Working on behalf of the Community

Save Westridge Farm – Diminishing Farmland in East Wight Area

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Subject: Diminishing farmland in East Wight area and 20/01061/FUL

Letter sent on 22nd February 2021 at 09:43am

I am writing to you as the case officer for 20/01061/FUL West Acre Park Planning Application. I wish to provide additional comment based on new information and in the light of the current reality of the Island and Ryde economic crisis caused by the Covid19 Pandemic. Those IW residents on Universal Credit have doubled in the last 12 months and this is likely to increase. 

I wish to frame my further objection and additional comment in regard 20/01061/FUL within NPPF (2020) Section 6 – Building a strong, competitive economy. 6/80 which states: “Planning policies and decisions should help create the conditions in which businesses can invest, expand and adapt. Significant weight should be placed on the need to support economic growth and productivity, taking into account both local business needs and wider opportunities for development. The approach taken should allow each area to build on its strengths, counter any weaknesses and address the challenges of the future. This is particularly important where Britain can be a global leader in driving innovation40, and in areas with high levels of productivity, which should be able to capitalise on their performance and potential.” Section 83.b emphasises the development and diversification of agricultural and land based rural business. 

I wish to argue that food production and particularly local artisan food production such as at Briddlesford Farm is very important for the future economic growth of the IW and Ryde as it provides local branded food products to an economic chain for export and supply to local eateries such as in Ryde Town Centre. Local artisan food production is very vital to the tourism offer of rural communities and stay-vacations (Isle of Wight is listed they 6th highest stay-vacation (UK) holiday destination). Ryde is a Gateway Town to the IW visitor/tourist market with travel to and from Portsmouth and train network. The Government has awarded £10M to improve this Gateway through investment in Ryde Pier and Esplanade. SWR have had £26M from the Government to upgrade the Island Line that starts in Ryde and links the Bay Area. 

There is a strong economic rationale that having local food producers of natural products such as eggs and milk are needed to feed local artisan food producers that in turn feed the local hospitality industry. The reduction of viable farmland and the loss of a farm that has the potential to feed this economic food chain prevents the growth of a sustainable and viable job creating  opportunity for Ryde. IWC has recently approved the IWC’s Nicholson Road site for employment creation and new business opportunity and local artisan food production such as created in Ludllow through the slow food campaign and food Centre would fit well with identified known economic drivers on the Island. The loss of the potential of an accessible farm and food production from this farm, reduces new business and employment creation for the Town that has the highest unemployment on the Island. 

I want to bring the following information to your attention, as it evidenced and shows the diminishing farmland being used for food production on the east side of the island.

There has recently been a lot of land in the eastside of the island see a change of ownership through activity of  land agents. I believe that a lot of this land is being sold to assist developers by way of purchasing nitrate credits to assist with gaining planning permissions at other sites within Hampshire.

Farmland is seriously being impacted, if it keeps going like this the east side of the island will not only be overdeveloped with housing but the agricultural land left will not be farmed therefore no opportunity for food production from a local farm and the potential of new local artisan food industry that will build export to mainland and a thriving hospitality industry. 

It is getting increasingly difficult to get hay and straw for cattle on the island as a lot of acres are being contracted out for crops and used for the AD plants in Arreton and Stag Lane therefore not contributing to local food production.

As we know 11 acres of Westridge Farm was lost to development for the current 86 houses at Westridge Farm with a further 150 acres of free grass fed dairy high quality grassland.  

Westridge Farm were also tenants of 50 acres at Woodlands Vale Farm Seaview until a few years ago. 30 acres is now a garden for the people living in the converted barn. 20 acres is owned privately and luckily they still have an agreement to graze cattle.It is important that a dairy farm needs access to at least 100 to 200 acres to be viable. 

Prestwood Farm, Pennyfeathers is now not farmed and the land is just sitting there currently waiting for the reserved matters to be approved for 930 new houses. The fields owned by IWC on the site known as Nicolson Road now has planning permission to be a business park. 

Nunwell Estates which include Nunwell farm, Harding Shute farm and New Barn farm 800 acres approximately. The tenant has recently been bought out of his tenancy. He has farmed this land since the early 80s. These farms were used for beef cattle, sheep as well as crops/arable land used for food production. 

I believe that 400 acres has been sold to Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust. The Tryst has also bought Little Duxmore Farm which is approximately 100 acres. Land is set to be used for ‘rewilding’ and not farmed anymore. 

