Angry farmer fights council’s ‘land grab’ plan

steve horler

Steve Horler beside meadows that would be lost to a car park

A furious farmer has hit out after learning of council plans to turn his organic beef farm into a 25-acre car park.

Steve Horler said he only found out about the plans for the 1,400-space, park-and-ride site, through a dog walker.

“The dog walker asked if the meadow he was standing in was where the new car park was going. That is the first we heard of it,” said Mr Horler, who farms New Leaf Farm, Bathampton, Somerset.

See also: What to do if your farm is affected by a compulsory public infrastructure project

The proposal, set out in the Bath Chronicle, showed how the car park would be sited on meadow land, cutting the Horler family’s 22ha (55 acres) holding in half.


Bathampton meadows

View from Salisbury Hill, showing proposed park-and-ride site

View from Salisbury Hill

A four-week consultation was launched on 28 August – the day Mr Horler found out.

It set out the final three sites with the local MP Ben Howlett calling for people to have their say, but throwing his weight behind developing New Leaf Farm.

Mr Horler told Farmers Weekly he was disgusted by the lack of notice.

“We found out we were the favoured site. But the council had done nothing to tell us that we were even on a shortlist, let alone the site favoured by council leaders,” he said.

“We had no letter, no phone call, no email – nothing at all, to warn us that our livelihood might be taken from us.

“My father is distraught. He has just retired and had passed the farm on to me. I was stunned, angry and disgusted at the council.”

Mr Horler admitted he did not know what the future held for the 150-head of sucklers and a thriving holiday cottage business.

“The car park will take away the back gardens of our holiday cottages. They had overlooked fields and meadows. If this goes ahead they will look out over, tarmac, cars and bright lights.

“Who would want to stay in a holiday cottage that looks out over that?”

Hampton Rocks

The farm also had fresh plans for its beef enterprise with a venture marketing directly to local butchers’ shops in Bath.

“All that is up in the air now. It doesn’t look good for our future unless we can get this plan rejected,” he said.

However, Mr Horler has managed to get the local council to extend the consultation deadline that ends on 16 October.

He has also helped launch a petition, which has more than 1,900 signatures.

“I am urging everyone who can to take part to help save this beautiful area. Not just for us,” said Mr Horler.

“The land has been farmed here for 5,000 years. It will disappear unless we can get this overturned.

Bath & North East Somerset Council’s Conservative leader Tim Warren has apologised, saying he believed letters had been sent out to affected landowners.

A statement from the council said that “agents wrote to all registered landowners within the three proposed sites on 25 August, to let them know that there is potential interest in their land”.

“Council leader Tim Warren has committed to go and visit Mr Horler at his farm to discuss the consultation,” the statement added.