Pest, pet and prey: the frightened Rabbit

Wild Rabbits playing on Star Hill, Bridge. Image © copyright 2018.

One very familiar and seemingly ubiquitous creature in the landscape of the Kent Downs is the wild Rabbit. Bridge residents who venture out into our local countryside will know we have our fair share of them here. Originally from the south west of Europe, they were brought into Britain as farmed animals in the 12th century by the invading Normans who kept them in managed warrens to provide a cheap and easy source of meat and fur. Of course some escaped and, finding a landscape they could adapt to, they naturally bred like… Rabbits!

Given its countryside status as a bit of a pest, particularly one that lives gregariously out in the fields, it is odd that parents of young children frequently buy them a Rabbit as a pet to be kept in a small hutch out in the back garden. It is wilfully ignorant, cruel and quite obviously runs contrary to the animals’ natural way of life. The hutch gained popularity in Victorian times when Rabbits were captured alive and held for a short time before being killed for the pot; but even the barbaric Victorians were not so misinformed as to think they were actually being kind to a much loved pet in the way that many children are deceived into believing by trusted adults today. It is a national disgrace that Rabbits are kept confined in small hutches in primary schools all over Britain to this day.

Wild Rabbits, Bridge area. Rabbits live in structured family groups. Image © copyright 2018.

We must dismiss any spurious excuses about ‘domesticated’ Rabbits being bred for captivity: it should be clear, a Rabbit is a Rabbit, there is not some convenient division in the species between those that like being trapped in a tiny wooden box all their lives and those that don’t! Rabbits are intelligent and active creatures, they need a lot of exercise and the freedom to roam about grazing. Out in the wild each one may graze over an area as large as three football pitches in a day. Furthermore, being herbivores and non-aggressive, they are one of nature’s ‘runners’, animals that run away from a predator. If threatened in the field they escape to hide within the safety of their burrows, away from the sight, smells and sounds of the predator, but, confined within a small hutch in the garden, they have nowhere to run when a dog, cat or fox comes sniffing around them. This is a terrifying experience for them.

Burrows deep in the ground also provide good temperature insulation and protect Rabbits from the extremes of weather: in a simple wooden hutch, exposed to the elements, they often spend their lives trembling in cold and terror in the winter and cramped in horrendous dehydrating heat in the summer. Huge numbers die every year from poor living conditions, bad diet, neglect, and undiagnosed diseases. Those that survive often do so only to suffer the loneliness of isolation.

Rabbits are very social creatures: in the wild they live in large family groups structured by a social hierarchy within a warren; so they don’t like being alone, but they don’t want human friends either, they prefer Rabbit company to people company; they hate being picked up, will scratch to escape if they can, and are very prone to injury if they are dropped. Clearly these are not animals which are at all suited to becoming children’s pets, and in the UK the RSPCA say they have more problems with neglect and cruelty to Rabbits than any other creature (1). Rabbit owners generally hide details of their own negligence, but veterinary figures suggest many hutched Rabbits die within days of purchase and few live their full life expectancy of seven years or more. Perhaps that is a mercy.

On Kent’s open downs Rabbits are charming, harmless creatures trimming and fertilising the grass, as prey they provide food for other creatures of the countryside. Unfortunately, on arable farmland they are a major nuisance: wild animals living in the wrong place. Recent figures suggest £100m of produce is lost to Rabbits in the UK (2), and in consequence many farmers understandably feel the need to cull them. The Rabbit’s main natural predators are foxes and buzzards, so this begs the question: if fox hunting ever was about efficiently killing foxes, why would any arable farmer condone a sport which kills his biggest ally against the Rabbit?

As pest, pet or prey, the life of the Rabbit is full of fear: mankind is its nemesis. Where does this gentle creature really belong? Somewhere in a wild place, far away from us.


The plan

The land around Bridge is not just pretty scenery, it is a working agricultural landscape. Image © Copyright 2018.

After years of hard work in preparation, the Bridge Neighbourhood Plan has been presented publicly for consultation with the people of the parish. All residents are invited to comment. So, how does it look from the perspective of Nature, wildlife conservation and agriculture?

The plan appears to be very much geared towards preserving the unique identity of Bridge, maintaining a strong sense of separation from the city of Canterbury and protecting green spaces around the village. It presents as a ‘green plan’ accepting and supporting the use of environmentally friendly initiatives and technologies as they arise. These include: maintaining public transport links, an improved cycle route to Canterbury, clean air policies, electric car charging points, preservation of green spaces in and around the village, flood and sewage pollution prevention policies and sustainable building practices.

