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Group History

The farm track at Bowers Gifford. Image by John Winfield

It may be appropriate to summarise how the original, 2012 situation regarding LCHF occurred. This is the information which I have and which I believe to be correct. I should be grateful if anyone who believes that my facts are incorrect would let me know.

The farmer (Mr Acres) who owned Little Chalvedon Hall Farm for many years, died. Several residents had sought to buy areas of the farm to ensure the land bordering their homes retained its green belt status. Mr. and Mrs. Acres refused to sell because they wanted to protect the green belt status of the land surrounding their own home.

Mr. Acres became ill and for some years the farm land has been rented out to another farmer Nick Lambert.

Mr. Acres died and his son in Devon inherited the farm. At some point in time Meridian Strategic Development identified the farm as a potential building site and contacted Nottingham County Council Pension Fund (NCCPF) which had the funds to purchase the land.

Residents saw surveyors on the land and on questioning what was going on were advised that plans were being drawn up to build up to 2000 properties. Alarmed residents contacted the Parish Council, who in turn contacted Basildon District Council. Basildon District Council was unaware that Bowers Gifford green belt land had been sold for development. In addition, other residents with large areas of land were contacted by developers with a view to selling their land.

In an open letter to Nottingham County Council Pension Fund (NCCPF), Tony Ball, the leader of Basildon Council, stated that he was surprised that NCCPF had purchased the land for development without prior consultation with Basildon Council. Basildon Council's current policy is to retain its green belt areas and to build on brown fields and infill sites. In his letter Tony Ball stated that there were no plans to build on Bowers Gifford green belt land for at least the next 20 years.

In a response Michael Cox, a NCC councillor and trustee of the pension fund, stated that "the pension fund has a diverse range of investments, including shares, property, bonds and cash, with the aim of keeping contributions made by participating organisations relatively stable and at a reasonable cost to Nottingham taxpayers. The pension fund has purchased Little Chalvedon Hall as a long term investment as part of a wider strategy of investing in strategic land. An independent valuation of the land illustrates that the price paid reflects the existing use of the land as a working farm."

I wrote to Councillor Cox and Meridian on 19th July (prior to the interim committee to fight the development of building on our green belt land being set up). I asked Councillor Cox why he led people to believe in 2011 that Little Chalvedon Hall Farm was to remain as a working farm, only for plans for a development of 1300 houses to be proposed in 2012.

I also asked Councillor Cox and Meridian for confirmation or denial in writing as to whether "the vendor of Little Chalvedon Hall Farm and other potential land vendors in Bowers Gifford and North Benfleet have been offered additional incentive payments, over and above the purchase price of the land, in the event that planning permission is granted".

At the time of writing I have not received a reply to either letter. In any case, if NCCPF intended keeping Little Chalvedon Hall as a working farm, why were surveyors seen in the fields just a short time after it purchased the land?

At the consultation, held by Meridian at the Benbow Club in July, I asked the MD of Meridian why he was forging ahead with these plans to build on Essex green belt against the Basildon District Council policy. He told me that Basildon Council had failed to meet its housing targets, set by central government, for the last 5 years. The government needed to build houses in this area and if approval was not given by Basildon D.C. then Meridian and NCCPF would appeal to central government to overturn any such decision.

Two members of the community, Caroline Turner and Gary Lee, started a petition which a large majority of people attending the consultation signed. In fact, only a handful of people did not sign.

Our local MP, Stephen Metcalfe, attended the consultation and signed the petition. He has asked that as many people as possible express their view by means of letter of objection, sent to him at the House of Commons, London SW1A 0AA.

As I understand it Basildon D.C. have a housing waiting list of just over 4000 people. Central government has set a target of 6500 new homes. I'm not at all clear as to why more new homes are needed than required by local people and one of the tasks of the committee (interim or otherwise) will be to try to get a clearer picture of what central government long term intentions and strategy are for Basildon and other parts of Essex.

The above is simply the background as I understand it at the time of writing (2012).

Rose Griffin
Chairman Committee to Fight the Plans to Build on Bowers Gifford & North Benfleet Green Belt.

The farm track at Bowers Gifford. Image by John Winfield

 

© 2012 Bowers Gifford & North Benfleet Residents' Association. All rights reserved. Charity Ref. EW38482