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Letter: Is This the Last Harvest We’ll See on Blackwell Farm?

Published on: 5 Aug, 2014
Updated on: 5 Aug, 2014
Looking south east towards the Area of outstanding Natural Beauty of ‘The Mount’.

Looking south east towards the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) of The Mount.

From Lisa Wright

Last week I saw the dust clouds from the combine harvester on the fields of Blackwell Farm and dashed out with my camera to witness a sight that has been replicated on this field for hundreds of years. Whether by hand, horse or machine, this golden field of corn has been harvested every summer for centuries to provide food for the nation.

According to a report by Cambridge University*, the UK faces a potential shortfall of two million hectares of land for food by 2030.

The report states that new residential and commercial developments, transport infrastructure, and recreational space are making the UK more dependent on imports and worsening our existing food, feed and drink trade deficit of £18.6 billion.

picture is taken from the same spot looking South at the AONB of the Hogs Back.

This picture is taken from the same spot looking south at the AONB of the Hog’s Back.

One acre of wheat will only produce enough flour for approximately 3,500 loaves of bread. Enough for around a 100 people a year. Many more acres are needed for oils, vegetables, fruit, cows, sheep, pigs and poultry. With Guildford’s population already over 150,000 we really do need to protect our pasture and arable land.

This field also provides the environment for many other species of bird, mammal and plant and the oxygen we need to breathe.

I do hope our fears about this land being developed are not realised and we see more harvests in these same fields in years to come.

The pictures were taken from the permissive horse ride along the railway line, just about the point in which the University of Surrey wishes to build a railway station in its “West Guildford Garden Neighbourhood”.

*The Best Use of UK Agricultural Land, Andrew Montague-Fuller, Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL)].


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Responses to Letter: Is This the Last Harvest We’ll See on Blackwell Farm?

  1. Jim Allen Reply

    August 5, 2014 at 11:24 pm

    This argument should also be used at Gosden Hill, also under grain at present… which only leaves the harvesting of concrete at Wisley.

    Although rumour has it Heathrow needs a third runway and Gatwick needs a second. Perhaps they could both share Wisley? A monorail down the M25 between would solve the car congestion problem and then all land available has been accounted for!

  2. Peter Knight Reply

    August 6, 2014 at 1:08 pm

    With Julian Lyon stating that 89 per cent of the borough is green belt I doubt this farm will be missed at all.

    I’d rather see future and existing generations able to stay in the area they grew up than wheat.

    This goes for Gosden Hill too.

  3. Jules Cranwell Reply

    August 6, 2014 at 2:35 pm

    I have very similar views across Forte’s fields in West Horsley just now. Again this is prime arable land, which would also be lost, along with Gosden Hill, all contributing to a diminution of food security for the UK.

    Once gone for over-development, these fields can never be restored to agricultural use.

    Should be ever suffer another event like WWII, ‘Dig for Victory’ would not be an option.

    However, I’m afraid none of this matters to the discredited executive at GBC, they just want the cash generated in CIL etc. from these huge developments.

  4. Alessia Mestrone Reply

    August 6, 2014 at 9:05 pm

    Very well said.

    Sadly we tend to forget, too often, where our food comes from or, where it is supposed to come from until the next horse burger scandal will remind us, that is.

    If we loose all the agricultural land, there won’t be any more fresh local supply and it would be such a big mistake to let this happen.

  5. Ben Paton Reply

    August 6, 2014 at 11:47 pm

    Always good to read Jim Allen’s remarks – usually in support of councillors of little integrity and against land commandeered in a national emergency and which has ALWAYS been and remains at least 75% countryside.

    He might like to visit Three Farms Meadow and see that the wheat has just been harvested this week. A few weeks before the barley was taken off. These You Tube videos prove the point:;

    A shame that Mr Allen appears to have little regard for the truth.

    • Jim Allen Reply

      August 11, 2014 at 5:20 pm

      I’m a little confused in respect of Mr Paton’s comment “…little regard for the truth…”

      Is it not true that Gosden Hill is a working farm? Is there not a call for a third runway at Heathrow? Is there not a call for a second runway at Gatwick? Is there not a concrete runway at Wisley? – Google maps suggest there still is.

      Millions of hectares of land across the country were commandeered during the war, including my friends family’s farmland at Heathrow (a pig Farm using swill from central London hotels to feed the pigs providing bacon to Londoners) and all the land owners were suitably compensated for their donation to the nation.

      I merely pointed out, a different use for the Wisley site instead of houses, or a green waste recycling plant, or farmland. The comment was actually tongue in cheek because everyone outside the urban area is playing, “I’m a louder Nimby than you,” when they should be saying, “Let’s get together and solve this accursed housing problem once and for all.”

      Perhaps if a solid argument, technically correct was put forward for the SHMA, which can challenge the GL Herne figures, we could all rest easy in our beds. Personally don’t have the statistical brain to prove them wrong although I feel sure that deep down something is amiss. We are all on the same side, just viewing the problem from different angles, trying to hit the same target, with different life skills and experiences.

      As for “my usual support for my ward councillors”, when they are correct, or have not been found guilty in a court of law, then why not support them? Shouldn’t one support one’s elected councillors?

      Mr Paton implies something has already been proved. It has not. The real crime is the presumption of guilt prior to any court case. In this country innocent until proven guilty is our way. Will Mr Paton be man enough to apologies in due course. Time will tell.

  6. John Robson Reply

    August 7, 2014 at 8:58 am

    I think we’d all welcome future generations being given the opportunity to stay in the area they grew up in, should they choose to do so, but it isn’t an ideal world we live in, especially in the South East. This is prime greenbelt, bought cheaply as arable land. A developers dream, they will primarily build 3,4,5 bed executive homes in these areas with a sales tag between £400k to £1m+, with a large proportion sold off plan to investors.

    Does anyone honestly believe these developers intend to solve Guildford’s affordable homes issues? Does anyone really think the relentless lobbying by these developers is because they care about Guildford’s social housing problems? Their mission in life is to deliver profit to the balance sheet.

    GBC don’t believe it either, that’s why they’ve inserted the words “economically viable” into the Draft Local Plan. Mark my words, if planning approval is granted the games will begin, the technical consultants will line up with a raft of “unforeseen” development costs associated with access issues, ground-works, soil stabilisation, drainage issues etc, etc… which will directly impact the bottom line and ultimately the affordable housing quota they will deliver. Everybody within Millmead knows this.

    When I went to negotiating school we were taught you start off from your strongest position and concede little, it’s not rocket science. The Draft Local Plan undermines our position from the outset and does not meet the needs of Guildford Borough; the developers will drive a bulldozer through it.

    They will have to deliver some affordable housing, but for the reasons above it will be nowhere near the 40-45 per cent being bandied about. Finally, given that these billion pound schemes sit on the periphery of the urban area, how will the people, who do manage to be granted an affordable home, visit their relatives and go about their daily lives from a semi-rural location?

    If they can only just afford to get on the housing ladder how will they fund transport? Or are the developers expected to provide a car purchase assistance programme to provide the requisite 2 cars per household? At this juncture, Guildford’s out-lying areas are poorly served by public transport and this local plan doesn’t categorically address this, nor will the developers.

    Somebody needs to join the dots up. I believe we should develop from the inside out, regenerate the town centre using our own target of 350 homes per annum and reject Dave Cameron’s electioneering target of 652 homes each year.

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