the £ton versus East
|Visit report from the
Plumpton Show (no not that one). This was the first public exhibition run by
the campaign group Don't Urbanise the Downs.|
what's a book about the Sussex Weald got to do with stopping the Eton new
town?Zsolt Kerekes -
editor August 1, 2021
This is how it started. It was a hot
Friday afternoon - July 23, 2021 the date - and I was visiting Plumpton
Village Hall - a building I normally only visit to vote at elections.
wasn't an election going on. I was there to see the first public exhibition run
by the campaign group Don't
Urbanise the Downs - which had been born under Covid lockdown #3 (February
2021) as a reaction to news of a hostile development plan by Eton College
which announced its intentions to build an entirely new town in East
Chiltington on the edge of the South Downs National Park.
East Chiltington doesn't have many
residents or a village centre or a village hall - and that's why Plumpton
(whose parish boundary includes fields adjoining the
Eton site too) was chosen for
I was in the car park - taking some pictures of
and the building when a car arrived and parked in a space just in front of where
I was standing. When the driver emerged I thought I'd seen him somewhere before
- but I couldn't remember where or when. And he already had a mask on. I
thought I'd go and say hello when he pulled a book out from his car. His name
was on the cover.
you the David Bangs who wrote that (very detailed)
letter about the Sea
Trout during the
Farm campaign 5 years ago? And the David Bangs who spoke so effectively
at the planning committee meeting in defence of their conservation needs?
(editor's note - at the November 23, 2016 caviar farm planning
meeting - David said - "this unique animal - the Sussex race of
sea trout - is to Sussex what the lady's slipper orchid is to the Yorkshire
Dales or the otter is to West Country rivers.")
you the same David Bangs who wrote a book about walks on the South Downs?"
Freedom to Roam Guide to the Brighton Downs.
I felt such a
plonker not making the connection when I was rearranging my bookshelves a few
years after that 2016 campaign and saw his book. There had been so many letters
and documents in that earlier campaign. And I had indeed been wondering a few
weeks before this meeting in the car park in Plumpton whether I should try
and contact him about what was going on now with the Eton new town thing.
I knew he lived somewhere in Brighton and I might have his email
address from 5 years ago. I didn't - follow up on that instinct - because I
didn't want to come across like a stalker - who tracks down old email contacts.
And I didn't know if he would be interested in this
Mess planning issue. Yet here he was. The right person at the right time.
I remember coming to your house for the caviar farm meetings." He'd
come to walk along the stream and the gravel ponds in my garden where the sea
trout began and ended their lives. "Here - take this book - I've got a lot
He went to his boot and pulled out some heavy cardboard
I had been admiring the book he gave me. It's called -
Land of the Brighton Line - a field guide to the Middle Sussex and South
East Surrey Weald. (Over 350 pages and published in 2018).
book has information in it which will be valuable for the campaign and will help
people understand what could be lost."
I couldn't agree more.
your plan with the book?" - I wondered if he would be offering them for
"I'm giving them away free. To anyone who is interested
enough to campaign to protect this landscape. I've got a boot load of books here
and I'll take another load to the next event at Wivelsfield. (He did.)
Take me to your leader and I'll explain."
I said - "I'm not
part of any group. I was about to switch off my
just before this whole thing kicked off and now writing about the Eton versus
East Chiltington story means I don't have time to join groups. I'm very
interested in your book. And I do know some people in DUTD who would be
very interested too."
I had already been at the event for an
hour or so - and although I hadn't met most of the DUTD people who were at this
event before - I did know a few of them very well. So I had an idea who
to introduce David Bang to.
"Can I keep this one?" I said.
if I find any useful snippets in it which - would help to add detail to future
articles I might write such as quotes and facts and maps - can I reference them
on my web site?"
"That's the whole point."
if I get enough readers later on - would you willing to do an interview to help
"Yes." And he gave me his new contact
He was keen to get into the exhibition and make sure that his
books would get used as quickly as possible. (Visitors I spoke to later at the
drop in day in Plumpton and a week later in Wivelsfield - were genuinely
moved that such impressive and expensive books were there for the asking - to
help educate the anti-urbanisation campaign.)
Anyway - after David
emerged from the event I pounced on him. That's the author stalker side
of me coming to the surface.
We talked about some of the
environmental issues which arise from the Eton project:- mainly the water and
the threat to sea trout, and the way in which some land owners degrade the
environmental value of the land they want to develop - over a period of decades
to help them create sites which look ideal for building.
was how some anti greenfield development campaigners don't seem to value
highly enough the ecological benefits of unimproved grassland - and think they
need to plant trees over it to make it look more natural. Or even (I said) to
populate it with new creatures - like Jurassic Park. (Rewilding.) At another
end of the green spectrum - are those who think that any large area of grass
looks better if it's manicured like a golf course.
David and I both
seem to like the messy look. He said it's remarkable how creatures can
treasure local indentations by the side of tracks and tractor tracks which for
years become reliable traps of water.
David Bangs is a passionate
advocate for the character of the Weald - and despite admiring the efforts of
the DUTD - doesn't like the name of the group - which doesn't have the word "Weald"
We had a conversation about this too. Choosing names for
organisations and products is
big deal. I said - whatever you may think about the name "Don't
Urbanise the Downs" (and I've heard a few other local people saying they
don't like it too) the campaign group will become known for and
associated with the work it does and reactions to it - rather than simply a
literal interpretation of the words in its name. So I think we agreed on that.
later note:- The power of a brand (like Nike or iPhone) is what it means to
people in their daily lives and the ideas they associate with it. Don't Urbanise
the Downs is already becoming a force to be reckoned with - and events like the
drop in days - show that it can effortlessly perform like a purposeful
organisation - despite being a volunteer force less than 6 months old.
