celebration of the wedding? After all, the couple who are getting married have a home funded by the state.

Charitable donations to make this happen would of course be welcome. Harry and Meghan could start the ball rolling by auctioning their wedding presents.
Lynn Fotheringham
Over Kellet, Lancashire

It is almost certain that some of the rough sleepers in Windsor, as elsewhere, are ex-military personnel. Perhaps council leader Simon Dudley should consult Prince Harry about the proposal to clear the streets for his wedding?
Pam Lunn
Kenilworth, Warwickshire

What a snowflake the leader of Windsor and Maidenhead is, wanting the homeless cleared from the streets before the royal wedding! Stout-hearted Tories used to just step over them on their way to the opera.
John O’Dwyer
Steeple Claydon, Buckinghamshire

These people might like to join in the celebrations, along with thousands of others, some of whom may also arrive in advance, with their sleeping bags, to bag their places along the route.
Christine Moorcroft
Fourstones, Northumberland

The demand from the leader of Windsor that the streets should be cleansed of the poor and homeless brings to mind the way in which this was done for Louis XIV on the rare occasions he left Versailles to visit Paris.
David Parker
Holmfirth, West Yorkshire

Reading the story about the council’s attitude to the homeless in Windsor and the royal wedding I was irresistibly reminded of the old nursery rhyme: Hark, hark, the dogs do bark/ the beggars are coming to town/ some in rags, some in jags/ and some in velvet gowns.
Tim Rossiter
Crickhowell, Powys

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The Guardian view on Windsor’s homelessness: a parable of modern Britain | Editorial

Forcibly removing rough sleepers from the streets is one way to maintain an illusion of affluence, but not one that politicians with a conscience should countenance. That such a device looks cruel is obvious even to one who advocates it: Simon Dudley, the Conservative leader of Windsor and Maidenhead borough council, describes homelessness as “completely unacceptable in a caring, compassionate community” in a letter to Thames Valley police, while urging action to remove the evidence from public view.

Mr Dudley focuses his displeasure on a sub-category of the homeless whom he accuses of “aggressive begging and intimidation” and whose plight he sees as “a voluntary choice”. This distinction between deserving and undeserving poor is as old as it is bogus. It is probably true that some of Windsor’s homeless offend the council leader’s sense of propriety and make choices other than the ones he would recommend. But genuine compassion reaches beyond such narrow parameters.

It is also true that extreme poverty changes the character of a town that attracts millions of tourists and will be a focus of international attention when Prince Harry marries Meghan Markle in Windsor Castle in May. A local politician’s interest in removing social decay from the scene is obvious. It needn’t even be a despicable ambition if the royal wedding were set as the deadline for genuine action to address destitute people’s needs with resources allocated accordingly.

But that would indicate different priorities, a different moral outlook. It would require seeing homelessness as a source of collective national shame and not a quasi-criminal act best referred to the police. This obtuseness reaches the top of the Tory party. Theresa May has said she disagrees with Mr Dudley’s approach but she shows no willingness to accept that, under her government, homelessness is becoming an emergency. In one prime minister’s questions session last month, Mrs May asserted that “statutory homelessness peaked under the Labour government and is down by 50% since then”. The statistical lens deployed there was so warped as to present a reversal of reality. The peak that Mrs May described was in 2003, reflecting the persistence of a problem that had become entrenched under the Tory government that lost office in 1997. Labour got to grips with the issue and numbers fell until 2010, when Downing Street was recaptured by the Conservatives. Progress then went into reverse.

Government statistics put the number of homeless households in the third quarter of 2017 at 15,290 (up from 14,930 at the equivalent point in 2016). But the “statutory” definition is narrow and misleading, covering those getting help from local authorities. Many who sleep rough or drift in and out of precarious private accommodation fall below statistical radars. And the evidence of an acute problem is visible to anyone with their eyes open to it.

Homelessness, the big failure caused by a series of lesser ones, is often the visible symbol of social policy under stress. The Tories can only obfuscate for so long before majority opinion recoils in horror at a government that treats abject destitution as a tolerable side-effect of its economic policies. Mrs May is on this trajectory. She might reject the terms used by the leader of Windsor council, but she seems to share his instinct for seeing extreme poverty more as a source of political embarrassment than a spur to action. Her dodgy statistics are a subtler device than police intervention, but both testify to the false belief that a social calamity can simply be swept aside.