Comments to planning committee

In opposition to The Moors development proposal: WODC 21/03405/OUT

I oppose this planning application(Numbered sections refer to National Planning Policy Framework 2018 -PP)
Housing developments are being built at a huge rate in Witney and the surrounding area. Oxford city has been unable to fill their quota of new housing as directed by the government, and has passed this onto surrounding towns. Because of this, developers have easier access to greenfield sites. ‘It is not hard to argue that Britain’s infrastructures are generally not fit for purpose, even if we add the extra 10 million people and all the houses that are planned. If we do add these, and work out how much transport, energy, water and sewerage, and communications demand they will add on top, the scale of the new infrastructure development requirements that emerge is very large- with potentially massive implications for the natural environment. (Dieter Helm, 2019, Green and Prosperous Land: A Blueprint for Rescuing the British Countryside, p53)

Affect local ecology [179 & 180 PP)
‘The government’s own assessment, published in August 2016 found that a hundred and fifty of two hundred so-called priority species are still falling in numbers across the country [the uk] and we are in imminent danger of losing 10-15 percent of our species overall. It is tempting to assume that such declines are no different to the rest of the world. But they are different. Using the ‘biodiversity intactness index’ – a new system that measures the condition of the country’s biodiversity – the updated 2016 State of Nature report discovered that the uk has lost significantly more biodiversity over the long term than the world average. Ranked twenty-ninth lowest out of 218 countries, we are among the most nature depleted countries in the world. (Isabella Tree, 2018 Wilding: The return of Nature to a British Farm p7) ‘The world lives within us: we live within the World. By damaging the living planet we have diminished our existence.’ (George Monbiot, 2017, How Did We Get into this Mess? P91)

Danger of Flooding [159 PP]
Excess housing in this area also affects the natural flood plains. No amount of man made structure is better than water being soaked up by opening the rivers to their natural floodplains and allowing plants and animals to use the water meadows which form, such as has been achieved at Chimney Meadows nearby. This also takes away the need for the constant upkeep of waterways, flood defence structures and channels. Natural Witney town has flooded, most recently in the Christmas of 2020, almost flooded in 2014 and flooded severely in 2007. The extra housing, especially those on natural floodplains, are hugely increasing chances of flooding in Ducklington, the allotments adjacent to this field and in the local area in general. Building on this site would also mean losing another floodplain which would be perfect for rewilding, which would in turn raise biodiversity levels and provide an important wildlife corridor connecting habitats with the lake as well as mitigating against flooding in the village. ‘natural flood management can help deliver more expansive landscape changes than has previously been the case, while also saving money and delivering other benefits alongside flood protection, thus benefiting the environment, society and the economy.’ (Scottish Environment Protection Agency, 2015, Natural Flood Management Handbook)

Other- Mitigate against effects of Global Warming[152 PP]
As we know, the earth has a finite amount of resources. Growth and building work uses these in the form of mineral extraction. Gill Mill has recently applied to expand its facility to extract minerals in order to accommodate the huge amount of building in the local area. Nature allows for the capture and storage of CO2 which is negatively affecting the planet in the form of global warming. Green spaces with trees and plants are very good at storing carbon. Most notably, water meadows are one of the best carbon capturers. Building more and more housing developments are also using up nonrenewable natural mineral resources and releasing carbon when these are taken out of the ground. ‘Habitat destruction has not only been the lead cause of biodiversity loss, it has been, and continues to be one of the lead causes of greenhouse gas emissions. The world’s land plants and soils combined contain two to three times as much carbon as the atmosphere. By tearing down trees, burning forests, dredging wetlands and ploughing wild grasslands, we have released two-thirds of this historic stored carbon to date. Removing the wild has cost us dearly.’ (David Attenburgh, 2020, A Life on Our Planet: My Witness Statement and a Vision for the Future) Air pollution and runoff from the increase in cars (potentially 100-240 extra) to this village would also negatively affect the planet as well as people and nature. Wild spaces allow polluting chemicals and gases to be soaked up by both plants and soil. [185PP]

Other- Healthy lifestyles [92cPP] &Summary
As well as being important for wildlife, green spaces and nature is of vital importance to our health and wellbeing as humans, and in fact low biodiversity levels even threaten our very existence. There is a field that the villagers have walked through for years that they call ‘The Moors’ on the edge of a small village called Ducklington. The villagers love it. Myself and my kids love it. It’s next to a stream and it’s next to our allotments. People’s kids have walked though the field to school for decades, they’ve played there, looked at insects, maybe been lucky enough to see a young badger cub playing in the morning dew. Maybe those kids have taken that breath of fresh air with them through that stressful day at school. During lockdown people escaped from within the four walls of their house to sit amongst nature here. In short, it is a common natural area essential to the mental health of local people. This field should be rewilded, not covered in concrete.

