Protest march against Ford eco-town
Thousands of protestors joined a rally and march against a proposed eco-town in West Sussex on Saturday morning (7 June).
2,000 residents of Ford, Yapton, Climping, Barnham, Arundel and other neighbouring towns and villages attended the rally at Yapton and then marched on footpaths across the fields where the houses would be built.
The protestors heard speeches from TV presenter Ben Fogle, campaigner Terry Knott and local MPs Nick Herbert (Arundel & South Downs) and Nick Gibb (Bognor Regis & Littlehampton).
Developers are proposing to build at least 5,000 houses on greenfield land at Ford in the Arun valley. Ford is one of 15 sites shortlisted by the Government. Developers, who originally claimed that the site was brownfield land, have been allowed to bypass local councils and normal planning procedures under the Government's 'eco-town' plans.
The march was organised by Communities Against Ford Eco-town (CAFE), an independent, non-party political campaign set up by local residents to campaign against the proposals. More than 5,000 local people have signed CAFE's petition against the eco-town in less than a month.
Ben Fogle, who attended the march with his father, Ford resident Dr Bruce Fogle, described the eco-town proposal as a "con" and a "greenwash".
"The word ‘eco' is being used to make us feel guilty for opposing it and the government guilt free for proposing it .... but for heaven's sake, don't bulldoze one of the most agriculturally productive sites in Sussex.
"At a time when food prices are at an all time high, rationing has been implemented for the first time in US history and we're trying to eat local produce and reduce food's air miles, this government thinks it prudent to build over these bountiful fields."
Mr Fogle said that local communities were "united" in their opposition to the so-called eco-town.
Following the event, CAFE Co-Chairman and Yapton resident Terry Knott commented: "The day was a stunning success. 2,000 residents of the district turned out to tell Caroline Flint that Ford eco-town is a non-starter.
"By the Government's own guidelines it does not make sense to have an eco-town at Ford. We support the idea of eco-friendly houses, but there are already over half a million empty houses in this country which could be gainfully employed to help those who are on the housing list. If the Government wants to make a difference, it should start there."
Nick Gibb said: "Today's very successful rally and march will have sent a clear message to Caroline Flint and the Government that people here in West Sussex do not want an eco-town in this part of rural Sussex. If the Government genuinely believes in local consultation and local democracy it will scrap these plans on Monday."
Nick Herbert said: "Developers have been trying to build on this greenfield site, which is prime agricultural land, for years, but have been turned down. They've just dressed up their latest attempt as an eco-bid in order to try and bypass the local planning process. There's nothing 'eco' about building thousands of houses on greenfield land. It's a profoundly undemocratic eco-con."
Joining the march and rally were the Duchess of Norfolk, who lives at nearby Arundel Castle and Gordon Roddick, husband of the late Anita Roddick. Former local resident and Olympic swimming champion Duncan Goodhew sent a message of support which was read out at the rally.
Notes for Editors
1. Ben Fogle is best known for his appearance on the BBC's Castaway 2000 series. He has since presented numerous programmes including the BBC's Animal Park, Countryfile, Wild in Africa, Crufts, One Man and His Dog, Holiday and Cash in the Attic.
2. For the website of CAFE, visit http://www.nofordecotown.com/
3. Members of the public wishing to take part in the consultation can write to: Eco-towns Team, Housing and Growth Programmes, Communities and Local Government, 2/H9 Eland House, Bressenden Place, London, SW1E 5DU (e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org).
4. The consultation ends on 30 June 2008.