wrong thing wrong pkace banner
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All's well that ends well
January 20, 2017 - Last weekend we learned of a happy ending to the story of the "caviar farm" fields in Chiltington Lane.

The entire site has been bought by a neighbouring family who were prominent campaigners against the development. And these much argued over fields - which for over a decade had become disconnected from anyone living here - will now retain their historic character as pastureland.

Although this planning battle was fraught and caused many sleepless nights for those who care about the countryside - there have been good things which came out of it too.

We always felt that this tranquil part of East Chiltington was a special place and the heritage value of its natural rural character has now been revalidated and confirmed by the formal planning process and the arguments associated with it. This part of East Chiltington is now strongly protected against any developments which threaten its traditional rural character.

It brought people together in a common cause to meet and talk about how they could protect the English countryside.

Chiltington Lane - which was always a place where people would stop and chat while walking or riding or cycling (and even driving) through (the latter by dint of stopping the car and winding down the windows, putting on the hazard warning lights and taking as much time as necessary to pass the time of day, because it might be another 20 minutes before another car came along, and if they did they would understand) has become (who would have believed it possible - before the caviar farm saga?) an even friendlier place.

We have a newly acquired confidence which comes not only from sharing a lovely part of the English countryside but the certain knowledge that if anyone should try to take it away or harm it in any way then there will be a banding together of like minded staunch defenders who by the combination of their many hidden talents and energies should not be underestimated.

Thanks again to everyone who helped us. (Including one of our hearty band who sadly did not live to see that his cause had won. Although we will always value the many things he taught us about fishing and streams and ponds.)
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For Sale sign - appears at gate of caviar farm site
Monday, November 28, 2016

At the weekend a new sign appeared at the gate of the contentious caviar farm site in Chiltington Lane - "for sale".

Indications are that offers for the 6 acre site should be in the region over 100,000.
for sale sign at the gate of contentious caviar farm site in East Chiltington
... click on the above image to see the brochure

For more details contact Simon Henkel at the Haywards Heath office of the estate agents Batcheller Monkhouse (tel 01444 453 181).
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Lewes PAC votes to reject caviar farm plan
Wednesday, November 23, 2016

The meeting at Council Chamber, County Hall, St Annes Crescent, Lewes tonight was well attended with around 30 objectors present (25 of whom wore Say No to Caviar Farm T-shirts which echoed the design of posters which had been seen along the lanes since the August Bank Holiday).
some of the attendees of the PAC meeting as they were leaving the building on Wednesday night - November 23
... some of the 30+ local resident objectors
as they were leaving the council meeting
The 2 hour meeting was an edge of the seat affair culminating in a 7 to 1 vote to reject the application on 3 main groups of planning technicalities.

Despite the tension associated with these proceedings I was impressed that in their deliberations councillors mixed humour with wisdom and demonstrated that they not only had done their homework reading and grasping the significance of the material presented by contributors from both sides of this planning process but they were also drawing on their wider experiences of planning too and they were prepared to test and challenge the validity and internal consistency of the arguments which had been presented.

On behalf of the residents of East Chiltington I'd like to say thanks to the thousands of people who took an interest in and supported the Say No to Caviar Farm plan campaign including the many walkers, cyclists and runners who pass through the lane and who live in Lewes, Brighton and outside the immediate area and who could often be heard discussing the signs along Chiltington Lane.

In my own objection letter I wrote about the magic of hidden rural locations in the English countryside and said...

"it is our duty as those privileged to live here not only to record why we like it (as many locals have been doing this month in the Rural Assessment Survey) and it is also our duty to protect it for those who pass through and to ensure that others in the future can enjoy it after we have left. But protecting the landscape and messy organic character of places like this is important for those who live elsewhere too. Because it makes them feel good to know that such places still exist.

We cant all live in castles or national trust properties or heritage countryside but it's jolly comforting to know they are still there."
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in the news - media timeline about the caviar farm plan

where inexactly is Chiltington Lane?
developer gets East Sussex Highways to remove local protest signs
list of related documents and comments on Lewes Council's planning site
over 110 objections to caviar farm - Is Caviar Ken's Campaign Crumbling?
Statement from the MP for Lewes: Proposed Caviar Farm in East Chiltington
Caviar developer makes ungentlemanly comments about MP in caviar farm row
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Sussex Express - Lewes edition - front page - November 25, 2016 - wrong thing wrong place

Wrong thing, wrong place? - image above shows the front page of the Sussex Express - Lewes edition - Friday, November 25, 2016 - with a story reporting on Wednesday's council planning application meeting decision which was confirmed officially today.

