Saturday, 26 July 2008

Land grabbing and comedians

You know how, when you've been away from home, you notice things to which you've previously been oblivious? Well yesterday I took Lily for theraputic stroll around the village (see my previous post Lovely Lily to find out who and why) and noticed some pretty obscure signs. I know what they are all about, obviously, but anyone visiting the village could be forgiven for thinking they had wandered into a gentler, very English, version of Deliverance.

Signs in windows and on lamp posts around Loose send out messages like 'LEE VE LOOSE ALONE', 'BEWARE! ANTLERS LOOSE', 'DON'T LOSE LOOSE VALLEY VIEWS' and 'LEE HURST LOOSE'

Of course, this is all completely incomprehensible without knowing the background to this very English protest. Let me enlighten you.

Lee Hurst is a comedian. This is not a comment on his personality or the way he conducts his life. He does, in fact, earn his living as an alternative, right-on, slightly leftish, politically correct comedian. So it may come as a bit of a surprise to discover that he is also a property speculator, buying up properties and allowing them to fall into disrepair so that he can cash in on the current, mad, greed-inspired rush to turn most of south-eastern England into a housing estate.

Some years ago, there was an OKish bungalow in the village which came onto the market. Attached to it was a very productive apple orchard and a large garden. Enter Mr. Hurst. He bought it. Much excitement ensued. We were going to have a 'celebrity' living amonst us. Except he never did. The property deteriorated, as did the negelcted orchard and garden. Trees were felled without permission (this is a conservation area) and it gradually turned from an attractive home and small fruit smallholding into something of an eyesore.

Enter Antler Homes, who are keen to buy the lot from our comedian and build on this now 'brown field' site. They are proposing to build six new 'executive homes' but come on, who ever heard of a property developer building just six houses on a nine acre site?

The village protested ( and We turned out and protested, almost to a man, but will it be enough? Or will greed and shortsightedness prevail? Something has to be done to stop good, fertile, food producing land falling prey to landgrabbing comedians.


patientgardener said...

How annoying, I think this is another example of the kind of things the petition to make gardens greenfield sites is about

Weeding Between the Lines said...

The petition is on the Garden Organic website ( Greg Clark, MP for Tunbridge Wells, proposed a private members bill, The Protection of Private Gardens (Housing Development) Bill in 2006, but it failed at the second reading. I've copied here an e-mail Mr Clark sent to Brian Cakebread which is published on the website

'Here is an email I have received from Greg Clark which provides the latest news on this now failed Private Member's Bill: -

"Subject: Protection of Private Gardens Bill

I’m writing to update you on the campaign to protect garden land from unsustainable and opportunistic development.
On the 20th October, my Protection of Private Gardens Bill came before the House of Commons for its third and final chance to receive a ‘Second Reading’ and proceed to the next stage in the legislative process. Sadly, and as on the previous two occasions, the Government used a Parliamentary procedure to block further progress. This is especially disappointing given that MPs from all parties gave their support to the bill.

However, while Ministers have succeeded in stopping the bill in this Parliamentary Session, they have failed to bury the issue. The campaign against garden grabbing has been featured in national and local newspapers, as well as on radio and television programmes including the Today programme on Radio 4 and Tonight with Trevor Macdonald on ITV1. I’ve received thousands of letters, e-mails and other messages of support for my campaign. People up and down the country are fighting to protect precious green space from garden grab developments.

It has become increasingly clear to me that this is too big and important an issue to be dealt with by just one MP. From meetings I’ve had with organisations representing local residents, gardeners and conservationists, there seems to be strong support for a broad-based campaign against garden grabbing.

I’m glad say I’ve joined forces with Garden Organic, a charity you may have heard of. They’ve agreed to help with the operation of the campaign, and will keep anyone interested in touch with the latest developments. If for any reason you don’t want to be on the campaign mailing list, please let me know.

In any case, I hope you will stay involved with the ongoing fight to save our gardens.

Greg Clark MP"

VP said...

Catherine - how this chimes with what's happening in Chippenham at the moment. No comedian is involved, but until last week I had a pleasurable trip to the allotment passing a lovely old house complete with a large walled garden. Now all is rubble and 14 retirement 'cottages' will be built on the site.

It's my dream to have a walled garden and that one was perfect...

Another dream is to have an orchard stuffed with heritage variety apple trees...

I do hope your fight is successful.

Catherine said...

If it was going to stop at six houses it might, possibly, just, be tolerable, but the garden and orchard cover nine acres of land, which is obviously the carrot being dangled before Antler Homes. It's almost as though the term 'conservation area' has no meaning at all.

It has now gone to appeal, but the sad fact is that most borough councils do not have the will or resources to fight this sort of planning application to the bitter end.

I'm so sorry that you too have to witness the loss of a lovely old walled garden. I know that people need somewhere to live, but to classify gardens as brown field sites is manifestly against the original intention of the classification. Surely something must be done about this soon?