Melanie Lang in front of a house that could be renovated with state funds. Photo: Stoppel
Melanie Lang studied in New Zealand, but the youngest Backnang city councilor is firmly rooted in Oberschontal. Like her fellow councilors, she is counting on the inclusion of the patch in the rural development program.
Backnang – In many places weathered and brittle facades. A huge advertising poster hangs on one of these old buildings in Backnang-Oberschontal. It promises "young living in the country". Eight semi-detached houses are to be built where the old barn is. A few steps further is a neatly renovated half-timbered house – Oberschontal offers a contrast program, as do many small towns on the edge of the Stuttgart region.
The narrow connecting road from Ober- to Unter- and Mittelschontal meanders through a forest. Pure idyll – barely a kilometer as the crow flies from the outskirts of Backnang. In Unter- and Mittelschontal a very similar picture as in Oberschontal: some buildings look badly worn, others have been spruced up by their owners. There are no people out on this gray morning.
Melanie Lang lives on the outskirts of Oberschontal, at the age of 26 the youngest member of the Backnang city council. The Green MP grew up in the Schontalen, but studied in New Zealand and once toyed with the idea of staying Down Under. But at some point, she says, “I noticed that Oberschontal has everything I was looking for in New Zealand”. Take rest, for example. And neighbors who help each other. Oberschontal is a livable village, a village that is now to become even more beautiful, even more livable – through inclusion in the rural development program.
In the latest municipal council meeting, the representatives across all parliamentary groups voted for a corresponding proposal from the administration. No question, Melanie Lang also said yes. The city administration’s paper speaks in the best civil service German of the four funding priorities: work, basic services, community facilities and living. One wants to counteract the demographic change, i.e. convince people that it is easy to live in the three Schontals. The buzzwords are: internal development before external development, revitalization of the town centers. An investigation showed that there are many buildings “with poor structural fabric”, many vacancies and “high potential for conversion”. Specifically planned is, for example, a beautiful fairground with a festival barn.
Councilor Melanie Lang worked at home as an editor of an online newspaper for web design. She is also studying at the University in Stuttgart, wants to become a teacher – and later stay in Oberschontal if possible. The parents and grandma live in the same house. For many years the Langs have only been doing part-time farming. The family’s old farmhouse next door is currently rented.
What’s so beautiful in Oberschontal? The place has lost 20 of the once around 100 inhabitants. In the past, says Melanie Lang, the connection between the town and local public transport was miserable, but today a so-called taxi taxi drives on weekends until late at night. And the community in the area is great, the fire brigade is active and has been organizing great parties for 40 years. In the Schontal you can rely on each other. And order a small or large garden behind the house.
The inclusion of Schontale in the state program offers property owners an incentive to take money into their own hands for the renovation of their ailing buildings, says Melanie Lang. What if that doesn’t work out so quickly? What if the Schontale had to wait a little longer for the state funds to flow? Then, says the student and city councilor with a laugh, that wouldn’t be so bad from her own personal perspective. After completing her second degree, she could well imagine raising money for the renovation of the family’s old farmhouse with the help of state funding.