Film-maker Richard Macer explores the controversial decision by the government to free up the green belt to developers.
Browse content similar to Episode 1. Check below for episodes and series from the same categories and more!
I'm just trying anything I can, really.
You know, you have to appeal to the top, don't you?
To get yourself heard.
She might not be aware that South Oxfordshire District Council had
planned the largest strategic site in the entire of South Oxfordshire
on Green Belt. It makes no sense at all.
-For 30 or 40 years, we simply haven't built enough homes.
As a result, prices have risen so much that the average home now costs
almost eight times average earnings.
And that's been a disaster, for young people, in particular.
Our housing market is broken.
The Government has established it needs to build 300,000 homes a year
to meet demand.
As Prime Minister, I'm going to make it my mission to solve this problem,
and make the British dream a reality by reigniting home ownership in
-Britain once again.
So, to try and solve the problem,
the Government has taken a very controversial decision.
It allowed houses to be built on sacrosanct land -
the Green Belt around our major cities.
It's a juggernaut. It's a complete juggernaut.
-Save the Green Belt, save the Green Belt!
I mean, we've thought long and hard,
is there a silver bullet that would stop it in its tracks?
In this series, I'm investigating whether building huge new estates in
the countryside is a solution to the housing problem.
So I've come to the beautiful rural county of Oxfordshire...
..where house prices are on a par with London.
Everyone needs somewhere to live.
But is destroying our precious green belt a price worth paying for fixing
the housing crisis?
People should be happy where they live.
And I would hope,
I would imagine that the people who live here are very happy.
-This is BBC Radio 4.
Ambridge is about to become a concrete jungle,
at least that's what Susan told me.
THE ARCHERS THEME PLAYS
When a social problem reaches The Archers, you know it's big.
-'Do you know anything about this housing development?
-At Bridge Farm?
'Yeah, people were talking about it at the pub.
'It sounds like it's going to stretch from here to Penny Hassett.
'Well, to be honest, I don't really know...'
Oxfordshire, it's so beautiful in the spring,
driving down its country roads.
It makes me feel a bit like Inspector Morse.
Although I'm not driving an old-fashioned Jag.
I'm in a Renault Modus.
And I'm not investigating a murder in a vicarage.
My case is an alleged crime against a whole community.
The village of Culham.
This tiny Anglo-Saxon settlement is a charming blend of quite small
houses and great big mansions.
It's the kind of place people put their garden apples out so you can
take one, should you be ambling by.
HE CRUNCHES APPLE
It's kind of like you see it now, isn't it, really,
it's sort of sleepy and quiet.
Caroline moved to this charming county after many years living in the capital.
This doesn't have a shop. It doesn't have a village hall.
And yet, somehow, it's got much,
much more of a community atmosphere than I've ever experienced before.
'Separated from Caroline by not much more than a row of apple trees,
'I found the Wilson family, in the largest house in the village, Culham House.'
How do you keep an eye on them all with such a big garden?
They're walled in, which is quite good news...
They can't get out, which is the important thing!
Guy is a property developer who works in London.
We bought this house to live in this area to enjoy the countryside and
what comes with it. And that means nature, farming,
people saying hello to each other.
It's a different sort of way of life to one which is in a town.
A rural area like this is what England is beautiful for.
In a house apparently built by those who erected Blenheim Palace,
I found Edward Reily Collins.
You can hear the birds, you can hear very little traffic.
You have a sense of this rural idyll.
-What you think of the quality of the housing that is being in Oxfordshire?
-On the big estates?
-I'm told to keep my mouth shut by my family, because, er...
..you know, they say I...I might be putting my foot in it.
I think they're absolutely diabolical.
I wouldn't want to live there!
Guess what it's going to do? It's going to create tyre-kickers.
They've got nowhere to go and play.
So they'll go and smash up somebody's car or whatever.
You know, people need...
-What's a tyre-kicker?
-A tyre-kicker is somebody who is bored and they go
around kicking cars.
The tranquillity around Edward's elegant pile could soon be shattered.
After over half a century of being protected within the Oxford green belt,
tiny Culham is about to have a rude awakening.
The council has just announced plans to build a new small town right next
to Culham, super-sizing it from 170 houses to 3,500.
When complete, it will have a population of around 10,000.
That's a bit like injecting Culham with vast quantities of steroids.
Oxfordshire has its own unique housing crisis,
more severe than the rest of the country.
