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 rewildingbritain.org.uk. 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?