Global Climate Action Day March for COP26

The march in Oxford was part of a worldwide march to demand Climate Action. It was timed to be midway through COP26. The most moving thing about the march was the fact that so many different factions and types of people marched together. We marched for each other and for the earth and that was an amazing thing. Extinction Rebellion, Greenpeace, The Green Party, the Labour Party, Oxfordshire COP26 Alliance, Oxford Trades Council, Oxford Friends of the Earth, BBOWT, Unison and Oxford Youth Strike and many others including nature movements such as Rewilding Britain and anti racism groups such as Stand up to Racism. People of all races: Old people, young people and even animals making up 3,000 plus people walked from the Cowley Road to Broad Street in Oxford where there was a rally with speakers including George Monbiot, MPs Anneliese Dodds and Layla Moran, youth climate activists and councillor leaders and scientists. Chants and banners were mainly concerned with leaving fossil fuels in the ground, systemic change being the way forward and the importance of the natural world. Having felt a lot of shame about being a human being who has contributed to Climate change, I felt a surge of pride to be part of a movement to push for real change in the way we address what is an existential crisis for all of us.

I oppose



RE: Planning Application: WODC 21/03405/OUT 

Dear Farmer who owns the Moors field in Ducklington, any Witney Council member who will be proactive enough to help fight this, and anyone else who wants to read this and in turn, write a letter,

I am a landscape and environment artist that has lived in Witney for the past 15 years with my two children. We are all avid lovers of nature. We care for an allotment at the Lakeside allotment site in Ducklington.

I am writing because I am hugely dismayed about all the housing that has gone up in Witney and its surrounding areas within the last 10 years. What was a beautiful sleepy town on the edge of the Cotswolds that I came here to enjoy life and bring up my children in, has become an chaotic urban sprawl. The countryside that I wanted to be near and which is vital for the health and wellbeing of myself and my family is quickly being covered in concrete. The town and its neighbouring areas have struggled to cope in terms of local amenities. Sewage spills into the rivers and doctors surgeries and schools are packed to the hilt with waiting lists and exhaust fumes have caused air pollution to worsen. The town has been subject to severe flooding in 2007 and recently last Christmas 2020. However, it is not this aspect that I find most alarming and judging by the voices I heard speaking up at a parish council meeting to oppose yet another planning application that I went to yesterday, many local people feel the same.

Britain has been found to have the most degraded levels of biodiversity in Europe both in terms of natural spaces and soil. Only around 30% of England is now green space.  As we all know biodiversity is crucial to the health of our planet. Wetlands are important areas for carbon capture and attract species of plants and animals. Climate change means that we will be inundated with flooding in this area. Why then are we proposing to build on yet another flood plain in the Witney area? Why then are we proposing to build on another beautiful green field where children play, butterflies search for nectar, oak saplings pop their tiny heads up though the grass and vowels forage by the water? 

Government planning policy clearly states in sections 14 and 15 that all of the points I have mentioned above are of utmost importance when dealing with proposals for new housing estates but when a housing estate is proposed which clearly goes against every single one of these points, why do I read reports suggesting that the flooding is no problem and outlining 101 ways in which the water can be drained away? Here’s the thing, nature is dealing with the flood water in far more splendid ways than we could ever hope to. Nature uses it to feed plants which capture CO2 from the air and in turn produces a habitat for animals as well as soaking up all the water that is surplus. If our rivers were to be reconnected to these floodplains the job would be a whole lot more successful, but that is maybe an argument for another time.