It's partly because the city of Oxford has not built enough homes in
recent years. So now,
vast acres of beautiful countryside are making way for estates like these,
as the quest begins to build 100,000 homes over the next 12 years.
How would you feel if a development such as this arrived on your doorstep?
Basically, every piece of wood or stone or paintwork or everything has
been put in by us. A very hot summer, 2003, we actually lived,
the whole family lived in a caravan in the field for six months.
So that was quite a squash, with a family of six, four children and us.
Andrew Rushton is a maths teacher, and his wife, Cathy,
is a school secretary.
There's a nice birthday party going on there...
-..in this room...
-They bought this house,
and totally rebuilt it into their dream home.
An isolated rural idyll.
The perfect place to raise their children.
But now, they stand to lose it all.
When the plans for the new development were made public two weeks ago,
they noticed something odd about the map.
It was their home - it was no longer there.
That whole orange area was seen as a developable area for housing.
And basically our house had just been ignored.
-As if our house doesn't exist.
But it is actually at the centre of this development.
We were told that all of the property owners or the landowners had been
talked to and knew about this.
But, erm, but nobody spoke to us.
So, from here to as far as you can see to the horizon there,
that would all be... This is all housing.
You do feel, you know, there's a real loss of our home, really.
It's also got lots of very happy memories,
because we've had our young kids here, and then they've grown up, and
erm, it's like leaving any family home, but this is a very,
very dramatic way to leave your family home, I think.
I found it quite shocking that the Rushtons had never been consulted about this.
But the law says anyone can submit a planning application on
your land. They don't have to ask your permission.
-Not just for our good, it's for the good of the village, too.
Oh, the good of the village?
You can be sure that not everyone is going to see it that way.
Within just a few days,
the news of the announcement had spread through the village.
-If I was dead, I could hardly let you know...
I got wind of a hastily organised meeting at the village primary school.
We hear all the time that we need houses, but we don't need houses here,
absolutely desecrating greenfield sites...
My feeling is that it's completely wrong,
because you've got an ancient village going back to Anglo-Saxon times in
Culham, and there you are plonking a town in the middle of these villages.
Squatting on children's chairs,
the adults have come together to plot their resistance.
Exactly, and we're all fighting the same thing.
But first of all, they need to choose a leader.
-Who wants to lead?
-Who wants to what?
Who wants to lead this group?
I will make every meeting I can,
but I cannot be relied upon to be there all the time.
I'm not going to be there all the time, either.
I have my own business and I'm doing a degree.
I mean, this is like, mega.
Everyone here was adamant the new housing development was a catastrophe
for Culham. But to me,
they all seemed quite reluctant to take on the role of leader.
-Would you be happy to lead?
You've put so much work into it already.
Yes, I'm willing to put work into it.
-But I'd quite like...
..a more authoritative voice, put it that way,
or someone who's been here longer.
They'll be terrified of you!
In the end, it was Caroline who was coronated.
Although she appeared quite conflicted about it.
In six months' time,
the planning authority will vote on the new development.
Even though the villagers don't get to vote,
it's not a fait accompli - they can try and influence the decision.
But I could see the idea of going to war did not sit easily with these
Bye, Caroline, thank you.
The local plan should not allocate land for development where there would
be significant harm caused to one or more priority habitats or species
located on or in the vicinity of the site.
Over the next few weeks,
Caroline will have to cram up on the immensely complicated world of
As you can see, Culham Green Belt has taken over my office.
She's going to have to take on planning officers and property developers
-at their own game.
-Pages and pages and pages and pages of documents,
every document is, like, massive.
As a manager of classical musicians,
it's not something she will have been prepared for.
Here was me just a sole trader running my own business and being a
part-time student and sort of trying to be a reasonable mum and look after
a garden, and suddenly I'm wading through sustainability appraisals
and Green Belt reviews.
I'm not pleased to be leading it.
I'm doing it because I care about Culham.
And somebody's got to, somebody's got to step up.
But that's what it seems to be about, is that...
..ordinary people are having to sort of step up and...
..kind of do extraordinary things, really.
Or try to do extraordinary things.
Mr Deputy Speaker, this is a complex challenge and there is no single magic bullet.
If we don't increase the supply of land for new homes,
more money will simply inflate prices and make matters worse.
To tackle an extraordinary crisis in housing,
the Government has taken the extraordinary step of overturning a law that
was designed to protect our rural landscape.