Discontertingly a typo in the originally released letter from LDC included an informative(s) note which seemed to contradict the first part of the letter.

So Janet Downes from Chiltington House phoned Andrew Hill the planning officer this afternoon (25/11/2016) and extracted a verbal assurance that the letter would be reissued with the mistake corrected.

For more archived media coverage of the "say no to caviar farm in East Chiltington" story see the in the news timeline.
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what's this all about?

August 22nd, 2016... fine weather at last for the summer holidays in the UK but residents in the quiet rural East Sussex hamlet of Chiltington Lane start getting letters in the post from Lewes District Council warning about a large scale development planning application. The deadline for official responses and objections is September 16th. This is a residents' action site to focus efforts to protect the character of where we live and saying - No - to the caviar farm. It's the wrong thing in the wrong place. If you're concerned and want to do something about it - scroll down this page to learn more .
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before and after

This is a satellite view to show the context of what the caviar site looked like before excavation in the summer of 2014 to dig "test ponds".

That work didn't have planning permission. Lewes Planning when it saw the dig decided that due to its size and depth it is required. And one small aspect of this planning application - LW/16/069 - is to seek this permission retrospectively.

The proposed caviar farm is mostly on the slope of an L-shaped site of 2 fields which are on a slope and hill overlooking and partly running alongside Chiltington Lane. (The buildings shown are resident properties which have no connection to the proposed caviar business.)
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view of the site before unofficial excavations  in 2014
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This below is broadly what the caviar site looks like in early 2016. The new blobs near the middle of the picture are the test digs which were excavated in 2014 and for which planning permission is now being sought retrospectively.
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satellite view of plan site as it looks  in early 2016 showing  size of test digs
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after - if planning permission is granted this artist's impression below (interpreting plans lodged with Lewes District Council as part of this application) show the envisaged extent of excavations in these plans. Nearly all the site will be affected because the earth which has to be dug out to excavate the ponds (lakes) is being retained on site. This means the caviar farm surface will become higher than its geologically established contours. (Ordnance survey will have to change their maps.)
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artist impression of caviar farm after build  interpreting data  filed at LDC

Due to the shock you might want to pause at this point and scroll back up to see if you remember rightly what you saw before above.
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let's have a look at the basic idea

If you wanted to build a fish farm where would you put it?

On a level space, close to a river, with good transport links and away from homes - possibly on the site of an existing or former fish farm?

That would make sense.

Chiltington Caviar Limited (the London Fine Foods Group) is not doing that.

It has submitted a planning application to Lewes District Council proposing to put a sturgeon farm, caviar production and packaging facility and a mobile home on a hill, in the middle of a hamlet just outside the South Downs National Park, accessed by a very narrow country lane, and to fill 5 large ponds from a winterbourne (dry in summer) at the bottom of the slope with top up from rain and mains water.

Quantity surveyor estimates based on the submitted plans suggest that building the caviar farm will give rise to approximately 4,200 cubic metres of spoil to be moved to re-shape the site and dig the ponds - that's equivalent to about over 7,200 metric tonnes. To picture that - it's over 700x 10 ton lorry loads. And all that in the middle of a tiny hamlet in one of the quietest parishes in the county.

That gives you some idea why we say this is the wrong thing in the wrong place.

Not only doesn't it make sense it will damage a beautiful piece of countryside and disrupt the community that has developed within it.

The Local Plan (Chapter 19) states that 'East Chiltington is one of the most thinly populated parishes in the District. Its "poor" road access by narrow lanes helps to maintain its quiet and remote character. The key issue will be to retain this relative isolation in the future.'

The site for the proposed caviar farm is on Chiltington Lane, a narrow remote lane in this quiet parish with a strong sense of community.

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Plan Details on Lewes District Council website

For full details of the application go to http://www.lewes.gov.uk/planning/1139.asp and search Lewes District Council's Planning website for application number LW/16/0695.