We sense that this plan is also a valiant attempt to resist major development in Bridge while fulfilling a demand for need established affordable homes. The latter is a generous gesture and it may win public approval, but even the building of affordable homes of this type is only intended to be allowed within an AONB in exceptional circumstances, and these might be considered hard to justify when so many new houses are about to be built outside the AONB just a few minutes away at Mountfield Park.

Unfortunately, there is a further sense within the plan that various policies on development contradict each other. Policy C3 expresses support for the proposal to build 40 houses near Bridge Surgery, although the need for more housing than 11 affordable homes has not been established. This does not comply with national planning legislation (NPPF 2012), current AONB management policies, CCC’s District Plan, or indeed other policies within the Bridge Neighbourhood Plan itself. Residents should recall that, in a trade off for the recreation ground, this proposal was voted into the plan by the public, but that does not mean the idea is appropriate or that it will pass muster with the planning authority.

The idea that Bridge includes, and is surrounded by, green space is made much of within the plan, but it is described in an abstract sense and there is surprisingly little acknowledgement that the surrounding fields are working farmland in an historic and beautiful corner of England: one that has been protected for future generations by AONB designation of the same status as that of a National Park. A further indicator of this omission is the poor presentation of the pictures showing protected views within the plan, sometimes as tiny images, which can barely be seen. Better presentation might endorse the recognition that these views are worth protecting.

Sadly this does not look and read like a Neighbourhood Plan which values farming: indeed, there is so little mention of farming, farmland and the outlying countryside of our parish that it reads like a plan for the village centre, which only acknowledges farming as a scenic view from the window, and only appreciates countryside as a place of recreational pursuits. On page 26, in general text we read, “The plan will encourage and support the use of land to establish sustainable farming, allotments and community orchards…”, but that sounds almost like a slap in the face for existing farming, which faces many complex environmental, economic and political challenges. On the same page we are offered Project F2, which says it will “support new developments that allocate land to uses such as sustainable farming, allotments and community orchards”. Is this saying it will approve new housing development if such land is offered as a sweetener? It certainly reads that way and it is alarming. The plan needs clarity here. Perhaps Project F2 should be replaced with a project which states, “Sustainable farming will be supported and the further use of land to establish allotments and community orchards will be encouraged”. And what of a project statement on local woodland? And on wildlife conservation?

Of further concern is Policy A3 which supports a proposal to convert redundant farm buildings at Great Pett Farm, Bridge, to light industrial/commercial units. This is a proposal from agents acting for the landowner; but how and why are the landowner and the authors of the plan so sure that Great Pett Farm will never again need its barns and its farmyard? What is the long term ambition for farming in the fields around Bridge? We don’t find an answer in the Bridge Neighbourhood Plan.

To be fair, we are perhaps asking the plan to speak beyond its basic remit on some of these issues, but maybe it should. This should be a plan presenting, not just a defence of our village from urban expansion, but a vision of Bridge parish as a thriving, historic, rural landscape which treasures its AONB status, its countryside, its farming heritage and its wildlife, along with its community. The plan is a bold effort, but our parish has much to be proud of, and we should not hesitate to speak loudly in praise of what it is we are defending: a little more expressive recognition of farming and countryside would be welcome.

Chasing a misshapen ball

The current cricket facilities at Highland Court Farm are historic, on a small scale, and have old world charm; few would consider them obtrusive. The proposed new sports complexes would be on a significantly larger scale. Image © Copyright 2018.

In recent months a huge new building development scheme has been proposed for Highland Court Farm on the Bekesbourne Downs in our local AONB. Within it there is a very substantial element of sports complex development included. Indeed, the developer indicates that a new home for Canterbury Rugby Club is a fundamental part of the plan, along with club and pitch facilities for other ball sports. While building development in an AONB is always controversial, traditional sports pitches may appear less so, on the grassy surface at least. The original terms of Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty designation do indicate some conditional support for recreation; so does that mean modern sports pitches and clubhouse complexes comply as an appropriate use of land within an AONB?

From the outset AONBs were envisioned as working conservation areas, the work being farming and forestry, and something close to the original description of the designation is set out in the Countryside Agency’s 1991 Policy Statement on AONBs:

“The primary purpose of the designation is to conserve and enhance natural beauty.

