Overwhelming rejection of caviar farm plans from local residents in East
Is Caviar Ken's Campaign Crumbling?by residents - Chiltington Caviar
Farm Action Group
Local residents have made clear to
the Lewes District Council (LDC) the
strength of their opposition to a planning application for a sturgeon farm,
caviar processing plant and a dwelling on a greenfield site in
East Chiltington near Lewes, a
quiet rural hamlet close to the South
Downs National Park in East Sussex which is home to about 180 families.
of yesterday evening the Lewes District Council planning website showed that
104 individuals had registered their formal objection to this plan. Most
of the objectors are local residents. Given the size of our parish this is an
overwhelming demonstration of opposition to this scheme,' said Janet Downes,
local resident and organiser of the Chiltington Caviar Farm Action Group.
addition respected groups such as the CPRE
(the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England) and
OART (the Ouse and Adur Rivers Trust) have
objected, as have East Chiltington and Hamsey parish councils. Our District
Councillor, Sarah Osborne, and our MP,
Maria Caulfield, support the
residents. The NFU has told me directly
that they do not support this application.'
She continued, '45 people
expressed support in comments on the LDC website - none of them live in East
Chiltington. Most of them come from London or further afield. It is becoming
apparent that this scheme has less backing than the developer
Mr Benning led
people to believe.'
Things looked different a few weeks ago. When Mr
Benning defended his plans at the
Chiltington Parish Council Meeting on September 8th he listed organisations
he said 'now fully support' his plans including the NFU (an NFU 'Back British
Farming' poster has been used to promote the application and demonstrate the
NFU's support - see side bar) and referencing 'talks' with the CPRE (the
Campaign for the Protection of Rural England). He spoke confidently of gaining
the support of the local MP, Maria Caulfield, and said that he was, 'already
working with the Ouse and Adur Rivers Trust (OART) to ensure that no harm will
come to the sea trout. They are also writing a report to confirm this in the
(The Ouse and Adur Rivers Trust is an expert,
independent local body that works with local landowners and others to protect
and improve the health of those river systems and the plant and animal life that
depends upon them, including sea trout.)
On September 15th OART
formally objected to the scheme and stated in its
'There have been reports that OART supports this application. Those reports are
inaccurate.' They go on to say, 'Our main concern is that abstraction of water
from the stream (known locally as Roman's Winterbourne, a tributary of
Stream) will have adverse effects on the seasonal population of brown trout
and sea trout that spawn in the stream during most winters when the stream is
flowing.' They question the scheme's reliance on a reed bed for water
purification saying, 'Although the current application states that a "closed-loop"
system will be in operation and that there will be no discharge into the stream,
we believe that the setup is infeasible
. Without the means to strip
out the phosphorus (not mentioned in his application) he [the developer] will
have no recourse but to tanker away large volumes of water on a regular basis
and there appears to be no mention of this in the planning application.'
Parish Councils submitted their objections to the scheme on grounds of its
impact on the landscape, the environment and traffic, and also questioned the
necessity for a 3-bedroomed dwelling on the site.
On the same day the
Lewes branch of Campaign for the Protection of Rural England (CPRE) submitted
the caviar farm plans to Lewes District Council stating, '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. This lack of the necessary
scientific expertise creates an unacceptably high risk that is not evidently
mitigated in the present application.'
The CPRE went on to raise
further concerns about environmental risks, harm to the setting of heritage
assets, access via the narrow Chiltington Lane and the size of and inadequate
justification for the associated house.
On 22nd September a
spokesperson on behalf of Maria Caulfield contacted Ms Downes and stated, 'I
would wish to confirm that Maria did meet with Ken Benning 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.'
On 23rd September Ms Downes
contacted the NFU and was told, 'The NFU is neutral in this matter. We do not
support or object to this planning application. We do not know from where or in
what context Mr Benning got the poster and we are looking into it. These posters
were intended to thank consumers for backing British farmers rather than provide
support for planning applications.'
The poster was taken down on
Residents of East Chiltington are in dispute with a developer, Kenneth
Benning of London Fine Foods, who wants to build a sturgeon farm, caviar
processing plant and a dwelling on a greenfield site in this quiet rural hamlet
close to the South Downs National Park in East Sussex.