The details can be downloaded from the documents tab.

To start you off you can download the introductory document here and a summary of the key drawings here (pdf).
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4 things you can do (and did do - thanks)

1 - Make a comment on the application no later than September 16th 2016 and get your family and friends to do so too. The more comments the better. Everyone has a right to their say. You can make your views known to Lewes District Council by single one of these methods - or any combination of them:

a. Go to the comments tab on the planning application and filling in the online comments form. It's simple and shouldn't take very long - unless you want to write a lot! Just go to http://www.lewes.gov.uk/planning/1139.asp then search for application number LW/16/0695 and click on the comments tab

b. Email the planning officer dealing with this application - planning@lewes.gov.uk - referencing application number LW/16/0695

c. Write to the planning officer dealing with this application: Andrew Hill, Planning Services, Lewes District Council, Southover House, Southover Road, Lewes BN7 1AB

2 - Thanks for coming along to our meeting - we had a meeting Sunday, September 4th. Thanks to all who attended, and the many others we have been speaking to in the run up to this meeting whom we saw earlier in the day and who had other commitments. Considering there are only about 25 houses in the lane we had a great turnout. ...read more here
get your poster here
3 - Put up a poster. You can download a pdf poster here. If you would like an A3 weatherproof poster please contact Janet Downes (01273 891050; janet.downes@downesmarketing.co.uk) to arrange collection.

4 - Ideas to help us get support? - Please tell your friends and neigbours about this plan and this web site. Are you on our residents email list for updates? If not then ask to be added. (Please say where you live.)
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that's nearly all for now

We're sorry to have brought you such bad news. And if like us - you're very annoyed and concerned about this - and the timing (coming as it does when we'd all rather be out in the garden or the beach instead of studying planning documents) please take heart from the fact that the first iteration of this plan back in April was also a huge shock. But the number of objections and the strength of our concern sent that earlier version of the plan back into rethink.

And we've learned some things since then.

This version of the plan has more detail. And it will take more effort on our part collectively to get it reduced or modified or sent away packing for good.

But if we want this area where we live to stay protected for the next generations to come - we've got to do our bit.
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in the news
Where inexactly is Chiltington Lane?
East Chiltington Parish Council says No to Caviar Farm
LDC LW/16/0695 - a rhyme of the Romans winterbourne
Developer gets East Sussex Highways to remove local protest signs
Residents Meet to Protest Caviar Farm Plan in Chiltington Lane, near Lewes


August Bank Holiday and the sweet thwack of mallets tap tapping in the new "say no to caviar farm" posters resounds down Chiltington Lane (soon followed by Highbridge, Beechwood, Novington, Wickham, Hollycroft and other lanes around East Chiltington)

Monday, August 22, 2016 - residents of Chiltington Lane get letters in the post saying there has been another application to build a caviar farm alongside some of their houses.

An earlier application in April by the same develepor had been withdrawn after Lewes council received over 40 local objections (and no supporting comments) from the 25 to 30 houses in the 1 mile road affected.

That earlier plan (LW/16/0180) was based on an entirely different business model of caviar processing and monetization and contained amusing inconsistencies such as stating the site had no trees.

It also included scary design features such as 5 metre high earth bunds to hold back back artificial lakes which stood on high ground looming over neighbouring properties. Those bunds had been described by one resident as "damn-buster style giant mud pies".

Thursday, August 25, 2016 - residents created artwork for simple roadside posters and a single page web site - wrongthingwrongplace.com which would be an easy to remember address for anyone passing through the lane who saw the posters and wanted to know what the fuss was all about.

Friday, August 26, 2016 - in the afternoon we had the first posters ready and launched the draft web site. Within a few hours of having the posters you could hear the sound of neighbours tap tapping the posts in the ground to show their support all along the lane.

