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13 July 2015

Uffington Common

The landowner and his developer, Redcliffe Homes, are currently suppressing the archaeological assessment report & post-excavation plan for the “Station Rd” site on Uffington Common, behind the White Horse 1-32 houses. Incredibly, I’ve had to make a Freedom of Information request in order to see it. That went in on June 5th, during the Judicial Review (JR) application period. Freedom of Information requests are meant to be dealt with in 20 days. That time passed nearly three weeks ago, and Redcliffe have still not released the report.

Why are they so desperate for the residents of Uffington not to know what was found on Uffington Common? The only thing that one can reasonably assume is that it would damage their case for proceeding with their hostile, speculative, unsustainable development. Lack of co-operation in allowing the public to see the archaeological report before they send in the bulldozers and commence construction of their housing estate is just further evidence of the contempt with which they’ve treated the residents of the village, from start to finish. By suppressing the archaeological report beyond the deadline for a JR application (the deadline was 9 July; that was six weeks from the planning consent date of 29 May 2015), the landowner/developer not only show on-going contempt, but seem to be trying to frustrate due process: they appear to think that so long as the public do not have access to the evidence, they can proceed unchallenged.

Of course, they have also not provided residents with an indication of where the required sustainable drainage (SUDS) would be or what form it would take, or how they would deal with the sewerage, or how they will provide usable open green space (clearly, the development only detracts from the green space in the village, by building on part of the Common), or how the development will be sustainable in transport or local employment terms, or how the design and layout of the houses enhances the well-being & quality of life of existing householders. These are all aspects of “Sustainability”. The Radcliffe “Station Rd.” proposal failed on every count.

There were 44 Objections to the “Station Rd.” development, and only 1 comment in favour. Residents signed a petition prior to the planning committee meeting in March 2014, calling on the District Council to “Save Our Historic Common Land” and allow us our rights under the Localism Act 2011. Under that law, and under the Landscape Convention, the Local Authority (District and County Council) should ensure that local residents have a say in planning and in management of their environment - the surroundings of where they live. That is the definition of “landscape”. Not just a pretty view, although often it is. Housing can be well-designed, so that it does enhance people’s well-being. It not only can be, but indeed should be, if it is to meet the government’s own definition of sustainability. This has been pointed out to the District Council by the residents, but the Council has chosen not to listen, and to represent the financial interests of the developer over the well-being and the views of the people that they serve and represent. As it said in the Residents’ Petition of March 2014:

“The proposed development would destroy an irreplaceable part of our historic environment and damage the character of our village. 

The development would mean that the decision on how Uffington grows and progresses over the next 20 years has been made by one man alone: the landowner. The residents have not been adequately informed or consulted in this anti-democratic ‘planning process’.”

Destruction of heritage is irreversible in our lifetimes and our children’s lifetimes... since the Iron Age, each generation of residents of Uffington and Woolstone have been the stewards of the White Horse and its landscape. We have a responsibility to do no harm. Councillors and council officers have a duty to facilitate our care for the environment. If they fail in that, as they appear to be doing now, they lose legitimacy as a Local Authority.


"Stealing the Common from the Goose"   17th century poem

 The law locks up the man or woman

  Who steals the goose from off the common

  But leaves the greater villain loose

  Who steals the common from off the goose.


  The law demands that we atone

  When we take things we do not own

  But leaves the lords and ladies fine

  Who take things that are yours and mine.


  The poor and wretched don’t escape

  If they conspire the law to break;

  This must be so but they endure

  Those who conspire to make the law.


  The law locks up the man or woman

  Who steals the goose from off the common

  And geese will still a common lack

  Till they go and steal it back.

 (Unknown Author)