A London Farm

I had a great day on Friday, visiting an organic farm in Kent – Silcocks Farm near Tenterden. But I felt guilty because my children would have liked the chance to fuss over some animals. So today I took them out into the country – all the way to Woodlands Farm in south east London.

Woodlands Farm is a legacy of the great battle of the late ‘eighties and early ‘nineties to stop the East London River Crossing, a major road scheme which would have destroyed both Oxleas Wood and the farm. A heroic campaign was fought against the development and plans for the road were defeated. Some of the story is told here.

At the time I was working in Woolwich and supported the campaign. But I had not thought about it for years until, last summer, I went to Woodlands Farm for a BBC interview on the proposed National Planning Policy Framework. Like most proposals for planning reform, this was all about making the planning system friendlier towards economic growth. But the very existence of the farm makes clear that planning has to be about much more than a strong economy, vital though that is.

That afternoon, hay making was going on and the farm was full of families. It seemed extraordinary to be in such a rural oasis just a mile from Woolwich town centre and a few weeks after the riots there. When I was interviewed I was able to say that if the East London River Crossing had been built – or if the planning system always favoured economic growth over the environment or quality of life – the sheep pasture I was standing on would have been buried under six lanes of tarmac.

I recommend a visit to Woodlands Farm if you are local.

And I recommend taking CPRE’s online action against a new road building programme.

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