On Sunday 24th September over 150 people from the tiny village of Culham gathered to peacefully protest the proposed development by South Oxfordshire District Council to build a new town of 3,500 homes on Green Belt land. Local residents and families from the larger community gathered on the village green and were all decked out in green clothing wearing green belts and draped in branches and leaves. Green tea was served with scones topped with cream and a ‘Green Belt preserve’ especially made for the occasion by Culham resident Val Price. The beautiful weather helped ensure a warm and friendly atmosphere that was tinged with defiance over the plans which threaten to destroy nearly 300 hectares of Green Belt land and turn a small village into a town of some 9,000 residents. The children of the village were dressed in white and together they formed a human “NO” which was photographed from above by a drone. The fact that it was the children forming the word was the villagers’ way of pointing out that this development would affect future generations and that it is those children that they are trying to protect.
Around the human “no”, the rest of the protesters formed a large Green Belt, symbolized by green florist’s ribbon, and chanted a chorus of “2, 4, 6, 8 what do we appreciate? Culham Green Belt!” in between verses of a poem written for the day by local resident Peter Kirby. Caroline Baird, chair of Save Culham Green Belt, a campaign group formed by people from the village, was delighted with the turnout and said “ the fact that so many villagers responded at short notice to our call to arms shows the depth of sentiment against the Council’s plans; we are a small village, but united”.
Last week the government’s Communities Secretary Sajid Javid promised that Green Belt land would be protected and at the same time conceded that the housing figures on which current Local Plan is based vastly over-estimates the amount of new houses that need to be built in Oxfordshire. Despite this, SODC are determined to press ahead with their plans to build at Culham. The committee has been able to secure legal representation as well as the services of a planning consultant and the fight will continue.