Westgate teenager and mum create campaign documentary on the impact of building over Thanet’s farmland

Ellie has created an insightful documentary

A 15-year-old from Westgate has created a documentary to highlight the campaign to save Thanet farmland from development.

Ellie Golding and mum Stacy, with the help of drone owner Gary Lewis, have put together the stunning video after getting involved with the  Westgate and Garlinge Action Group Against Housing Development.

Dane Court student Ellie is the face of the film which explains about housing development plans on farmland across the isle – including a proposal for fields off Shottendane Road which is due before Thanet council’s planning committee tomorrow (June 23).

The youngster says Thanet is “facing an ecological crime of epic proportions” with some 2,000 homes planned at Westgate and Garlinge, another 1,650 at Birchington and more on parcels across Thanet.

Video shot

Mum Stacy said: “We had both got involved with the Westgate and Garlinge Action Group Against Housing Development earlier this year when we volunteered to deliver some information leaflets to local residents. We got talking to a few people and were quite shocked to find that many people didn’t really know about the proposed developments on our fields or found the information out there overwhelming/confusing.

“I then decided to make a really quick facebook video which showed how easy it was to submit an objection. I had some really great feedback and it encouraged a few reluctant objectors to act.

“On the back of that, the committee approached me and asked whether I’d consider making a few more. At the time schools were in lockdown and Ellie had been making lots of content for her YouTube channel – she is really good at editing videos and loves doing it, I work in theatre and so also had time on my hands.

“We wanted to somehow support the action group, particularly as we’d become accustomed to walking through our amazing fields as a family during lockdown. We felt that perhaps our skill bases together could help in some way – that’s when the idea of the documentary was born!”

The video features stunning shots of Thanet’s agricultural land as well as showing housebuilding projects that are already underway. Ellie talks about climate change, the heritage of farming on the isle and the impact that development could have.

The teenager hopes to also inspire others of her age to take action.

Stacy said: “Ellie is a natural in front of the camera, so it made sense that she should be the face of the documentary. She was also keen to inspire her own age group to act and felt that by showing people what we stand to lose -locally and globally – she might encourage some of her peers to support the action group or better still, write objections.

“Armed with the idea we then started to gather footage on our daily walks. The more we walked, the more we filmed. The more we filmed the more angry we got at the potential devastation the proposed housing would cause. The action group were great at helping us to research.

Video footage

“Ellie and I would discuss what shots we thought would be the most impactful, and tried to really make the script accessible. We had originally only meant to make a two minute mini documentary but the more we researched, the more we were determined to communicate the big picture and really help the residents feel that they could take action too.

“We then had a stroke of luck when Gary Lewis posted on the facebook group that he had a drone, and would anyone be interested in him taking footage. I jumped on that opportunity and I think Gary’s drone footage took the documentary to another level; especially the opening shot as the drone sweeps over Thanet. You can see the just how much green land there is, and how much TDC are prepared to sacrifice.

“Ellie then went back to school and I went back to work, so we would film and edit where we could at weekends. It took many hours. I didn’t get involved in the editing at all so Ellie really let her creativity flow and we are both incredibly proud of the result. So far it has had over 1.1K views and we are contacted almost every day by people who have been moved by the film, including MP Roger Gale and the BBC.

“We are absolutely blown away by the response and so pleased that we’ve managed to highlight this issue. “

Ellie is currently considering her career options and film/TV production is one pathway on her list.

Video footage

Tomorrow’s planning committee meeting will include a decision for 450 homes on arable land in Margate which was sent back to the drawing board due to concerns over the small percentage of affordable housing.

In April councillors on Thanet’s planning committee voted against moving forward with the application for the development on land off Shottendane Road because only 10% – instead of the recommended 30%- of properties would be affordable housing.

Other concerns were raised about the impact on medical services – with Thanet already suffering from a shortage of GPs and hospital staff – extra traffic despite planned road improvements and the building on agricultural land which is also at risk of flooding.

Houses are planned for farmland off Shottendane Road Photo Sarah Bowers

Gladman Developments is now offering 15% affordable housing, meaning a rise from 45 to 68 properties on an 80% affordable rent and 20% shared ownership mix. There would also be approximately £4.9million in contributions to community and highways infrastructure.

Campaign groups protesting at the decimation of agricultural land for Thanet housing developments say some 40% of high quality land could be lost forever.

