Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Times Literary Supplement

Adam Thorpe had he following letter published in the Times Literary Supplement dated 9 December 2011

Dear Sir,

I thank all those readers who, following my request (Letters, 15 April), wrote to Swindon Borough Council, objecting to the proposed development of the 75-hectare stretch of fields and woodland abutting the Richard Jefferies Museum, the writer's birthplace and home. This area was one that Jefferies cherished and wrote about in books like Bevis, Amaryllis at the Fair or The Story of My Heart. To everyone's surprise, the proposal for some 900 houses and a business park was turned down in June by the Council's own planning committee on environmental as well as heritage grounds, after some stirring speeches by local people.
The developers, Redrow Homes and Persimmon Homes, having promised to put bat boxes on their houses and so forth, lodged an appeal: this was heard at a week-long inquiry ending on November 23, in which the Jefferies link was mysteriously dropped by the Council as a Reason for Refusal. The planning inspector, the aptly-named Geoffrey Hill, will submit his report to the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Eric Pickles, who will pronounce before April 3.
Jefferies, arguably the environmental movement’s founding father (Rachel Carson, author of Silent Spring, never went anywhere without one of his books), has been consistently devalued by Swindon Council itself, perhaps because they have their own strategy for development; they referred to the site in their planning report as 'the inspiration of Richard Jefries (sic), local Victorian writer'. The Council have asked for no payment to be made to the Museum out of the compensation monies available, to make up for the inevitable drop in visitor numbers once the fields, otter-streams and ancient oak woods are replaced by tarmac, brick and concrete.
Objecting letters should now be sent in serious quantities to The Rt Hon Eric Pickles, Eland House, Bressenden Place, London SW1E 5DU, headed: Appeal: APP/U3935/A/11/2155834/NWF re: Land at Dayhouse Lane, Coate, Swindon and South of Marlborough Road (A4259).