Also as we know, the earth has a finite amount of resources. Growth and building work uses these in the form of mineral extraction. Gill Mill has recently applied to expand its facility to extract minerals in order to accommodate the huge amount of building in the local area. However, the other side to all this is of course that people need affordable places to live. Although I agree with this wholeheartedly, who doesn’t, we also need a habitable planet to build those houses on. 

Also, what percentage of houses in this area in these new housing estates is affordable? Judging by a news report I watched recently, after building contractors have paid what is usually millions for the land, they need to make a profit and there’s no profit in affordable housing. What is even affordable in Oxfordshire? Is it £200, 300, 500,000?  Realistically, what young single person can afford even £200,000 because I dont know of any new-build houses on the market around here for much less? Granted there is more to it than this, and affordable houses might exist but are we not just talking about profit here? We might be told it is all for the sake of housing people who urgently need homes but I would say that this is a fallacy.

In the ‘Farming is Changing’ paper written by Defra  in the summer of 2021, only a few months ago, the importance of wild spaces is outlined. Rewilded areas are vital to the health of our nation and the health of the planet. If you don’t believe me look at There is a passion for rewilding that inspirational pioneers have been championing- Isabella Tree in ‘Wilding’ explains how the Knepp estate rewilding project brought back many species that have almost become extinct in Britain. George Monbiot in ‘Feral’ sparked passions for the movement as well as championing the importance of our environment and wild places in his writing and activism and his lobbying governments.

There is a field called The Moors on the edge of a small village called Ducklington on the edge of Witney. The villagers love it. Myself and my kids love it. It’s next to a stream and it’s next to our allotments. People’s kids have walked though the field to school for decades, they’ve played there, looked at insects, maybe been lucky enough to see a young badger cub playing in the morning dew. Maybe those kids have taken that breath of fresh air with them through that stressful day at school. Far from it for me to tell someone what to do with their land but isn’t there more to life than millions? Shouldn’t we all have a say since we are all essentially custodians of our earth. 

 I’d hope that there could be some other way out than concrete? Some far more profound way of passing on a legacy as a farmer, as a member of a community and as a human being. What if the community could have the chance to buy this land and jointly own it? Or lease it? A common land to be rewilded and to prosper and flourish and in turn greatly help us such as was achieved with Thrupp Lake which was acquired and is now run by the Earth Trust and the people of Thrupp after 3 years of campaigning against planning. Surely there is a far, far greater benefit in this than a few hundred more tons of concrete?



I watched how a mob of uneducated, idiot Trump followers stormed the US Capitol. Made me want to storm the countryside that such a tiny percentage of people own 97% of. The protesting idiots in the US were in such wonder that they were there, in the white house. They were amazed how beautiful the building is, even taking time to stop and look and celebrate by smoking a joint under the rotunda. They were amazed how they had got into it, all pushing together.

It made me realise how we put up with all this shit capitalism deals us, but that we have strength in numbers. The difference between them and the way most people would normally be prepared to do things in Britain today was ‘brutality’, and the symbolism of the place in which they chose to express this. Does the power of the mob naturally bring brutality with it? For 7 hours there was nothing anyone could do about it until their leader called them off. Interesting and terrifying. It was as if pack mentality reined. It was how wolves act. Wolves follow their leader and fight to the death until called off by that leader. They are also prepared to turn on that leader in a moment if s/he showed weakness. Is there a way of changing things through strength and push together without brutality? Like Extinction rebellion maybe? Has this ever truly worked? Is the only way to follow the blueprint that nature provides us with? The strongest lives and the weakest dies. If the weak continue to live alongside the strong, then we are overrun with people. I’d like to think it doesn’t have to be like this. In our generation and in our time, strongest doesn’t necessarily mean most intelligent. Arguably it is intelligence that has the most significance today.

A Small Farm Future

by Chris Smaje

It has always been a dream to own a smallholding. In recent years I have been growing vegetables, making soap and generally learning to be self sufficient. Reading this book has inspired me to start really thinking about how this could probably become a reality for us all. Smaje describes a world in which our future as we know it cannot be sustained. Capitalism which relies on consumerism, powered by fossil fuels, can only come to an end. It is all of our responsibilities to create ways in which we can allow the human race to continue. As artists I believe we play a significant role in outlining these ways and getting them out into the public sphere. Artists already have access to a means by which to get their ideas across to people. It is just a matter of using this.