Sunday, August 28, 2016 - by Sunday afternoon (the bank holiday) the signs stretched for more than a mile from one end of the lane to the other. We had immediate requests for more signs but we ran out. So we told you you'd have to make your own from this A4 pdf file.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016 - a neighbour came over to ask if we had even more signs. She'd been away on holiday at the weekend and first heard about the new plans for the caviar farm from a post seen on facebook. This was posted by a friend who doesn't live in the lane but saw the signs when driving through and facebooked it after reading the wrongthingwrongplace web site.

this van from east sussex highways removes posters
. a van removes protest posters
from residents' own verges
at request of developer
Thursday, September 1, 2016 - it was clear the signs were being noticed when an East Sussex Highways van arrived in the lane and began pulling up and carting away protest signs because of an urgent complaint the day before by the caviar company which didn't like the message.

That's democracy in action. Local residents' voices silenced at their own taxpaying expense. ...read the full story

Sunday, September 4, 2016 - Residents of East Chiltington, St. Johns Without and Cooksbridge met to discuss their concerns about the application to build a caviar farm in Chiltington Lane. ...see related press release

Later the national media picked up the story. (More about that later.)

As we said at the time - the important thing is not media coverage - but getting people to think about what this kind of plan (if it goes ahead) will signify for anyone living in the countryside - not just here.

This part of the lane was until recently designated an area of outstanding natural beuaty (aonb). When the line of the new South Downs national park was arbitrarily drawn for convenience on the other side of the lane along the railway line - the old aonb status apparently disappeared. Despite that there are sufficient planning and environmental considerations which residents believe are strong enough to protect this site from such massive excavations and aquatic engineering.

You'd think that the scale of local objections to this plan should be enough.


"The claim that the proposed (caviar farm) enterprise is based on the proven model of the applicant's current farm in Devon is (for the reasons listed below) inaccurate..."

a resident in the lane ...read comments


"The location of a development of this scale and character on a site next door to my home will have a negative impact on my family, the local landscape and the character of our small rural community. It will adversely affect the local environment including the Romans Winterbourne, part of the Ouse River system, and introduce additional risks to transport safety for users of Chiltington Lane. This development is contrary to Core Policy 10 of the recently adopted Lewes District Council Core Strategy Local Plan and Lewes District Local Plan 2003 policies CT1 and H2 (still applicable). I also have concerns about the economic viability of the scheme and the justification for a dwelling."

a resident in the lane ...read comments


"Water plays an important part in assessing this plan...

How will the sturgeon farms be filled and kept topped up?

Various statements have been seen by the developer... one of which was using water from the mains drinking water. I'd like to draw to your attention that placing a new stress on drinking water sources by new developments such as this (which aren't critical for housing or conventional food security) runs directly counter to the government's emerging policy aims about water resources in relation to setting the planning agenda for climate change."


a resident in the lane ...read comments


"The Lewes Core Strategy Policy - 2.15 Key sustainability issues statement makes much of the importance of sustainability in the development of land and water and the preservation of the environment. This application fails this policy totally.

Its effect on changes to the water table will directly affect the foundations of listed and other 17C buildings close to the site. In addition it fails to preserve the environment totally by destroying two fallow (not derelict) meadows containing flora and fauna common to this area of East Chiltington."


a resident in the lane ...read comments


"This application involves an abuse of a piece of land with many natural qualities, in which only one non-resident individual benefits, in the form of personal profit. Should the business fail...he costs of reinstating the land, if indeed it is possible, would be borne by local tax payers."

a resident in the lane ...read comments


"The application includes permission for a substantial property on the site... With modern technology surely this site could be remotely monitored. There are properties available to purchase or rent locally, indeed one is available at present, within walking distance.

Since the harvesting of caviar takes place over just a few months of the year there is likely to be little requirement for a worker to be on site 24 hours per day, every day."


a resident in the lane ...read comments




All graphics images here are copyright 2016 by their respective owners for use in connection to support the above campaign.
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say no poster - landscape image
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"The applicant has failed to clearly demonstrate that it is essential for the proper running of the enterprise for a worker to live on the site and be readily available at most times, or that the enterprise would be viable and sustainable in the short to medium term and as such the proposal conflicts with the requirements of paragraph 55 of the National Planning Policy Framework and retained policy CT1 of the Lewes District Local Plan. ...and 2 other good reasons besides..."

Notice of Refusal - LW/16/0695 (November 25, 206)


MP Maria Caulfield supports residents

In September 2016 a spokesperson on behalf of Maria Caulfield (MP for Lewes) contacted Janet Downes (local resident ) and stated...