They fear that
his plans for an experimental type of caviar farming could leave them with a
massive scar on the landscape and damage local water courses through excessive
extraction and pollution.
The planning application (LW/16/069 )
requests permission to build a reservoir, 6 open ponds/water bodies, a 279m2
caviar processing facility, a 130m2 3-bedroomed dwelling, bunds and associated
trackways on a site that slopes steeply towards a seasonal watercourse, the
Romans Winterbourne, and that lacks a ready supply of running water (see
Experts have estimated that 4000 cubic metres of
earth will need to be moved (some 7,265 metric tonnes or over 400 4 axle tipper
payloads) to implement the plans.
The developer, Mr Kenneth Benning of
London Fine Foods, applied for planning permission in August to build the caviar
farm, processing plant and dwelling on a greenfield site previously owned by his
family, that occupies two fields close to the South Downs National Park, in East
Chiltington near Lewes, East Sussex.
The deadline for comments from
the public on the plans was September 16th. Lewes District Council has struggled
to keep up with the volume of comments submitted. For 3 weeks from September 2nd
no comments at all were posted on its planning website, leaving the impression
that local opposition was limited.
The photographs below show (from top to bottom)
( 1) the
application site before the developer began digging without planning permission
2 years ago
(2) as it is now with 2 'test' pits constructed (without
obtaining the necessary planning permission to do so) and
with the developer's current plan superimposed.
|in the news|
inexactly is Chiltington Lane?
East Chiltington Parish
Council says No to Caviar Farm
LW/16/0695 - a rhyme of the Romans winterbourne
gets East Sussex Highways to remove local protest signs
Residents Meet to
Protest Caviar Farm Plan in Chiltington Lane, near Lewes
On Friday September 2, 2016 at about 5.20 pm - an NFU support poster
was affixed to the gate of the proposed caviar farm site in Chiltington Lane by
the developer Mr Benning.
This raised two concerns among residents.
- It made the planning notice letter harder to see (as it was an A4 letter now
set against a large white background - "hidden in plain sight"). When
LDC planning was asked about this later - LDCP said it didn't matter from
their point of view as the planning notice had been advertised in other ways.
And they were used to developers shuffling their planning notices around a
bit and sometimes even removing them entirely. (So far so good.)
But another concern was that the presence of this sign, on this gate, and at
this time seemed to imply support for the caviar farm scheme by the
NFU. And we wondered if that was really the situation.
A week later it
seemed we had an answer. As in the East Chiltington Parish Council planning
meeting on September 8th, Mr Benning when speaking about his caviar farm plan
said - "There are now many organisations which now fully support this
diversified farming plan - the National Farmers Union, the Country Landowners
Residents we spoke to thought it curious that such
a project could be described by the developer in various media reports as "British
Farming" and we thought it mighty strange that the NFU might seriously
be backing such a project.
We didn't mind the sign itself - because
many of us support a rich variety of farm shops around the local area. And as
signs go - it was pretty.
Did the sign really imply that the NFU was
backing the caviar farm?
It took several weeks of hard probing to find
We learned the NFU is neutral.
A spokesperson said -
'The NFU does not support or object to this planning application."
- Another possible interpretation of the NFU sign on the gate - which we
thought was amusing and unintended - might be that - "thank you for your
support" was a message being addressed at people passing through the lane
who had seen the wrong thing wrong place posters and told their friends about
the action web site.
PPS - The NFU sign appeared on the gate in the
same week that the developer had asked the authorities to
residents' protest signs.
The NFU poster was taken down on
sign - appears at gate of caviar farm site|
|Monday, November 28, 2016 |
interim planning application committee decision on Wednesday November 23, 2016
which was widely
reported and confirmed
soon after at the weekend a new sign appeared at the gate of the contentious
caviar farm site in Chiltington Lane - "for sale".
are that offers for the 6 acre site should be in the region over £100,000.
|For more details contact Simon Henkel at
the Haywards Heath office of the estate agents
Batcheller Monkhouse (tel
01444 453 181). ...click
here to see the brochure (pdf)|