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.
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.
“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.
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.
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.