This blog is actually about the shenanigans of an otherwise non-descript little Council (step forward Faringdon Town Council!) which is clearly intent on winning some kind of award for Sustained Environmental Vandalism!

But first, a bit of background on planning in general. Back in September, I gave a talk to the annual Joint Planning Law Conference in Oxford, the topic for which was “Planning for the Climate Emergency”.

I hope this doesn’t sound patronising, but I often end up feeling sorry for (most) planners these days. The profession finds itself on the frontline of having to reconcile the irreconcilable: having to protect the natural environment (and contribute to ambitious decarbonisation targets) whilst squeezing as much conventionally-determined economic growth out of the system as possible. As it has been for the last 50 years,  the need for economic growth trumps all.

And nowhere is this imperative felt more painfully than in the world of climate change. This backsliding, brazenly dishonest Government would still have us believe that it is committed to various climate targets, particularly “Net Zero by 2050”. Trust me: it isn’t. We’re on track to miss all those targets, primarily because the government is doing as little as it can get away with – as is currently being laid bare by Channel 4’s brilliant series, “The Great Climate Fight”.

In September, the Prime Minister doubled down on his own particular brand of “green scepticism” by announcing a number of decisions rolling back on the Government’s Net Zero agenda. With an extraordinary degree of cruelty, these decisions included an indefinite delay to measures (first introduced by David Cameron 12 years ago!) mandating landlords to improve energy efficiency for all rented properties by 2025. I describe this as “cruel” simply because 25% of private renters already live in fuel poverty, and many already pay far more for their gas and electricity than homeowners. And can do nothing about it themselves.

Local Authorities and their Planning Departments have to cope with this wilful political dishonesty. There’s a regular “thread” of commentaries in the Planner highlighting just how ill-prepared many Local Authorities are in terms of addressing today’s climate emergency. Back in September, Celia Davis and Neil Best highlighted the fact that “progress varies wildly across Authorities, with a growing gap between ‘frontrunners” and the majority lagging behind. Carbon accounting is rare (just 13% of Local Authorities can quantify the emissions their local plan would create). All is exacerbated by Planning’s skills and capacity crisis.”

From time to time, I find myself following local planning stories that reveal these problems, laying bare the “fetishisation” of economic growth at all costs, alongside those capacity problems. This means that many planning departments can barely begin to understand what genuinely sustainable, low-carbon economic development might look like in practice.

This is where we need to drop in on Faringdon Town Council! OMG! What a bunch of patronising, incompetent, insensitive Neanderthals we’re dealing with here.

There is no time to plumb the depths of this Council’s turpitude over the last ten years as it tried every which way to destroy an extraordinary Site of Special Scientific Interest (Wicklesham Quarry) that falls within its boundary, using the law to obfuscate its own obligations and to obscure the “closeness” of its relationship with the landowner involved – who has of course been promising unlimited economic growth if Wicklesham Quarry could have been included in the District Council’s Local Plan for development of one kind or another.

Quick update: in June this year, a new application was submitted for a vast industrial infrastructure project outside this small market town, on a site in open countryside which is a Site of Special Scientific Interest, a Conservation Target Area, with Priority Habitat and a European Protected Species: seven high-rise blocks, two multi-storey car packs, a data centre and so on – all in all, over 42,000 m2 of floor space. Astonishingly, a decision was made by the Vale of White Horse District Council that no Environmental Impact Assessment was necessary!

No one in Faringdon was notified of the application, and there was no pre-application consultation with the local community – as is required.

When Faringdon’s citizens found out about this, objections began to pour into the consultation. Unfortunately, those objections are now “lost in the works” as the matter is now to be considered by Oxfordshire County Council, which means the consultation process has to start all over again, with campaigners diligently having to leaflet door-to-door around the whole town. Those campaigners have been at it for the last 10 years – and it’s utterly exhausting.

So if you want to find out more, do please email: If you happen to be available for a little bit of blanket leafleting in Faringdon itself, I know that the organisers would be delighted to hear from you!

Above all, please take a few seconds to sign the petition to “Protect Wicklesham Quarry from Development” – via