See article below –https://www.portsmouth.co.uk/news/politics/12000-homes-set-solent-nitrates-deadlock-starts-crumble-2864595

Whitefield Farm, Ashey  approximately 70 acres has been sold to a Horse Sanctuary on the mainland and lost to food production which it is currently used for.  This could potentially be used for ‘rewilding’. Westridge Farm had an agreement on this land to graze cattle as well as making hay so they have now lost this extra land.

Park Farm is approximately 200 acres, this land is currently contracted out producing crops for the AD plant. From what I have heard the remaining 400 acres at Nunwell Estate will also be contracted out for the AD plant.

There really is very little farmland left which is being used for food production on the East of the IW and near to Ryde. If Ryde looses Westridge Farm to the current planning permission it will really be a step to far. It will create a huge imbalance on the Island with overdevelopment of Housing on the East with increased population  and protected land (ANOB) on the West with farmland with low population . Visitors coming to the Island for its natural environment, locally produced food and beauty will just travel through Ryde. Ryde will loose its economic potential. 

When a pandemic hits, questions that immediately arise include what impact there will be on public health, the economy and other aspects of society. Another set of questions involves response priorities for governments and households.

Food is central to both sets of questions. On the one hand, access to sufficient, nutritious food is threatened. On the other, focusing on food offers promising pandemic response options.

Reports in the UK about the impact of COVID-19 and pandemic response measures on food supplies, whether due to shortages, price rises or cash constraints. Even in rich countries such as UK anxiety about possible shortages has led to stockpiling, while large-scale job losses are leaving many worried about their capacity to afford.

A recent World Food Programme report suggested COVID-19 is deepening global food insecurity, as the pandemic’s economic impact adds to pre-existing food security challenges. 

Dietary change may offer scope to improve people’s capacity to cope with COVID-19, since the potential of nutrition to support immune resistance to viruses is well-established. Two reviews of clinical trials underlined the scope for nutrition to prevent or manage viral infections and recommended using it to limit the impact of COVID-19. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has sought to harness this potential by issuing dietary guidelines for the COVID-19 pandemic. This raises the importance of local food production and rights of local people to access healthy locally produced food and food security. Therefore, the loss of a known and evidenced local farm not only takes away the potential of accessibility to local food it takes away the future potential of the land for future generations and the economic and job creating opportunities in developing food production business requiring access to a local food chain supplier. As healthy employment is key in a post Covid world. 

One promising approach that is a growing trend is producing food in urban and semi-urban areas as a coping strategy. I would argue having a working farm within its boundary has psychological, physical , social and economic benefits against using greenfield land for housing. The City Farm movement has endless studies on the importance of urban areas and residents having access to a farm.  This has been found to have huge potential benefits as a food source for communities hit by the pandemic while also delivering other important benefits like lower food miles and creating employment, notably for the poor. Ryde has one of the highest number of people living in deprivation and poverty on the IW. 

The approval of several vaccines has raised hopes that the COVID-19 pandemic can be arrested. Yet vaccination will take time. Meanwhile, the recent emergence of mutant variants raises difficult questions, such as how the efficacy of vaccines might be affected. 

Given this reality, ensuring good immune system function is critical. This underlines the need for schemes to foster healthy eating. For now, however, food insecurity tragically remains an issue for many, and access to healthy foods is a particular problem. 

I have given detailed rationale in my previous comments and objections to this application and particularly overdevelopment of Ryde. My argument and rationale about highlighted in this further objection wishes to bring the application of 20/01061/FUL into the context of the Pandemic and realities the community is facing as a result. The loss of this working farm will add to the loss of further farmland in the East of the Island to food production. This loss has huge ramifications for Ryde in that it means the loss of easy access to locally produced food that could not only feed residents recovering from Covid19 making them more resilient but also loose the potential of future local artisan food production that could vitally create jobs and rebuild Ryde’s economy. 

Access to local organic and natural products has been vital in the cosmetic industry and Ryde has the wonderful example of Liz Earle which not only has an important shop on our Historic Union Street but has a factory on Nicolson Road which employs local people. Westridge Farm as a local farm has the potential to feed into a future food producing industry in the Town that could follow the Liz Earle example. If this application is approve this potential has been lost forever. This application threatens Ryde’s potential economic growth as well as threatening Ryde residents right to local food security. 

I feel recommending 20/01061/FUL is contrary to NPPF 6/80 and 83 and infringes the human rights of the farming tenant to maintain livelihood  and develop his agricultural business and the rights of residents of future employment opportunities and food security. 



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