William Everard: The forgotten man of the English Revolution

“Propriety and single interest divides the people of a land and the whole world into parties and is the cause of all wars and bloodshed and contention everywhere” (Gerrard Winstanley, William Everard and thirteen others 1649.) 

The collapse of central authority during the English Civil Wars saw the rise of radical thinkers and reformers who wanted to refashion the state. The Levellers, Diggers, Ranters, Fifth Monarchists, and Muggletonians were all perceived as a threat to what was left of the establishment.

The most dangerous, of course, were the Levellers, with mass support in the army and among the radical pamphleteers. Another group that has resonated down the centuries are the Diggers, and in particular their leader Gerard Winstanley. The historian Christopher Hill depicted the Diggers in the 1960s as a proto-communist movement crushed by a capitalist state. There is even an annual Diggers Festival held in Wigan. Alongside Winstanley, but almost forgotten, as instigator and leader of the Diggers was William Everard (1602 – c1651).

Everard is a central character in The Last Roundhead series, but there is little known about the man himself. Indeed, he is sometimes confused with another agitator called Robert Everard (both in contemporary sources and by historians) and Christopher Hill even proposed that the two were one and the same. 

Everard was baptised in St Giles parish Reading on May 9th 1602 to a poor Berkshire family. Whilst the family were not wealthy enough to be assessed for parliamentary subsidies (and thus exist in the historical record) Everard next appears on 14th August 1616 in the Apprentice Binding Book of the Merchant Taylors Company as a new apprentice to one Robert Miller. He is recorded as: William Everad, son of William Everad, yeoman of Reading, Berkshire.

It is possible that it was in the Taylors that Everard first made the acquaintance of Gerrard Winstanley, who was a freeman of the guild at the same time, but Everard did not complete his training and disappears from the historical record during the 1620s and 30s.

As England stumbled towards civil war in the Spring of 1642, Everard took the Protestation Oath in St Lawrence, Reading: “to live and die for the true Protestant religion, the liberties and rights of subjects and the privilege of Parliaments.” The oath was an anti-catholic covenant whipped up by press hysteria reporting dubious atrocities in Ireland.

With the outbreak of the Civil War in the Summer of 1642, Everard joined Samuel Luke’s scouts and was active throughout Berkshire in 1643, but he then again disappears from the record. Some have speculated that he was captured and imprisoned between 1643-46 but nothing concrete is known. (I do provide an explanation for this in my series, but it’s a few books down the line – and entirely fictional.)

By 1647, Everard was in the New Model Army and beginning his career as an agitator. In May, he signed a petition voicing the army’s grievances; he was then implicated in a plot to kill the King and imprisoned in Windsor. In December 1647, whilst awaiting his court martial, he petitioned Thomas Fairfax – the commander of the New Model Army – against his unfair imprisonment. It was to no avail, and he was cashiered out of the army in January 1648.

After his discharge from the army, Everard seems to have suffered an emotional and spiritual crisis. He visited the Baptist Samuel Fisher at some point in 1648 in Kent. Fisher, writing in 1653, claimed Everard had taken the name Chamberlain, claiming to be ‘in the secret chambers of the most high’. Everard also denounced infant baptism and said he was ‘sent from God.’Fisher was unimpressed, calling him ‘strange,’ with ‘uncouth deportment,’ and ‘blasphemous pratings’.

Everard was arrested in Kingston, Surrey and imprisoned accused of holding ‘blasphemous opinions’ denying God, Christ, Scriptures, and prayer. Gerard Winstanley defended him in October 1648 in the pamphlet Truth Lifting up its Head above Scandals declaring Everard‘innocent of these slanders’ but he continued to cause the authorities concern. On 6 March 1649 he was charged with a disturbance of the peace at a church service at Staines, where he threatened the minister with a hedging bill shouting: ‘come down thou sonne of perdition, come down’. A fellow Digger – John Barker – stood bail for him.

In mid-February 1649 at Walton on Thames, Everard is believed to be one of six soldiers who disturbed the end of a church service claiming to have received visions from God, and to deliver their message abolishing the Sabbath, tithes, magistrates, and ministers, and even the Bible – which one soldier then burned a copy of in the churchyard. They really were the Sex Pistols of the English Reformation! