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Hall Farm: Nature generator or cash cow?

"Summers marked by more extreme heat, droughts and wildfires are the new reality in Britain as the climate crisis grips the planet, experts have warned.”

“We’re locked in,” says Hannah Cloke, a professor of hydrology at the University of Reading. “It won’t get better; we’re at that point now where we have warmed the planet.

“There’s nothing we can do about that at this point – our choice is how bad that gets,” she adds. “This is the reality now.” https://www.independent.co.uk/climate-change/news/uk-brace-drought-heatwave-wildfires-b2144104.html


So why is the University of Reading prepared to make the matter worse, not better? Visit the university campus and you will be greeted by banners proclaiming how committed they are to “sustainability” and protecting the environment. From buses to football shirts Reading is becoming adorned with these stripes:



The stripes are a simple idea that show graphically how the planet is warming up. Each stripe represents the average temperature for a single year, relative to the average temperature over the period as a whole. Shades of blue indicate cooler-than-average years, while red shows years that were hotter than average. The stark band of deep red stripes on the right-hand side of the graphic show the rapid heating of our planet in recent decades.


Created by Professor Ed Hawkins at the University of Reading: “We urge everyone who cares about the future of our planet to download and share their own stripes today For the really committed there are also T shirts, ties, facemasks, hoodies, leggings, posters, rugs, mugs and jewellery.


Is it just me or could we do more? Is buying a climate stripe T shirt really going to save the planet? Not that the work of Professors Ed Hawkins and Hannah Cloke is not important, I fully appreciate the importance of raising awareness. But do we not also need to actually DO SOMETHING about the looming climate crisis?


"Wildlife lies shattered and fragmented. The last 50 years have seen precipitous declines across all species, from wildflowers and insects to mammals and birds. We all need to take responsibility to restore nature.. WildEast wants our region to become one of the world’s biggest and best nature reserves, enriching our lives, and restoring our wild hearts".


A fantastic project is taking place in East Anglia which is creating a “Wild East” based on the idea of "Regenerative Farming". This Podcast from last Sundays broadcast of "On Your Farm" is well worth a listen to in full, but the essence of the project is that people can pledge to rewilding areas based on an aim of 20% of land committed to a rewilding and this is being recorded on the “Map Of Dreams”. This map is more than just a graphic:


"Here at WildEast, we want to return 250,000 hectares of land to nature and radically change how it is seen. We must slow, stop and reverse the alarming ecological declines that are happening on our watch. This is a mission statement that urgently needs your support (and that bit at the end of your garden)".


This map shows how land pledged to the project connects up the very small to the large, the commercial to the private, the enthusiast to the professional. Corridors of bio-diversity that allow our wildlife to regenerate and recover. WHAT A BRILLIANT IDEA! Why can't we do this in Berkshire? Why are Reading University not leading the way with a commitment to rewild Hall Farm?


When SOLVE Hall Farm met representatives from the University of Reading to discuss our alternative ideas for Hall Farm they claimed farming was not viable. They then went on to share an idea for an “Eco-Valley” they claim will be the biggest green space in Berkshire outside Windsor Great Park. Is this any more than just a green washing label that sounds good but amounts to nothing? I cannot find anything online. More to the point, the so called “Eco-Valley” has to be “paid” for by 4,500 houses at Hall Farm! (That much they were certain of!)


But the Wild East project is a REALITY. You can look at it, visit it, and commit to it. You can read about their target of a million bees which has already been exceeded. They have people pledging as little as 0.5 Metre square patches of their garden, because it all adds up and it all matters! No one is being told they have to have a vast housing estate dumped on their countryside to pay for it, and no one is being told they have to live next to a building site for the next 50 years. Just people being asked if they can contribute a little pledge of land, to which the response is overwhelmingly positive. Not only that, but read this:


"WildEast believes education is absolutely central to nature conservation. Just as we wish to make space for nature on land, we are passionate about making space for nature in the hearts of our future generations or we surely run the risk of our efforts being in vain".


These are not people paid to teach, but they realise how important education about the environment is! Seems to me Reading University are missing something here.


People across the world are threatened by wild fires, floods, droughts and food shortages. Bio diversity at Hall Farm is currently good, and it could be so much better, yet the University of Reading aim to make it worse! MUCH WORSE! There is no way they can allow Hall Farm to be built over with 4,500 houses without losing hedgerows, flood plain, trees and fields that have been there for hundreds of years.


They know this, and admitted as much at our meeting, but this habitat loss is deemed by them to be an acceptable price for the environment (Our environment, note, not theirs!) to pay. WRONG! It is both unnecessary and unwanted. The example from East Anglia is of nature recovery. Abundance within farming is more than just possible, it is highly desirable, and the University of Reading know this.


Not to put too fine a point on it, we need more than fancy graphics or quotes in the papers if we are going to beat the climate emergency. Hall Farm is an oasis of green trapped between two major conurbations, but it is threatened by plans to concrete it over. Instead of joining up the bio recovery areas, giving nature a chance to restore itself, they want to join up the bio destruction areas, restoring the University finances but destroying another precious green lung in the process.


To return to the problem of our over heating planet, trees will absorb CO2 and create shade, as well as encouraging biodiversity. Their roots prevent soil erosion and hold together the flood plain, as well as slowing down floods. Houses on the other hand will prevent water being absorbed by the land and instead absorb heat, storing it up during the day and releasing it at night, adding to our over heating. Houses are important, I get that. I am often asked "Where should we build the houses we need, if not at Hall Farm?" My answer is invariably "next to the public transport infrastructure, because pollution from our ever increasing road traffic is another huge contributor to global warming, and we need to encourage people out of their cars".


We need to return to the University and make our case for Hall Farm as the basis for a nature recovery generator again, because clearly they are not listening. We also need to continue putting pressure on Wokingham Borough Council, who in turn need to continue to put pressure on our National Government, regarding the reality of our housing "need".


As we asked the Executive at their last meeting; "How many houses are needed for a viable Local Plan, and how long a period does it need to realistically cover?"



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