In pursuing the primary purpose of the designation, account should be taken of the needs of agriculture, forestry and other rural industries and of the economic and social needs of local communities. Particular regard should be paid to promoting sustainable forms of social and economic development that in themselves conserve and enhance the environment.

Recreation is not an objective of the designation, but the demand for recreation should be met insofar as this is consistent with the conservation of natural beauty and the needs of agriculture, forestry and other uses.”

While this policy discusses meeting a requirement for recreation, it means something rather different from pitch activities such as football, hockey, tennis and rugby: the policy was clearly intended to provide for activities such as hiking, cycling, horse riding and fishing, all for the benefit of enjoying the beautiful rural scenery of the AONB. Quite obviously it was not condoning the building of sports pitches, stands, stadiums, membership clubs and car parks, all of which would, by their very nature, interfere with the needs of agriculture and forestry while despoiling the rural scenery of the AONB.

Bridge village has a recreation ground which is underused for traditional ball sports. Image © Copyright 2018.

Those local people who wish to spend their leisure time chasing balls, already have plenty of facilities in which to do so, but our local village recreation grounds are underused by local people for traditional amateur sports, suggesting there is limited demand. Those who have most to gain from the new facilities proposed, would be commercial sports clubs wishing to expand, and they would draw supporters and participants from all over Kent, possibly to be joined by sporting opponents from far beyond. This would not be appropriate or welcome here: valuable farmland in our AONB is not the place in which to create showpiece sports facilities for everyone in Kent, either for the sake of those few who are unsatisfied with what they already have, or to enrich those who would exploit the land for their own commercial interests.

Bekesbourne village recreation ground is also much underused for traditional sports. Image © Copyright 2018.

A walk around the model farm

On Saturday, 20 January 2018, members of the Barham Downs Action Group led a walk on public rights of way around Highland Court Farm near Bridge. The initiative was intended for local people with an interest in learning more about the farm and preserving the farmland from a proposed new development. Despite inclement weather, over twenty people, some with dogs, attended the walk.

Jill Thomas, of Bekesbourne, presented some interesting factual and historical information about the farm and the downs at various locations around the landscape.

On behalf of all local people who wish to see our AONB preserved, we thank the organisers and all those who attended.

This was not a initiative and we have no further information on the walk or the action group. Barham Downs Action Group have their own Facebook page.

Riding the wind on sacred wings

A Common Kestrel (male) on a pylon near Sheep Dip Lane, Bridge. Image © copyright 2017

The Common Kestrel is a member of the falcon family, but one particular talent which distinguishes it from other members is the ability to hover, which it tends to practice facing into the wind; hence its more ancient and poetic name, the Windhover, used in Gerard Manley-Hopkins’ famous sonnet of that name: though quite how he manages to liken the hovering Kestrel to a man riding a horse while, at the same time, being a metaphor for Christ, is something which perhaps only a 19th century Jesuit priest-poet can answer!

The view of the Common Kestrel which may have inspired the Jesuit Manley-Hopkins. This one was hovering over The Butts, Bridge. Image © copyright 2018

At least one pair of Kestrels were resident in the Bridge area throughout 2017 and in these winter months one can often be observed hovering in the sky above the meadows or The Butts. Others can be spotted regularly hunting above the A2 between Bridge and Dover. These are not unusual sightings: the Common Kestrel is the most populous and widely spread of British falcons, living generally in open countryside and even cities like London, in fact anywhere it can perch up high and survey the open land around for ground prey. For obvious reasons, it avoids bleak, treeless moorland and densely wooded forestry.

The birds are well known for their keen eyesight, which allows them to scan the ground from a height, but less well known is the fact that their eyes are sensitive to ultra-violet light, a feature which means that they can clearly see the UV reflecting urine droppings which voles and mice continually excrete. Hence, even from up on high, the birds can follow an active visual trail to the prey itself.

A Common Kestrel (female) with prey, Bridge Meadows, Boxing Day 2017. Image © copyright 2018

Although Kestrels were once persecuted by farmers, it is now widely realised that they prey on the vermin which many arable and poultry farmers want rid of: rats and mice, so these days Kestrels are generally left in peace, at least where farmers are tuned in to a modern understanding of working with Nature rather than against it.

