Farmer fears for future over council plan to build 1,000 homes

A dairy farmer fears his livelihood is under threat over council plans to build up to 1,000 homes on green belt land.

Charlie Wray manages a herd of 80 pedigree Jersey cows at Wayside Farm, Kings Langley, near Watford – one of only seven dairy farmers in the county of Hertfordshire.

Mr Wray, who has farmed the 63ha site for 37 years, is concerned that his county council lifetime tenancy will be ripped up after Dacorum Borough Council revealed plans to build more than 950 homes in the village.

See also: County council farms – how many are left?

“I have a lifetime farm tenancy agreement, which you would have thought would be worth something,” he told Farmers Weekly.

“But if they (the council) want something for planning, that’s it. They could just give me notice like that. The village is up in arms about it.”

More than 800 villagers attended a meeting to discuss the council’s plans at a local school on 14 November.

Mr Wray said he was stunned the number of people who turned up, adding that many were in support of saving his dairy farm.

“There was phenomenal support from the village; a significant majority of the people came to say they wanted to save the farm and prevent building houses on green belt land.”

Raw milk vending machine

Following the recent milk price plunge, which left a serious dent in farm profits, last year Mr Wray decided to install a vending machine to sell raw milk directly to the public from the farm gate.

He said the farm diversification has been a “phenomenal success” and people travel up to 40 miles to buy his milk.

Mr Wray installed the milk dispensing machine with the help of Jonny Crickmore, the first dairy farmer in the UK to set up a milk vending machine at the farm gate.

“Most people are realistic. They know that we’re likely to end up with some new houses in the village,” said Mr Wray.

“But the farm business is doing well again. My son is back here, working his backside off and my partner is running the new farm shop.

“The farm has almost become the hub of the village – so why destroy something that the village has come to enjoy? It would be a bloody shame.”

Mr Wray urged the council to focus on building new homes on brownfield sites and leave farmland alone. He said the village does not have the infrastructure, including schools, roads and hospitals, to cope with the effects of building hundreds of new homes.

‘Back our farmers’

He said the government needed to provide more support to keep farmers in business, especially dairy farmers like him who “could become a thing of the past”.

“If they don’t change their attitude, and if Brexit goes badly, very soon there won’t be enough farmers left to feed the people,” he added.

James Doe, Dacorum Borough Council’s assistant director of planning, said: “The council is at the very early stages of preparing the new Local Plan for the area and carrying out the Issues and Options consultation.

“A key aspect of this consultation is to get feedback on a range of options for the number of new homes the borough should provide up to 2036, and where these should be built.

“Like all councils, we are required by central government to increase the number of new homes we set land aside for in order to help address the national housing shortage.

“In terms of Kings Langley, the growth proposals range from an option that would require no development in fields surrounding the village, through to an option which would require the use of land that is currently developed.”

The council’s consultation for its Local Plan to 2036 closes on 13 December.

See more