Up until now, the countryside around some of our major cities could not
be built upon, to prevent urban sprawl.
Now it can. But only in exceptional circumstances.
This is the man who thinks he's found those exceptional circumstances.
So, this is a map of South Oxfordshire,
the southern corner of Oxfordshire.
So, this top slice here, this dotted area is all Green Belt.
And then we've got the Culham site, this is in the Green Belt here.
A few weeks ago, not many people in Culham had heard of John Cotton.
But now the leader of South Oxfordshire District Council is as
popular in this part of rural England as Dutch elm disease.
There were two big things that make a difference,
for this site in particular.
One is this area of employment, which you can see is pretty big.
You know, there's 3,000 jobs or more on that site there.
And then there's a railway line here, with a railway station just there.
-And what does that mean?
-Well, from a sustainability point of view,
in terms of getting people moving about,
we hope that by having homes here right next to a railway station,
the likelihood that people who will choose to live here will either work
on this site or choose to commute by rail into Didcot
or up into Oxford, is high. Far higher than if you put them here or here or here or here.
Because there aren't railway station there.
You live in a village, don't you?
Yeah, I live in Burcot. So, I live here.
Slap bang between those two.
And how would you feel if there was a big 3,500 house development
next...coming to Burcot?
Erm, well... I would say that we've got 1,700 homes here
and 3,000 homes here,
and not actually that much further apart than Culham.
My wife is somewhat edgy about this.
She is not enamoured with the idea of it.
-What, with Culham?
-Why is that?
-She thinks that we should try and preserve the
Green Belt as much as we can.
And, erm, is sceptical that, erm,
that we need to build there.
But it's not a topic of conversation in the Cotton household.
It's best avoided!
It's come to something, isn't it,
when you've got to convince a whole district of your plans,
but then also your wife, too.
John rejects the notion that Culham's new small town would destroy the
village's iconic charm.
To prove the point, he's taking me to another vast estate,
not far from Culham - in Didcot.
It's one of his proudest achievements.
So, this is Great Western Park.
When it's finished it'll be about 3,500 houses, all told,
so it's quite a big development.
What is it you like about this development?
Why did you laugh?
It wasn't the question I was expecting.
What do I like about it...
-It's a fantastic view.
Reminds me quite a lot of my grandparents' house.
I'm not saying that was the motivation,
but my grandparents used to live opposite a bowling green in a very
dodgy part of Gorton in Manchester.
Erm... And the one nice bit of the area was the bowling green.
People should be happy where they live.
I would hope. I imagine that people who live here are very happy.
Rather like Dr Who,
I felt as if I had journeyed through time to the year 2030 and I was
driving through the future Culham new development.
Here, 10,000 people would live in perfect harmony.
And up to 40% of them in affordable housing.
Who could argue against that?
John Cotton must sell his version of Utopia to the Culham residents.
CHURCH ORGAN PLAYS
John Cotton had agreed to explain his plans to the village, but the
only place big enough to get everyone in is the church.
The last time it was this busy was Christmas Eve.
I was only allowed to record the audio of the meeting,
so I went into the graveyard.
Culham has a rich history, which the villagers are rightly proud of, but
it has not been immune from change.
I've done some digging around and discovered that Culham, actually,
shrank in medieval times.
It might have been because of the result of the Black Death
or a series of poor harvests, or even the failure to embrace
modern farming techniques.
No-one knows for sure.
Clearly, a huge amount of emotion involved in it.
It is a really tricky thing if someone is suggesting building so
many houses next door to you, I get that.
But equally, as I talked to the audience about tonight, we've got to
put these houses somewhere.
It seemed the prayer at the start of the meeting had not had the desired effect.
The matter will be decided when the planning authority
vote in four months' time.
I now call the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Right honourable Philip Hammond.
Successive governments over decades have failed to build enough homes to
deliver the home-owning dream that this country has always been proud of,
or indeed to meet the needs of those who rent.
I was wondering who will benefit from the new development at Culham,
should it get built?
And is the government's solution of building these vast new estates going
to bring the prices down and make them affordable to the people who need them?
-You can't be tired again.
-Mark and Rebecca, newlyweds with a new baby,
have had to live with her parents for the last three years,
just a mile outside Culham.
-Er... It's not too bad, is it?
-It's all right.
-It has been all right.
I mean, there's obviously challenges, you know,
-for Mark, I think.
-More for me than for you.
-Yeah. I mean, it's not a natural...
-I'm living with my in-laws.