The lie of the land

A proposal to build on this field, north of Conyngham Lane, Bridge, was thwarted by the emergence of the new Canterbury District Local Plan, which specifies the land as a Green Gap. (Image © Copyright 2017.

As we approach a new year, we tend to find ourselves looking back at the last one, sometimes with a sense of relief at leaving its problems behind. Were the Bridge countryside and the wildlife within it able to speak for themselves, surely they would be very fearful of the threats which have emerged to our Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in the last twelve months, and those concerns will not just disappear with the turning of the calendar.

For an area which is supposedly one of the most highly protected in Britain, those threats have been as ominous as they have been unnecessary, motivated as they are by nothing but selfish greed on the part of a few people, met by ambivalence and disinterest from far too many. Not least of the disappointments surrounding proposals to build are the spurious and disingenuous arguments which have been put forward in support of them by developers and sometimes too a gullible, ignorant public.

We have been told by a developer that housing estates and industrial warehousing will enrich the wildlife of the Kent Downs, yet, where there is any paucity of agricultural biodiversity, clearly the enhancement of the countryside itself, with more land set aside for wildlife, more native trees, more hedgerows, would be a better environmental option than covering orchards with concrete.

We have been informed that “Britain has too much farmland”, when the truth is that Britain could not now feed itself, and with pressures on farmland intensifying annually from a number of sources including: development, solar farms, increased food demand from a growing population, the need to grow bio-fuels to replace fossil fuels, expanding transport networks, and other factors, it is estimated that Britain will have a farmland deficit the size of Scotland by 2030, unless incredible new farming efficiencies can be found to address the shortfall (Study by University of Cambridge, 2014).

We have been assured by authoritative sources that only ‘sustainable development’ will get approval in our AONB. Building modern housing estates on dwindling, prime agricultural, greenfield land cannot possibly be sustainable in the long term, yet it continues on the basis of lies and distortion of the fundamental principles of sustainability.

We have been led to believe that we can no longer enjoy the benefit of a recreation ground here in Bridge unless we accept and support new housing development beside it. Yet there are currently no legal requirements, national or local, that demand the building of 40 new dwellings on greenfield land in Bridge: so exactly who was it making this demand, with what authority, and why were the negotiations over the proposal kept secret from our residents?

One of the most underhand, insidious claims by the pro-building lobby is that the AONB (and Conservation Areas too) were set up to ‘conserve’ areas of value and significance, not ‘preserve’ them, thereby implying that development within them is intrinsically acceptable. This too is a deceit which can be dismissed by a glance at the Oxford English Dictionary:

1. Protect (something, especially something of environmental or cultural importance) from harm or destruction.
{O.E.D. EXAMPLE} ‘the funds raised will help conserve endangered meadowlands’
Late Middle English: from Old French conserver (verb), conserve (noun), from Latin conservare ‘to preserve’, from con- ‘together’ + servare ‘to keep’.

As this year closes, expresses our thanks to all those who have supported campaigns to protect our local countryside in 2017. We wish you all a happy New Year.

Wagtails in winter

Pied Wagtail, Brewery Lane, Bridge, January 2015. Image © copyright 2016.

For most of the year the banks of the Nailbourne and the fields of Bridge are home to our two native Wagtails, the Grey Wagtail and the Pied Wagtail, and it is possible that we are visited in summer by the Yellow Wagtail (which is not native), although we have not observed it in this area so far.

Our local Grey Wagtails (which, just to be confusing, also bear some yellow colouring) tend to spend their time near the Nailbourne, when it is flowing, and we see them far more rarely in the winter. But the Pied Wagtails seem less shy of humanity and will quite happily inhabit or visit built up areas, particularly in winter, when the insects which form their staple diet are more scarce in the bare fields. Our resident Pied Wagtails are joined by visitors from northern climes in the autumn. One family can be seen regularly in Morrisons’ car park in Wincheap and we also have them living here in Bridge: one pair spend a lot of time foraging on the rooftops, and in the gardens and green spaces along Western Avenue.

The black and white (pied) colouring on the adult male and female Pied Wagtail is very similar, although the female’s blacks appear less dense, perhaps being more really dark greys. Where one observes a bird with a light grey back and flanks accompanied by a pale yellow face and chest, this colour set marks a juvenile experiencing its first cold season, as in the picture below.

Pied Wagtail juvenile about to pass its first Winter. Bourne Park, October 2016. Image © copyright 2016.

Confusion on a national scale

Land at Highland Court Farm, Bekesbourne. Image © copyright 2017

Environmentally conscientious residents of the Nailbourne Valley, and the villages on the downs above, must surely be aware by now that much of our local landscape lies within a protected Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, which generally should not be built on other than for the purposes of carrying out agriculture, forestry and, in exceptional circumstances, for affordable housing for local people engaged in those industries. However, in recent weeks, as various concerned parties have considered the proposal to build on Highland Court Farm within our AONB, one particular aspect of the scheme’s status has been the subject of confusion.

We understand from the official notes of a meeting between members of Bridge Parish Council’s Planning Committee and representatives of the developer (26 Sept. 2017), that it was indicated by one party…

“…permission for the development to take place would require a “nationally significant” element to the development.”

Simon Cook (Conservative), leader of Canterbury City Council, subsequently stated at a meeting of Bridge Parish Council (12 Oct. 2017) that, in his own personal view, he was “not convinced the proposed development was on a national scale” that would justify planning approval. So, where has this idea of national scale or national significance come from? What does it mean, and why is it relevant to this proposal?

Having discussed this with a local authority planning officer, the only source we can find for any such reference is in one particular paragraph of current planning law (1). Paragraph 116 of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF 2012) says this in reference to Areas of Outstanding Beauty and National Parks:

116. Planning permission should be refused for major developments in these designated areas except in exceptional circumstances and where it can be demonstrated they are in the public interest. Consideration of such applications should include an assessment of:

the need for the development, including in terms of any national considerations, and the impact of permitting it, or refusing it, upon the local economy

the cost of, and scope for, developing elsewhere outside the designated area, or meeting the need for it in some other way

any detrimental effect on the environment, the landscape and recreational opportunities, and the extent to which that could be moderated. ”

So, to be clear, the issue of national considerations is not about scale in terms of the size of the building plot, it’s about the development’s potential effect on, or benefits for, the United Kingdom as a whole. The protection offered by the AONB designation is intended to be so strict it may only be overridden if the development is of overwhelming importance to our nation.

In the current Highland Court Farm proposal we see a scheme for some holiday and retirement homes along with a restaurant, some retail units and a couple of sports clubs next to a rural industrial estate. It may therefore be appropriate to consider its potential contribution to the local economy: but when that is assessed, how many of the businesses would be brand new enterprises creating additional revenue, and how many would just be moving from elsewhere, or taking trade from other local businesses, with no real net gain to the economy?

In terms of national considerations the scheme does not appear to include anything of any particular significance or with any specific need to be in that location: for instance nationally beneficial industrial development like a hydro-electric dam, or strategic commercial development such as a new airport for London, or the HS2 railway, all of which might be judged to have a critical need to be in a certain location and to provide value for our nation as a whole. The absence in the proposal of any such potential national assets is glaring.

We believe the only element of this proposal that might be deemed to be of any real national significance is that of detriment to a nationally designated AONB which should, according to British law, be zealously protected from inappropriate development.

(1) This article represents a theoretical argument in the study of considerations of Para. 116 of NPPF 2012, including its sub-clauses. Should quotations referenced herein relate to other chapters and terms of planning law which are not discussed, this argument may not apply and its conclusions may therefore be deemed invalid.


The bright jewels of the Gladwin Iris

Gladwin Iris seed pods burst open on the Butts, Bridge. Image © Copyright 2017.

Take a stroll up onto the Butts this week and there, beneath a tangled little copse of bramble, elder and hawthorn, you may see this delightful display of orange seeds hanging like early Christmas decorations on the stems of the Gladwin Iris.

The Gladwin Iris is one of our two native Iris plants, yet it is often unrecognised out in the wild in summer because of its rather scruffy drab yellow-grey-purple flowers. In fact, so indistinct are the flowers of those plants on the Butts, that we have never yet observed them in bloom. Colours in the petals of local variants can be quite diverse and these are perhaps more drab than most, but if they are not showy in summer, they come into their own in autumn with an illuminating display of orange seeds that stand out vividly against the subdued backdrop colours of the season.

Gladwin Iris seeds on the Butts, Bridge. Image © Copyright 2017.

The Gladwin Iris is also known by another more common but less attractive name, the Stinking Iris: this because someone long ago considered the smell of the crushed leaves to be rather unpleasant. Whoever it was, they were probably squashing the leaves with a pestle and mortar in the preparation of a herbal remedy, and it was perhaps contaminated in some way, for those who practice such procedures today insist the leaves have no such odour. In fact, regardless of any supposed smell, the Gladwin Iris was highly valued as a medicinal plant, and a poultice made from its leaves was a trusted prescription for removing deep splinters and arrowheads from the flesh.

Today we use modern medicines and our gardeners more often plant imported Irises for the prettiness of their blooms, but in our humble native Gladwin we have an example of how Nature offers beauty in more varied means than just a pretty flower.

Messing with a model farm

Farmland at Highland Court Farm is under threat from a new development proposal. Image © Copyright 2017.

In recent weeks residents of Bridge and other local villages have learned details of a proposal for a huge new development at Highland Court Farm, which is in Bekesbourne parish, but just across the A2 from Bridge Down and Bishopsbourne. The development is intended to include 300 holiday homes, 150 retirement homes, a business park and innovation centre, a leisure and artisan food and drink hub and new facilities for Canterbury Rugby Club and Canterbury Football Club. On a map all this is even larger than it sounds: it looks like a big new village on our doorstep.

Some voices in Bridge have suggested that this development would be “good for the local economy and businesses”; it would “provide jobs for local people”. While the scheme would presumably offer employment opportunities, it appears to come with its own retail, restaurant and bar facilities, which are so far described only in the most vague terms; but it may be so big and so self-centred that it would take trade from local village businesses and leave us with nothing but a nightmare in traffic, infrastructure and service facility problems to deal with, along with the loss of local green fields. But, even if all the supposed positives are correct in their assumptions, is this kind of development really a good thing for a rural area like ours?

Highland Court Farm lies within its own Conservation Area and the entire development site lies within Kent Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, an area designated in 1968 for protection as an agricultural landscape, not just because of its visual appearance, but because of its importance to agriculture, our cultural heritage, the well-being of the British people and the national economy. The land in our AONBs provides outstanding benefits to many aspects of British life including: green space for rural experience, leisure and education for people in our cities; tourism; wildlife habitat; natural resources; and, most importantly of all… farming. In a country of dwindling countryside which no longer has enough farmland to feed itself, AONBs are a vital strategic resource which, once lost, can never be replaced.

The notion that development on fields at Highland Court Farm would be good for the economy might suggest that those fields are just waste ground, waiting to be built over: they are not, this is working land growing crops including apples and plums for our food industry, the largest industry in the UK. This land has a role in the national chain of employment for pickers, packers, drivers and workers of all kinds across the country in food and drink manufacturing (Blackcurrants for Ribena are also grown here). Furthermore, these fields provide green space between our urban developments; they provide a vital wildlife corridor and habitat; and they contribute along with all the other parts of our AONB to an essential land resource which is being constantly reduced by unnecessary development.

In their promotional material the developers say that the farmland here is currently “intensively farmed” and “of poor ecological value and species poor” {We would like to see the evidence which backs this up}: with this development they want to “create an environment that is species rich and that becomes an exemplar of how development can work in harmony with nature”. That would indeed be a worthy ambition in a different, less valuable location, but in one of the most protected landscapes in the United Kingdom, wildlife habitat enhancement would be beneficial, but there is simply no need to bring building development into the equation.

We do not believe an important farming landscape next to a heritage asset on Kent’s protected North Downs would be more valuable to Kent or the United Kingdom if it were converted into a couple of sports complexes, a restaurant and some rows of second homes for rich holidaymakers placed next to an industrial estate. It makes no sense at all, unless we only value our national countryside in terms of the financial profit which can be generated by building over it.

Highland Court Farm achieved a valued heritage status because it was built as a ‘model farm’, an experimental farm which, at the time, practiced the latest methods in early 20th century agricultural efficiency, in combination with an attitude of welfare for workers and best practice in the enhancement of the local countryside environment. If there is to be any restructuring of this farm and its environs, surely it should be as an evolution of this model, in what The Campaign to Protect Rural England call a ‘new model farm’, using modern exemplary farming practice and our new understanding of the current ecological imperatives, to work for the very same ideals and principles as the previous model.

Ironically, the new proposal presented by the developer does include an admirable scheme for varied habitat enhancement for wildlife across the area, and an organic farm: exactly what the CPRE are calling for in the ‘new model farm’. Fabulous! So why not just roll that idea out across the whole landscape and scrap the plan to build anything?