Westgate & Garlinge Action Group and Birchington Action Group against houses on farmland are urging people to object to plans for thousands of homes earmarked for construction on grade 1,2 and 3, food producing land in Thanet.

Thanet has some of the UK’s most fertile land which is used for crops including premium potatoes, wheat, barley, cauliflower, oilseed rape and maize for biofuels. Campaigners say this food production will be lost forever if development of agricultural land is not halted.

25 Comments

    • England only supplies 55% of its own food to its population, the remaining 45% is imported. Food security is highly important and it can be argued that a country that cannot feed its own people is a failed country.

      Building over precious farmland is only going to leave us more vulnerable and reliant on other countries for our food. You only have to see what is happening with COVID and medical supplies to realise that the same countries that are refusing to send us drugs and medical equipment could just as easily stop exporting food to us if they deem it right for their countries interests.

      We have droughts every year in the south, we are unable to feed our own population but still idiots think it’s ok to build over our countryside and farmland. Our population is way too big for our land mass. Concreting over the fields that feed us is not the answer.

    • Thanet has quite a lot of derelict land that could be used for new housing. The reason why open farmland is favoured by developers is that it is free of any existing buildings, and free of contamination, and is cheap to develop.
      Whilst there are “nimbies” all over the UK who don’t want any houses, and any change at all, I think that this young lady is showing care for the Thanet landscape and environment. There has to be recognition that productive farmland needs to be protected and used to produce food. Everyone needs somewhere to live. Let’s have proper planning– not just filling Kent up with concrete and little boxes.

  1. The only way Thanet improves is through new investment. Bringing new housing shows progress which in turn attracts new business to the area which then provides jobs. So much of Thanet is dying through lack of progress and modernisation. When you keep doing what you have always done then nothing improves and Thanet needs to improve or it will die. Margate is a ghost town apart from the few hit days of sun with next to no retail left. Ramsgate is losing businesses on a regular basis. Even Westwood is struggling. Birchington high street is dead most of the time and Westgate most days of the week you can count on one hand how many people in the town centre. No one as yet has given an alternative to where the new housing can be built, if they could do that then maybe the farmland wouldn’t need to be used.

    • houses bring new business to Thanet ?you must be joking most of the big employers have long gone and people in this area dont want jobs,dole by the sea is the new mantra just look at what happened at Manston airport jobs no ? house,s for more unemployed and unemployable people? flood the area with more cars are they building doctors surgery’s schools hospitals ?

    • Thanet needs affordable housing to meet current local needs and this where TDC repeatedly concedes to developers.
      More and more not affordable houses bring commuters, buy to let and second home owners. We need a robust and realistic economic strategy based on our core assists not the wishful thinking that TDC has in its Local Plan.

    • I would agree with BM that new investent is needed, but surely, the type of investment that is really needed is the regeneration of the town centres and removal of dereliction from places that have been spoiled, such as the areas around the airport. Urban renewal needs to incorporate landscaping, as well as buildings. Plastering the remaining countryside with housing estates will not bring prosperity except for the developers– it just spoils the environment for everyone. People need jobs. How about creating jobs in the food industry using Thanet products? How about a solar farm on the disused Manston runway ? I am not against housing– we all need good qulaity housing. I am just against wasting our landscape assets– and want to see a mix of housing for all ages– and for the right development in the right place.

  2. Very good video of the protest and the filming, why should we be swamped by all these houses and people, we cannot handle our own health so at least try to look after the health of our environment in Thanet as a whole.

  3. A wonderful film – I’m appalled at the prospect of losing this land to housing, especially when, as explained in the film, there is so much housing already available and empty.

  4. I’m truly appalled at the news of this new housing development and at the impact it will have on agricultural land and nature. The video is really exceptionally good and moving. As it says, there are other solutions to the housing crisis, and these we should explore before starting new developments. Let’s make available the houses that have been empty first.

    • That is not going to happen. Local councils cannot afford to cpo empty properties and refurbish them for re-use.

  5. B M there is plenty of land in Thanet to reuse for housing, it’s down to cost at the end of the day.thanet has been ripped apart through tdc and others by years of mismanagement and ill practice. These houses are not for local need but overspill from London( fact). Too many people have moved here to retire or to be by the sea but in doing so have moaned and distroyed Thanet as a whole. Ramsgate docks, hoover port, airport and latest Dreamland. All because of people moaning about there ( what they want) view on what Thanet should be,not what Thanet has and existing structure.if tdc and KCC worked with people of Thanet then these buissness would still be running and profitable. To much put on the arts and little spent on Thanet it’s self. Cliftonville has been distroyed by immigration fact, tdc has sold off / out Thanet for no reward. Untill we have a council that is fit for purpose, live in Thanet and a number of councilors of say 1 per village/ town, with really passion and understanding of Thanet and it’s people ( locals) then maybe we can save and turn around Thanet. 1000’s of houses are not the right way to turn Thanet around, NO JOBS, to start with and there won’t be jobs here in the future, that’s just lies, no industry it’s all gone and will not be back…. Farming is Thanet and that must stay. Take farming away and Thanet will become one giant estate, no jobs, no future no return, it’s are children that will have to live with the damage we have caused, so let’s do the right thing and say no to housing and rebuild this wonderful place for the future with common sense and a new council that cares and will be held responsible for there actions

    • What kind if farming are you refering to as I dont see many sheep, cows or pigs around the area, but if you are talking g about arable farming, I quite agree. Maybe in the future Thanet could become self sufficient.

  6. I think it’s unfair to say that TDC is “prepared to sacrifice” these greenfield sites as if Thanet was a one-off case. Given the government’s pressure on many if not most local councils, the latter have very little power to refuse applications.

    • Correct Marva! Just been reading that this Tory government is pushing ahead with new legislation to make objections to proposed new builds difficult, if not impossible, and to favour developers!

  7. Build homes for people that need them, WHERE they need them! At a price they can afford.
    That would mean more affordable houses and flats in London, more Council homes in London with genuinely affordable rents .

    But only a limited number of extra affordable or Council homes in Thanet to meet the needs of the younger people who are currently being ripped off in private flats.
    Round here, there will probably need to be some more flats/apartments dedicated to older residents who don’t need special kinds of medical care and are in reasonable health. But they want smaller homes with minimum maintenance costs , rather than the larger houses with 2 or 3 bedrooms that they own right now. This would help free-up the larger houses for the next generation.
    I don’t imagine that actually meeting Thanet’s housing needs would use up much extra land at all.(I won’t get into the controversy over using Manston for housing!)
    But all the recent proposals involve hundreds of larger “Executive-style” detacheds and semis in large estates built on farmland. This is the LAST kind of housing that Thanet (or even London) actually needs.
    Like I say, smaller affordable houses or flats ,and social housing, is what is needed. With an emphasis on catering to local young people(as well as all the young people who want to STAY in London as that is where the jobs and social life is found). And local older people (like me!!) who would love to downsize but find that they are only building big houses miles out of town! I want to escape from that sort of housing!!

  8. Excellent heartfelt video. Full of verifiable facts.If any of the planning committee councillors vote in favour of Gladman’s, make sure they don’t get re-elected in 2 years time.

  9. Brilliant film! How can this teenager see such obvious truths and our politicians can’t?

    • I rather suspect that this teenager was just reading a script, written by someone else.
      If you take off your rose coloured, soft focus glasses, you’ll realise one or two things;
      This government is in cahoots with the big housing development companies.
      It is government policy to build 300,000 new houses every year.
      Government policy dictates the number of houses each Local Authorty must build.
      A Local Plan decides just where (and where not) the government imposed houses shall be built – unfortunately, due to a combination of incompetence and misplaced ideology, our Local Plan is not fit for purpose (as residents of Birchington have found to their cost).
      And it is a fact that the population of the UK is going up.
      So, Christine: pretend you’re a politician. How would you address the problem of building on Greenfield sites?

  10. The building on farm land should stop!
    We cannot feed ourselves, so must import food,thus we are relying on other countries to supply us!!
    We all know the EU love that so they can hold us to ransom!!!
    Brown field sites should be looked at there are many around

  11. Great video and commentary. Just a shame everyone is waking up a year after the Local Plan was adopted, following public examination by Inspectors. Government target is 17000 more homes in Thanet (20% to cater for migration from London). No guarantees of infrastructure, health, water, sewage disposal etc. Now TDC is calling for more sites so that the Plan can be extended to 2040. Now is the time to say STOP -and for landowners to refuse to sell (but they are absentee so don’t care).

  12. In the 70’s or before, I believe the government department of agriculture put a ban on any development in Thanet that was on farm land (High grade) which was most of Thanet. Some of the old planning history cards have it noted and highlighted. Especially areas at Westwood.

  13. Well done, It needs to be made loud & clear that building over farmland is not acceptable. Building density is a thing & living in concrete jungles will do you no favours.

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