-And it's not a natural situation, is it? To live with your in-laws for so long.
But I suppose renting is not really the cheaper option, is it?
No. No. Like I said, renting around here is the same.
You would be paying the same amount per month as you would a mortgage.
So you would never be able to afford to save.
Like other new estates in Oxfordshire,
the one down the road is likely to have family homes on sale,
for £300,000- £600,000.
But how affordable will it be for this nurse and trainee paramedic?
How big a deposit does one need these days to be able to get on the
Er... A lot. A lot!
I mean, at least, I would say, probably £30,000.
At least. But actually, I think, for us, it is not so much the deposit,
it is what we would be offered mortgage wise.
Because we don't, you know, collectively, we won't earn a great deal.
We both work for the NHS.
I don't think we'll be offered a massive mortgage.
How much would you be looking to spend?
Realistically, I don't think any more than £250,000.
But, again, being realistic around the area,
there's not a great deal for £250,000.
So, erm, yeah, I mean...
It's not good.
-KNOCK ON DOOR
-Hi. Would you like to come in?
'Just down the road from Rebecca and Mark,
'I paid a visit to a single mum who may no longer be able to afford to live
-'in the area she grew up in.'
-Our cosy lounge.
'Sarah did once own a house,
'but has ended up renting after her marriage came to an end.
'She'd like to get back on the property ladder.
'But for now, she may not even be able to stay where she is.'
Further to your application for housing benefit,
I must inform you that with regard to you informing us of your change
of circumstances, that your housing benefit has now been suspended.
And the reason for that is because you've got a full-time job?
Yes. Because I've gone full-time at my work.
'Going full-time means Sarah now earns too much to get help to pay her rent.'
Let me ask you, how much is your rent here?
£1,325 a month.
And how much is your income, if you don't mind me asking?
£200 short of that.
'The shortfall in Sarah's wages mean she may need to move out when her
'tenancy agreement is up in a few months' time.'
So, you think you might have to move?
Which is heartbreaking.
-You like living here?
Well, it's our home.
I think you just want to do the best for your children.
-Are you OK?
There are houses being built all around Oxfordshire.
Why are they so expensive?
They need to look at the bigger picture of who actually needs these houses.
First-time buyers, young couples.
It certainly isn't a solution to my situation.
Solving the housing challenge takes more than money,
it takes planning reform.
-We send a message to the next generation...
You would think the new houses at Culham would benefit young couples
like Rebecca and Mark and single mums like Sarah.
But clearly, they are unlikely to.
Instead, the plight of these three people illustrate how deep-rooted
-the housing crisis is.
-..not hide from it.
To seize the opportunities ahead of us and together,
to build a Britain fit for the future.
Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen!
This is Abingdon Dog Training pet display team.
It is the summer in Culham.
And three months before the vote for the huge new development.
And about turn!
Most people are here to enjoy the tombola.
And the dog show.
John, thank you for coming. Congratulations on being re-elected.
But Caroline and her campaigners are seeing it as a lobbying opportunity.
That's got a rare orchid growing in the woods.
They have done some research and believe the roads will
never be able to cope with all the new traffic on the estate.
And they are worried it could also destroy a lot of natural habitats,
including a very rare heronry.
That is the SSSI, isn't it?
-Just sort of, just on the edge of this wood here.
But behind this, the smiling faces,
a sinister development was starting to unfold in the village.
The new estate was still only a glint in John Cotton's eye.
But people's lives were starting to be affected by it in a dramatic way.
-Have you been spreading rumours about a housing development here?
Why not? It is true, isn't it?
Telling a village all about our business, it is so irresponsible.
In a field, right next door to where the Rushtons live,
is a woman who runs a stables.
-If there is going to be a new housing estate in Ambridge,
it is everybody's business!
What is your horsey called, Isabella?
Isabella, can you come around here and put your hat on?
Eight years ago,
Mary started her business here with nothing and has since built it up
into a thriving livery with 14 horses.
Right, then, are you going to use the reins for a bit,
and then we will do that? OK.
She has installed her own stables, fences,
and recently built a menage, too.
Go on, give him a kick. That's it. Good girl.
This was just an empty field when I came up here.
So I started from nothing, basically.
-SHE CLICKS HER TONGUE
So, everything is mine. All the stables, the shelters, the menage.
SHE CLEARS THROAT
Mary's stables sit in the middle of the 300-acre site of the future estate.