'I would wish to confirm that Maria did meet with Ken Benning (the developer) and clearly stated that she would be supporting the residents and not supporting the caviar farm. I appreciate that certain media did report this differently through information given to them not by Maria's office. We also contacted all media which had reported this to refute the comments.'

...Later:- in a statement (November 2016) about the proposed caviar farm in East Chiltington Maria Caulfield said...

"Given the overwhelming objection from residents and given the very technical nature of this application and concerns over environmental damage and water pollution, I have written to the Secretary of State, requesting that he moves to call in the application."


"There have been reports that OART supports this application. Those reports are inaccurate."

Ouse & Adur Rivers Trust ...read OART's comments


"No evidence is provided that the applicants have the necessary scientific background to manage the proposed farm safely or that they have access to the necessary expertise, which may well not exist currently in the UK."

CPRE Sussex ...read CPRE's comments


"As a runner with the Brighton hash house harriers I represent a group of people that uses and appreciates the beauty of the Sussex countryside and its lanes and we wouldn't like to see it spoilt by such a scheme that would also make the roads more dangerous."

a resident of Lewes ...read comments


In a hole in the ground lived a sturgeon

No it's a bit more complicated than that.

You can see some of the complications of no-kill caviar farming in these newspaper stories from Germany.

The fairy tale of the massaged sturgeon - this story appeared in the German newspaper Taz - and discusses a pioneering no-kill caviar business which was launched with much fanfare in 2014. What received less media coverage was what happened to this German business afterwards.

Milking Fish - this story appeared in the German newspaper Der Spiegel and discusses the history of hormonal treatment of sturgeon to produce no-kill caviar which resulted in a world wide patented process.

How a plan to sell New Brunswick caviar went so wrong - this story appeared in the Canadian magazine Macleans.ca. It shows how even well funded caviar farms with government grants have gone bust due to a variety of problems including:- sickness in the fish, low cost competition from China and Europe, contaminated groundwater, and complex regulations.


"It is a monstrous over development of a narrow field site, dominating and over shadowing the centre of this hamlet."

a resident in the lane ...read comments


"Neither field is flat, and one slopes very steeply towards the Roman Winterbourne... the topography of the land in itself renders the site highly inappropriate for the creation of a lake and seven huge ponds."

a resident in the lane ...read comments

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from this to something like this
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view of the site before unofficial excavations  in 2014 .... impression of what caviar farm would llook like based on plans lodged at Lewes in  august 2016

read column on the left to learn more
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say no poster - landscape image
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"The site is located in a rural area of great and tranquil beauty on the borders of the South Down National Park. East Chiltington and St. John Without Parishes, both of Saxon origin have preserved their distinctive traditional rural character which is a source of great pride to the local community. Therefore, this industrial sized development is completely out of character."

a resident in the lane ...read comments


NFU poster on gate of caviar farm site during objection period"Despite the fact that an NFU support poster was affixed to the gate of the proposed caviar farm site in Chiltington Lane during the planning consultation process the NFU confirmed that they do not support this application."

Overwhelming rejection of caviar farm plans from local residents in East Chiltington

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how much terraforming?

Current best estimates based on analysing the inadequate set of documents filed at Lewes Planning are that building the caviar farm will require approximately 4,200 cubic metres of earth to be moved to re-shape the slope and dig the ponds - that's equivalent over 7,200 metric tonnes.

That's a lot of digging.

No need to worry.

The application says this will increase biodiversity.
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"Great Crested Newts (and other Amphibians). The developer's report claims the closest one located in 2005 at a distance of 2km. There is in fact a breeding pond within 200m of the site! ...GC Newts have been found on numerous occasions at Burrells (a property adjacent to the caviar farm site)."

a resident in the lane ...read comments
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why say no? (the boring planning stuff)

Nobody who lives here wants it.

say no poster - landscape imageWe've spoken to everyone in this 1 mile lane and many in the lanes beyond and everyone has their own unique set of reasons for preventing this property speculation by a London based luxury food emporium which - if it went ahead - would set an alarming precedent for making any rural land in a conservation area anywhere in the UK ripe vulnerable to redesignation.

