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Watch our “Agroecology in Action” video to meet the family and find out more about our motivation to tackle loss of biodiversity and climate change. Learn more about the planning issues.

The council has three main objections:

  • 1) There is no functional need for us to be on the land
  • 2) The business has not been created on a sound financial footing
  • 3) Traffic to site will cause nitrous oxide emmissions which will be detrimental to the health of the Ashdown Forest.

23rd July 2017 after receiving threat of an injunction to force compliance of enforcement notices this letter futher outlines our story to date (July 2017)

Dear Councillor,

Re: The Crossing CSA CIC: A small farm Community Supported Agriculture

We run a CSA practicing Regenerative Agriculture, supplying locals with pesticide free food, on 8.5 acres. As a Community Interest Company we offer weekly volunteering opportunities and educational resources, currently supplying 20 weekly veg boxes and keeping sheep, pigs and hens collectively, fostering community cohesion. The business is growing and attracting interest nationally and internationally.  It is our understanding that the future of our food systems and climate change mitigation relies on small-scale regenerative agriculture. Entry-level farmers are currently prevented from beginning such enterprise by a lack of affordable housing and access to land.

To address these hugely important issues, we are working on a community-based initiative. We bought land (The Crossing, Brambletye lane, Forest Row) and began farming, moving into a temporary structure and asking for temporary change of use whilst the business plan is implemented.

Our initial planning application was lodged (19th October 2014) with no professional assistance, and was refused without going to committee, despite the LPA’s commissioned agricultural appraisal stating there is a functional need for agricultural workers accommodation on this “unique” community project, which is a “laudable concern”. This document was removed from the planning portal before the application had been determined. We believe this appraisal was not given the consideration it deserved and the public were denied access to a document that supported our application.

As we worked on lodging an appeal, the LPA served 4 Enforcement Notices, issued 24th April 2015. We were unable to find the £6000, in 14 days, to appeal the enforcement. The Land Magazine called this “a dirty tactic by Wealden LPA”.

On 24th July 2015 a letter from The Planning Inspectorate to Wealden LPA, stated that the development would have “no likely significant impacts in terms of noise, waste, contamination, flooding or traffic. Considering the nature of the receiving environment, and taking into account that the proposal would be small in scale, and the temporary nature of the residential use for the proposed development, it is considered that while the development is within the AONB and may have a minor visual effect on the landscape it is not likely to give rise to a significant environmental effect.”

The Inspectorate’s letter concluded by instructing the LPA that it: “must take steps to secure that this screening direction is placed on the part of the Planning Register which relates to the application in question. I would be grateful if you could do so to ensure that the Secretary of State’s view is publicly available.”

In light of this letter we enquired if the LPA would reconsider their decision and enter into negotiations. We were flatly refused. We have no evidence to suggest this document was made publicly available. Can you confirm that the wishes of the Secretary of State were carried out?

Our appeal hearing was unsuccessful, we believe largely because our appeal was lodged with no professional guidance. We were given notice that Enforcement would come into effect on 18th November 2016.  We were then offered advice from a professional planning consultant and a Lawyer. A second, amended planning application was lodged, in January 2016, taking into consideration the council’s concerns. The LPA point blank refused to look at this second application. A Judicial Review followed concluding that Wealden LPA were found to be unlawful in declining to determine our second application.

Our Planning Consultant attempted to open channels of communication to find resolution. A string of emails went unanswered. When eventually a reply came it was a dismissive one line telling us that we would hear back “in due course”. A Recorded delivery letter to the head of Planning, Mr. Kelvin Williams received the same response despite a number of questions being asked. Why?

The LPA chose to decline to determine for a second time forcing us, once again, into costly, time-wasting court proceedings, instead of straightforward communication.  We have today received a letter from informing us that Wealden LPA are considering court proceedings, taking out an injunction that would force compliance. We have been given 35 days to comply with the enforcement notices, despite being entitled to appeal.  Why is the council wasting precious resources attempting to destroy an initiative, by bankrupting it, when it is working for the benefit of the community?

Our Local Councillor, Rowena Moore sent an email to Kelvin Williams appealing to him to open channels of communication, suggesting that we would consider any option to reach agreement. Mr Williams gave a passing comment that “the time for talking was over” This would suggest that there had once been an opportunity to discuss the matter. This is disingenuous. All attempts to communicate and have been roundly ignored or rebuffed from the beginning.

We do not accept the way we are being treated by the LPA. They were threatening from the first time they visited The Crossing. Every attempt to communicate with the council for clarification on what we might keep onsite to continue farming has been ignored. We request your opinion and intervention on this subject.  We are taking responsibility for our health and food sources and teaching others how to do the same. We have studied Wealden’s planning policy document and AONB management plan and understand we are giving what the policies are asking for. Yet we are accused by the LPA of ‘causing harm’.

We are willing to consider any conditions to planning consent, which would enable the project to continue, especially removing the possibility of any financial gain, and ensuring the land will always be available for regenerative agricultural purpose. Land Trusts are a possibility but we need council support and communication to make this happen.

We are being greatly hindered and labelled law-breakers when the only law broken was not complying the enforcement notices ordering the removal of everything from site. This would mean the end of the Community Supported Agriculture scheme and farming venture.  Being labelled law-breakers affects people’s perception of our work adversely as we attempt to forge new working relationships. Our reputation is potentially damaged and the situation potentially equally damaging to the council’s reputation should they choose to continue this aggressive, unnecessary action.

The LPA’s actions are deleterious to the success of the project and LPA are therefore negligent in their duty as public servants working for the greater good: We believe the LPA have dealt with us unfairly, denying the opportunity for our application to be heard by councillors on Planning Committee North.  It is impossible for us to make any alternative plan for the continuation of our work without knowing if those plans will satisfy the LPA. Please get involved.

If the project is to cease, we as a family need alternative accommodation as we transition to a new home and close the business. We cannot apply for housing benefit with the land as an asset. We cannot sell the land whilst in a planning conundrum. We have invested everything in this regenerative community project.  We urge you, in the strongest of terms, to take action on our behalf.

Please email and ask

Wealden Council CEO Charles Lant chiefexec@wealden.gov.uk

Director of Environmental and Community Services for Wealden Council  isabel.garden@wealden.gov.uk

Wealden Council Head of Planning kelvin.williams@wealden.gov.uk

  • that legal action ceases
  • that lines of communication are opened
  • that a meeting is arranged to clarify if our next moves will satisfy the LPA

Incidentally, over 850 people have signed this petition to ask the council to look at our second planning application.  https://www.change.org/p/grant-permission-for-local-food-growers-wealden-council-intention-to-evict-is-a-waste-of-public-resources-sign-now

You are welcome to visit us at any time to see for yourselves how the aims and objectives of The Crossing CIC are evolving. Come to the farm.

Yours sincerely

Stuart and Emma Goodwin, Southeast Representatives of The Land Workers Alliance

www.landworkersalliance.org.uk

Our Winter of discontent 2016/17:

READ ALL ABOUT IT: Smallholders challenge the planners. Defending the right to farm for good food and biodiversity, not for profit. Valuing life over money. Our crowdfunding page is now closed, but you can still make a donation using the PayPal ‘Donate’ button on our home page. We also greatly appreciate all your ‘shares’ and ‘tweets’ and please sign our Change.org petition.

Also for your entertainment, watch “The REGULATORS”.

We refuse to be in tacit agreement with an agricultural system that degrades life and is contributing to so much biodiversity loss and ill health of our ecosystems.  We demand that government invests in Agroecology and Regenerative Agriculture now to safeguard future generations and build up and protect our limited natural resources.