And she rents the land from one of the main landowners.
The landlord came to me saying that they were looking to build on this
and that I would have to either go or he had to pay me out, basically.
Or relocate, should I say.
This wasn't the only visit Mary had from her landlord around this time.
On another occasion, when she was with her parish councillor,
he turned up again at her stables.
But this time, the mood was different and the tone was less friendly.
He was basically saying I cannot have my business there.
He said that
no, I can't have my business, but it is not him doing it,
it is the planners.
And he wanted Mary to move...
Er, lock, st... Well, not even lock, stock and barrel.
-He wanted you to move...
..off the yard and he would offer that and he said that in front of
me, that he was offering Mary's yard to somebody else.
I've got it in writing that all my buildings and my fences would be
bulldozed as of a date of leaving them.
That is my business, so I should be able to just pick it up and move it.
So I can carry on. But it is not that situation.
So, erm, yeah...
It is taking up a lot of my time and energy.
And I just feel like I am up against a bully that is...
..is making my life a misery.
And actually, my other half has turned around and said to me
I am just not myself... Sorry. ..the last few months...
-..which is awful!
-Such a good girl.
Which is horrible because...
They are trying their best to push me out, basically.
It is not good.
I found Mary's account of what unfolded that afternoon
Several months even before the villagers have had a chance to argue
their case, there was a sense that things they hold dear, homes and livelihoods,
were being threatened.
Just a few yards from Mary's stables, the Rushtons had also had a visit.
This time, from a property developer.
A man with an interest in building Culham's new town,
should it get approved.
They sort of assured us that our house would remain...
-..which was big of them.
-It was a bit of a relief because we were
worried in March that they were going to, er...
just bulldoze our whole area and build houses.
So they reassured us that if we wish to stay here,
er, we were welcome to do so.
So this is what they said they would do for us.
Does it provide you with any sense of comfort?
Well, I think it's a joke!
It could be a cartoon.
And I think we all know it could be a cartoon.
It is going to be an absolute nightmare to live in this house.
It is unimaginable.
I mean, we are in the middle of just fields at the moment.
To have that quantity of housing and people and cars
is just unthinkable, really.
I just think this is a huge force that we are up against.
I mean, we have thought long and hard,
and not just the campaign group, but us, just as a couple,
is there a silver bullet that would stop it in its tracks?
Even though the plans were a long way from being approved,
there was a sense that some people were already acting as if it was a
I contacted the developers,
but they weren't interested in taking part in the documentary.
For 20 minutes, I listened to this conversation that Mary would have to
get rid of all her stables, would have to get rid of her...
The following week, I was back in the primary school.
Top of the agenda for the parish council
was the visit of the landowner to Mary's stables.
So he turned up without any sort of formal request.
All the key people from the campaign were present.
But also, a legal representative for Mary's landowner.
A man called John Taylor.
I am quite astonished that landowners are already giving people
notice on the land. It hasn't even gone through the local plan yet.
Yeah. And several months ago, he came to me and he said that I'm going to have
to move due to the planning.
I think I ought to declare an interest here
and say that this matter is in the hands of solicitors.
THEY ALL TALK AT ONCE
I do know the legal situation here.
I'm not going any further on this because there is another side to
this story, as to what has gone on in conversations.
Did it take you by surprise, her accusations?
-Does that sound like the man that you know?
No. And I have known the family for...forever.
There are two brothers. This one is a fairly mild-mannered individual.
The atmosphere in the classroom that evening had been very tense.
In an odd way, Culham had become the centre of a kind of gold rush.
I had heard an acre of farmland around here would normally cost about £10,000.
But as soon as that same acre becomes earmarked for development,
the value can shoot up to about £1 million an acre.
The fields around those tiny hamlets and down by the stables and
underneath the floorboards of the Rushtons' house,
they were filled with gold.
-We have got something these people are crying out for.
The two main landowners who own most of the 300,000 acres where the new
development would be built were not willing to take part in the
documentary. But John Taylor,
the legal representative from the school meeting,
was happy to do an interview.
He is not just legal adviser to one of the landowners,
he is married to the other.
These are replicas of the terracotta army,
that have been buried by one of the Chinese Emperors...
..who originally had provision that on his death,
the whole of his army was to be slaughtered and buried with him
so that he could take them into the next world.
I wanted to ask John how he justified building on the green belt.
Unless we are prepared to expand into
what are otherwise being seen as sacrosanct areas,
which were placed...were laid out at a time when the population was
probably 25 of 30% fewer than it is now...
