Sunday, October 16, 2011

Coate Water is still threatened by development

Back in the 1990s I wrote my Masters dissertation on Richard Jefferies, so he has long been a hero of this blog. See the guest post by Rebecca Welshman from August for more about him and about the Richard Jefferies Museum at Coate.

Jefferies also featured in the Guardian yesterday, where Adam Thorpe described him as "arguably the founding father of environmentalism in Britain and (through fans such as Liberty Hyde Bailey) the US".

Thorpe went on to describe the threat to Coate and "Jefferies" Land today:
The area outside Coate Water, a 19th-century reservoir and park saved in 2006 from a previous land-grab, includes ancient, bat-roosted oak woodland, otter streams and tumuli. Renamed Commonhead by the grey suits – linguistically bulldozing all those awkwardly resonant old names – its 75 hectares is again under serious threat from a plan to build 900 houses and a business park. The developers claim that the above-mentioned road and petrol station have already "degraded" the area sufficiently to permit its destruction. 
The proposal, by Persimmon and Redrow, was defeated at a June hearing by Swindon Borough Council's own planning committee, after some stirring speeches by local people. However, the developers are appealing in November, and may win on legal grounds by using the government planning inspector's 2005 report, which dismissed Jefferies as lacking "the weight of acclaim" to justify blocking development. 
Although now against the proposal, Swindon council is following suit by citing other reasons for refusal – including environmental ones. The council refers to the town's internationally appreciated son (he has just been translated into Chinese) – "Jeffries [sic] the local Victorian writer" – but his legacy will play no part in the appeal process.
He also explained how you can object to the proposed development.

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