The scale of local objection to the plan should be a good enough reason. But we can't rely it. We need to state planning reasons too.

Among other things...

This development is alien to and out of character with its surroundings.

It's in contradiction to Core Policy 10 of the recently adopted Lewes District Council Core Strategy Local Plan and the Lewes District Local Plan 2003 core policies CT1 which deals with where development is applicable and H2 which deals with historic buildings and their settings. Both of those are still applicable under the current policy regime.

The analysis and arguments for concluding this plan is a silly idea could fill a book. Maybe someone will write a book and call it the Chiltington Caviar story. Not sure yet of the correct genre yet. Business? Fantasy? History? ... Depends on how it all works out.

PS - there were over 110 objections to this application. ...read more about this here
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news:- Thursday, September 8, 2016 - In what was described by the Chair of the Council , Buzz Harrison as - the best attended East Chiltington parish council meeting she could recall - East Chiltington Parish Council this evening spent nearly 2 hours discussing an application for a caviar farm in Chiltington Lane. ...read more
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say no poster - landscape image
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posters - for you to put up and advertise what's going on

We're developing a range of posters and other materials to support wider awareness of the plan and the issues involved for residents and the local environment. You can download the above design to print for yourself now ...click here for pdf.

And we're also producing weatherproof posters for you to place outside. (See notes at the end of the centre column for how to request these.)

Most of us won't have time to read all the documents.

But as we know from the earlier version of this plan which was presented in April this year (and withdrawn after the weight of local objections) all of you care about different aspects of the impact of such plans.

PS - it was great for our morale when we walked up Highbridge Lane and saw the very first home made A4 poster placed out in the house next to the forge.

Thank you.
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"All the residents of Chiltington Lane, and many more local people nearby, are concerned about this application"

residents at a meeting to protest against caviar farm chiltington lane - september 4, 2016

Some of the local people who are opposed to the Caviar Farm development seen here at a meeting on Sunday September 4th.

To give you the context - there are about 25 to 30 houses along a one mile stretch of Chiltington Lane. Everyone in the lane (and everyone we've spoken to who lives in the feeder lanes beyond objects to the idea.

The time for formal objections closes soon.

Read the press release.

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other signs in the lane

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wrong thing wrong place - save our sea trout

Save our sea trout - what's that about?

One of the many concerns about the environmental impact of the caviar plan was the predicted impact on sea trout which have been seen in the winterbourne at the very location where any run off from the site would flow during building or operation. (The stream banks had already been scraped when the unpermitted test ponds were excavated for the developer in 2014.) The gravel beds are spawning grounds of these native trout.

For that reason many of the posters in Chiltington Lane had two different images (one on each side). The sea trout image above - and the eating our landscape metaphor on the other. For the web site wrongthingwrongplace.com we decided to lead with the landscape image because that encompassed many other ideas too.

There were many serious water issues - not just trout and water quality.

You can find detailed discussions in some of the resident letters.

The sea trout picture is nice too and I've included it here on the web site for those who didn't see it in real life.


"I have myself found one, possibly two, Sea Trout redds (gravel nests) in early 2016 on the Romans Winterbourne, just south of the Application site and the railway line, and several local residents report very large Sea Trout spawning next to, south, and north of the Applicant's site.

The Applicant's list of necessary biosecurity measures... remind us of the intrinsic risks in such intensive fish farming activity."


a Brighton resident who often visits the lane ...read comments


"This proposal would appear to be seeking to gain a change of use for the land by stealth.

It is difficult to see how the fish farm can be deemed agricultural use as opposed to an industrial or commercial use given the anticipated machinery, transport movements and customers on site. The requirement for (such a large) house to support the fish farm seems both disproportionate and unnecessary."


a resident in the lane ...read comments


"I have been a regular visitor to Chiltington Lane for many years, visiting friends who live very close to the proposed site. I am familiar with both the access and, more generally, the rural and remote nature of the immediate vicinity.

Large volumes of water would be contained in the ponds if these were to be constructed. The site is not flat.

Therefore banks will have to be built to try to ensure that the containment is safe. However this increases the risk of flooding, in the event there are any problems at any point with the construction or afterward, which would pose a real risk to those properties in the immediate vicinity of the proposed site."


a resident of Lewes ...read comments