..how else are you going to house those people who aspire to have their own home?
Almost every case,
the people who are against the housing build have the huge advantage of
living in a house. But I think that is the nature of the Britons.
So, it's human nature, really?
I am afraid it is. And again, you might say, is it only human nature?
If you look at the animal kingdom,
you get groups of chimpanzees coming across another troupe,
straying into their territory, they get seriously upset.
We think of it in terms of being perhaps only a human condition.
I am afraid it isn't. I think we like to protect our own.
I think that is probably what it is.
To criticise people for being Nimbys is fairly easy, I guess,
when your wife owns so much of the land around Culham.
But talking to John made me aware that there is something in this issue
that goes to the heart of the human psyche.
I get the sense that the villagers feel at risk of being overwhelmed by
10,000 new neighbours.
Rather like the common grey squirrel monopolising its rarer,
In the four months since the announcement of the development,
one family in Culham had seen their home erased from a map.
And another person had apparently had her business threatened.
Now, more than ever, was the time to fight back.
And how better than sending some strongly worded letters to the council as
part of a public consultation process?
Edward has travelled down to John Cotton's vision of Shangri-La,
Great Western Park, in Didcot, and he has taken some photographs.
All I can say, if the council consider innovative
is what they built up there,
and here's a picture I took the other day,
it is absolutely horrendous.
Soul-less, no character, it is a disgrace
to this beautiful rural county.
Guy and Sophie Wilson are both submitting objections, too.
-Let me ask you a really contentious question.
How would you feel if your children
-ended up as adults in Great Western Park?
-Erm, how would I feel?
Erm, if they're happy and they have got jobs and they've got friends
and...are able to communicate, and...
..then I would be proud of them. And support them.
I think ultimately, we're country people.
Yeah. But if they owned their own houses, though?
As well... I'd be proud of that...
Buying their own houses is hard these days.
It's now a waiting game for the villagers.
They are hoping so many of them object to the plans it will affect
the vote in one month's time.
THE ARCHERS THEME PLAYS
-We're very pleased to be offering a small number
affordable houses for the village.
Now, now, then, PLEASE hear Mr Elliott out.
RADIO DIALOGUE FADES OUT
During my time in Culham,
I'd met a single mum who was in a Catch-22 situation,
and facing the prospect of losing her home.
This afternoon, I was going to meet up with Sarah
at the local Citizens Advice Bureau.
So, you've been looking at the housing situation, I understand,
and you've been in contact with the council's housing office?
-And at the moment they regard you as adequately housed.
Because Sarah had recently returned to full-time work,
she'd had her housing benefit cut, and now, unable to afford the rent,
she was having to look into social housing.
-Erm, you're on the housing registry, I understand.
But unfortunately, given the shortage of social housing in the area,
and the demand for it,
there's no guarantee you'll be able to bid for a suitable property...
-..in the near future.
I'm very sorry.
-It's the situation.
Perversely, Sarah might need to default on her rent,
effectively making her and her family homeless,
before she is eligible for social housing.
There's got to be a way round, to not having to get to that situation.
-There must be...
-I have to make a decision.
I've got to sign this or do I...?
Am I voluntarily being awkward and saying, "Well, I'm not going to get out."
What...? So, I'm automatically going into arrears.
Well, speak to your landlord and explain your situation.
-Is there anything else today?
-No, I think I've just got to...
I mean, I do sympathise with your situation, but it is difficult for you.
I just feel there is no answer at the moment.
I don't feel like I'm any further forward.
You are literally in no man's land. You're stuck.
Bring on the debt and the worry, basically.
Ironically, the simple solution for Sarah would be to return to her
part-time work and to go back to claiming benefits.
But that's not something she wants to do.
But what her situation made me aware of was that the battle raging over
Culham was really just a symptom of a much larger malaise at the heart
of the housing crisis.
-How are you?
-Thank you for joining us.
-Very well, thank you.
There are just two weeks to go before the vote on the Culham new town development.
The results of the public consultation are out,
and there is a bombshell in store for the villagers of Culham.
So, you can see Culham, objections, supports,
in terms of the tone of comments, are pretty even.
'According to John's the results, slightly more people
'from the surrounding area SUPPORT the development
'than are against it.'
Are you surprised by that?
I mean, I'm kind of surprised from the way, you know,
the people of Culham have been talking.