David had gone I took this photograph of his book on the grass by the car park.
within a tragic paradox. It is only our class, working people, who have the
power to halt the destruction of nature and the blind drive of capitalism to
ceaseless expansion. Those rich owners who monopolise the Weald and profess
their love for its countryside will not stop this process, for their wealth is
dependant on the destructive exploitation of nature. Yet our class, crammed as
we are in towns, cities and megacities are also the most alienated from nature.
We do not lead the fight against its destruction because that process is
invisible to us and means little to our current lives. What the eye doesnt see,
the heart will not grieve over. It is for that reason that I have written this
David Bangs - in his article -
countryside: use it or lose it - in which he explains the politics of his
latest book, a field guide to the middle Sussex and south-east Surrey Weald.
|Editor's comments:- Information
is empowering. I'd like to thank David Bangs again for his generosity to the
campaign to protect East Chiltington and Plumpton from past, present and future
noxious developments. And I will try to collect together all the scattered
fragments and links about the sea trout which have previously appeared in these
and what about the DUTD drop in day in Plumpton?
had been intending to write a visit report about the DUTD's premier public
event in Plumpton. That's how this little blog got started. It went in a
completely different direction. But I hope you find it interesting
Was the visit worth it? For me...
- I learned that the Eton owned land extends its tendrils much farther up
the lanes in East Chiltington than I had realised before. (I'm colour blind and
can't read maps. So I got a big shock when it was related to some nearby
- I learned that responding to the Lewes Local Plan Consultation - which is a
very daunting proposition when you get confronted by all the web pages and
documents surrounding it - can be done by civilians with the help of the
materials which DUTD has prepared. They've been testing the help guides and
FAQs packs on volunteers, visitors to these events and online. There's no
getting away from the fact it takes time. But you can even choose - which
version you want to engage with depending on the time budget you're willing to
dedicate to it.
- I learned that a committee date for the
Nolands Farm planning application (in fields near the western end of the
Eton site) is unlikely to be before September. This came from a conversation I
had with Councillor Rob Banks at the DUTD event.
- I've got a new book to read.
I was impressed
by the commitment, serious willingness to engage in discussion and courtesy of
everyone I met. And that includes the other attendees I spoke to at the show -
not just the DUTD volunteers. Well done to everyone involved. And
congratulations that all the pictures were the right way up too!
- I picked up ideas for more things to write about.
PS - more about the book.
In my own response to
Options - Lewes Local Plan - question (1.8) - I said this...
100% in agreement with the messier traditional grassland and wealden character
described by the author David Bangs. His books about the character of the
countryside around here - should be essential reading before you embark on
making the countryside "more natural".
No Eton New Town
say signs in East Chiltington
|In May 2021 - signs began appearing in the lanes
and hedges around East Chiltington to alert friends and visitors to the risk
that this countryside they're enjoying now will be lost forever if Eton College
succeeds with its devastating new town plan. ...read the
Eton's new town zone
in East Chiltington
over precious green fields - when brownfield sites are available - in the 2020s
in South East England - is more reckless and careless of the well being of
future generations than spraying the 1950s fields of North American farms with
plane loads of DDT pesticides."|
Zsolt Kerekes - in
the article -
Final Spring in
Novington Lane? (March 30, 2021).
what links - intra-colonialization, Eton College and East Sussex?There
are harms being done to our friends and neighbours by agencies which regard the
parish of East Chiltington in the same way that 19th century prospectors
regarded the gold-fields of California and as the European colonial powers,
with cold cruel reckoning gaze, looked to the mineral resources in Africa.
Our unspoiled downland fields today are the strip mines of the
Resources on far away maps to be exploited and destroyed.
objections? - bows and arrows facing cannon.
It seemed hopeless. A community of less than 200 households
facing a billion dollar (in assets) corporation masquerading to the rest of the
world as a quirky educational charity.
But did you hear that story
about Katniss Everdeen
and her bow? We were roused to defend. We fight to win..
"if people living in the proposed new town like nature they can buy
planters"land promoter answer to a question about concreting over
fields in another new town development presentation
|let them eat
cake (read the article)|
the landscape assessment walks in East Chiltington
|What do you like in this
What makes you happy being here?
recognise the dogs?
Was it really that long ago?
Editor:- May 20, 2021 -
Published today - a new article - the landscape
assessment walks in East Chiltington - looks back at an event which
has particular relevance today - when we're thinking about what it is we're
trying to protect. ...read the article
|Editor:- June 21, 2021 - In a
new episode of
Chat - Richard Vobes
- discusses the Eton new town plans in East Chiltington. Among other things he
"It's just abhorrent that somebody can take what
is farmland that has been farmed for centuries and they're the custodians of
and then sell it prevent it from being farmed for future generations. It
doesn't seem right. It doesn't settle with me at all that somebody can say no -
from now on I'm the one that's going to make the decision and take a profit and
not let anybody in the future farm on this piece of land."
Richard said in his Sunday Chat he'd publish a
of his walk around the Eton new town site on Monday. And he
extinction in our verdant landscapes|
"Most of us do
not notice extinction's progress, even though its hallmarks and outcomes
are all around us. This is partly because, if people think of it at all,
extinction is happening in far away lands and the connection with their own
lifestyles eludes them.
Closer to home extinction is generally about
the little things, bees and other invertebrates, which a lot of people dont
really miss. But perhaps the biggest factor is that each successive generation
does not recognise what the former has lost, a phenomenon called shifting
We have to read historical accounts of how the
world once was to appreciate life's diminution."
in his article
The Alpha and Omega of Extinction in the ECOS