Tuesday, 3 August 2010

They're coming, run for the hills!

In classic B-movie 'Attack of the 50-Foot Woman', a wealthy alcoholic called Nancy Archer finds herself irrevocably transformed by exposure to alien radiation, and goes on a destructive rampage through downtown LA in search of her abusive husband.

I only mention this because I was reminded of the movie (and it's memorably ropey special effects) when I saw a headline on the Daily Mail's website announcing that Prestbury in Cheshire is 'The village destroyed by WAGS'

I can just imagine the posters - SEE a cosy hamlet laid waste by fashion-hungry orange creatures from another world. SHUDDER as the terrifying sound of clacking stilettos draws closer. GASP at the opulent mansions and futuristic sports vehicles inhabited by these other-worldly monsters. It's a terrifying prospect indeed.

Of course, the reality is rather more mundane, but that doesn't make for nearly such compelling copy. So what exactly have the ladies-who-don't-lunch done to destroy village life in sleepy Prestbury? The answer is, not much really.

Handily located a short drive (in a 10-plate Audi RS6, natch) away from Manchester, the village has attracted its fair share of nouveau riche inhabitants, including Wayne Rooney, Stephen Ireland and Andrew Flintoff. Unfortunately though, its traditional high street offerings don't quite get those Louis Vuitton handbags snapping open in excitement.

With millions in the bank, and an enthusiasm for retail that even Amy Winehouse would condemn as 'classic addictive behaviour', the WAGs have taken their shopping habits elsewhere. Apparently, a post office, pharmacist and stationers can't quite compete with Manchester's high-end fashion boutiques.

Councillor Bill Livesly is on hand to explain the situation: "This is one of the richest areas in Britain and we have very wealthy clientele living here - but they simply don't shop in local stores. They have food delivered by Ocado. They shop for furniture and clothes in Manchester or New York... we wish they would invest their good capital in the community... our products are just as good as anywhere else. They should support local businesses."

I'm sure Coleen Rooney would be the first to pop into the high street stationery shop if she needed a lined pad of Basildon Bond. But the fact is, these businesses would struggle to stay afloat in any village. Prestbury's inhabitants are also realising that, even though they might be rubbing their hands together at their rocketing property prices, commercial rents have sky-rocketed, making it even harder for these small businesses to turn a profit. They then put prices up to make ends meet, and ultimately price themselves out of the market.

It's a classic case of 'be careful what you wish for'. One barmaid comments: "We thought the wealthy people would bring money and celebrity, but instead they've sucked the life out. It's so sad as the village had everything going for it." Yes, including a bunch of venal opportunists who wanted to gawp at the famous people and realise ridiculous profits on their properties.

Prestbury's population might be indignant about the influx of people who "just use it as a base", but they need to understand that their situation is in no way unique. For all of their attempts to conjure up an image of Rachel Flintoff stomping through the village like Kong Kong with a Brazilian wax, they need to accept the fact that these wealthy newcomers are simply looking for peaceful rural life, not somewhere to cash their Giros.


  1. Did you mean attack of the 50ft woman, or http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Attack_of_the_5_Ft._2_In._Women ?


  2. Thanks Eagle Eyes.
    Duly updated.