-Maybe I'm not talking to the right people.
-Erm, I'm surprised and not surprised.
I mean, there are a lot of good reasons for including Culham,
but there's one big reason to not do it, and it's that that is in a Green Belt.
It's not something we would want to do if we had alternatives.
I mean, the key thing is, this isn't a referendum.
We're not choosing by which site most people like and which one most
people don't like. We're choosing on the basis of planning reasons.
Saying why, for planning reasons, you wouldn't want to choose that site.
Two, four, six, eight. SODC's in a state!
A bridge is what it wants to buy, the countryside can just go die.
-Two, four, six, eight...
Caroline and Cathy have arranged for a final protest on the village green.
Hi, everyone. Just want to say a big thank you for everyone for turning
out today to support us.
This is such a massive,
such a massive project, and we're working...
-We are working really, really hard to try and save Culham.
We have got green tea and scones...
I put John Cotton's findings to Caroline.
Those figures are manipulated. That's absolutely untrue.
Anything that they dream up like that is just
Thanks for that.
Caroline is adamant that John Cotton's results are fixed.
And I must admit that, today,
the whole village does seem united in opposition.
But I was intrigued to find out if there were any dissenters in the ranks
and whether they would be brave enough to speak to me.
I was going to do my own survey of the village.'
-What's your name?
What's your feeling about this new development?
Well, I'm for it, actually.
I think with the progress that's going on, we do need it, you know,
because there's young couples there's a lot of people that are home
starters and whatever, you know what I mean?
They need to get onto that...that circle, sort of thing, you know?
The Green Belt is completely choking the housing market and causes all
the house prices to go up, making it really,
really difficult for anyone to get into the property market.
And I think that's really unfair.
I feel like there are probably people involved in it who are more
concerned about their house price is not going down...erm...
..than they are about the environment or about Culham as a historic place.
And are you happy?
Have you thought this through, about speaking out in this documentary?
Have you thought about the ramifications, personally, in the village?
Yeah. I'm not scared.
THE ARCHERS THEME PLAYS
-Me and Ed have lived and worked here all our lives.
There isn't even a sliver of a chance of us having our own home in the village.
The doorknocking had made me aware that it's those who don't want the
houses who have the loudest voices.
-These affordable houses would be a real chance to give our children a
decent life here in Ambridge.
Perhaps the fictional village of Ambridge is the exception to the rule.
Hello. Good to see you!
But I felt, across the country,
those who need new homes do not bear placards or chant slogans.
Maybe they are the silent majority.
-They're hypocrites! Talking about having sympathy for young people
wanting to make a start in life and then shooting us down in the next breath!
Personally, I don't care as long as my family has a home of our own!
What I was learning making this film is that not everything is as it first appears.
I was heading back to the family whose home had been erased from the map.
Do you want some milk?
The Rushtons have always been at the very heart
of the Culham protest movement. Five months ago,
they were at the very first meeting
of activists that took place at the primary school.
But, in all that time,
no-one had explained why their house had been overlooked.
At last, John Cotton has agreed to meet with them.
-Hello. Good to see you.
Well, please have a seat.
-Where do you want me?
-Mr Cotton, do you prefer, or John?
-Take a seat, please.
When you were in the church, we met you afterwards and you said, you know,
I am sorry, this shouldn't have... And you did promise...
-An unfortunate set of circumstances.
-You did promise, John, you did say
that you'd give us individual feedback within weeks,
"An e-mail, would that suffice?" And there wasn't anything.
I'm pretty sure I sent you something, but anyway.
-No, you didn't.
we thought our house was going to be demolished and I actually went
through some grief at that stage,
because I felt that there is no sign of our house here, none at all.
What more would you want us to have done, then,
because we're at a very early stage, so this kind of detail is...
I think what more you could have done is shown an awful lot more respect to us.
We have had no respect paid to us whatsoever.
As it is, you know,
you became your own worst enemy because we have become rather angry
about all of this, and we wouldn't have been so angry if we were informed at a
much earlier stage. We would have been much more reasonable.
Heard and understood.
That's what's they showed us as the scheme.
So this is our land.
Like I said, a trapezium type shape.
-We think this is a laugh.
How would to you imagine that would be like to live in?
Erm... Hard to picture, really.
I mean, these things are always a matter of negotiation, aren't they?
You know, I don't know what the landowner has been offered for this land,
but I would imagine... How many acres are we saying this is?
Well, there's two landowners, so that's 300 acres.
300 acres, so if you said £1 million an acre,
which is not unusual,
I would have thought that is what this will demand somewhere there,
or thereabouts. That's £300 million.
You can see now why this big business makes these things happen as they do.
There's huge amounts of money involved.
So, if it goes ahead in that way, I'd be surprised, very surprised.
-I would have thought the developers will make you an offer you can't resist.
Would be my expectation.
But, who knows?
I don't think it's as negative as you see it.
I think you're in a more powerful position than you might realise.
After John Cotton had left,
Andrew and Cathy told me they had been made an offer for their land,
but they wouldn't tell me how much, and they said they'd rejected it.
I can see that the Rushtons would prefer it if the development just
went away, but I also sensed that they were quite conflicted about it.
What would you do if someone offered you several times the value of your home?
-I take it you're here for the meeting, ladies?
Of course. As concerned locals, it's our duty.
It's the day of the vote for the new Culham development.
I probably come across as much more feisty than I really am.
I take things very personally, I'm very sensitive...
..and, erm, I cry a lot.
I get very weepy about various things and I love my family and I
love my house and I love...
I love rural life.
And I've really, really grown to love this village and I don't want
to see it ruined.
I don't want to find that it's turned into a big town.
-You're speaking as though they're already approved, Justin,
-which clearly they are not.
-Not yet, Linda.
-Save the Green Belt! Save the Green Belt!
-Save Culham Green Belt!
-Save the Green Belt!
Save the Green Belt! It's not a joke.
It's not a joke, it's deadly serious.
I'm smiling, Caroline.
That's the trouble. He's smirking most of the time.
This vote signals the end of my time here.
Thank you and welcome, everybody. Now, in view of the...
Caroline will have just three minutes to persuade the planning authority
to vote against the plans.
If I lived in Culham,
I'm not sure I'd like the idea of a whole new town arriving on my
doorstep. It's a huge decision to build on the Green Belt and,
once it's gone, it's gone forever.
Can I ask Caroline Baird to come to the table?
But, maybe, sacrificing a village here or there is a price worth paying,
if it gets to the root of the problem.
I ask you to vote against this and take Culham out of the local plan
tonight. Leave Green Belt boundaries as they are.
-Thank you for listening.
-Thank you very much.
But if the Culham new town finally gets built,
will the people who most need those homes be able to afford them?
To even start solving the housing crisis,
the answer to that question has to be yes.
I think we can now go straight to a vote.
All those in favour...
So that is carried.
Thank you, everyone, especially the public.
And the ones who are sitting on the wooden chairs,
my heart goes out to you.
BUZZ OF CHATTER
Watch out for Mr Mole.
-Oh, sorry to call round so late.
But the PC have voted and I wanted to let you know in person.
-They approved the proposed housing development.
I thought you'd be pleased. Your speech changed a few minds,
-or at least gave them something to think about.
On next week's episode, I'm on the other side of the fence,
with the architects and the developers who are changing the face of rural Britain.
We provide something will work for the next 100, 200, 300 years.
With the people trying to create a sense of community from scratch.
I'm really excited over my postbox!
And, with the pioneers making these new mini utopias their home.
This is a nosy person's paradise!
But like I said, I like to know what they're doing anyway,
so it doesn't matter!
There's no soul to the place, is there?
It's just... It's just a roof over our head.
Nobody has a right to a view.
Things change and we have to get used to that in Britain.
How do you mend the broken housing market? The country needs to build 300,000 homes a year just to keep up with demand. In this series, film-maker Richard Macer heads to one of our most expensive counties, Oxfordshire, where vast areas of once-protected countryside are being turned into housing. With remarkable access to councillors, developers, architects and campaigners, and filmed over nine months, Richard asks if building these vast estates is a solution to the crisis.
In episode one, Macer explores the controversial decision by the government to free up the green belt to developers. In the tiny charming village of Culham, he finds residents furious at plans to supersize their village to three and a half thousand new homes. But just a few weeks after the announcement of the new estate, sinister developments start to grip the small community. Has little Culham become the centre of a gold rush?
In the second film, Macer is on the other side of the fence, with the architects and the developers who are changing the face of rural Britain, with the people trying to create a sense of community from scratch, and the pioneers making these new mini-Utopias their homes. As one architect of a new development next to the village of Long Hanborough puts it: 'No one has a right to a view -unfortunately. Things change, and we have to get used to that in Britain.'.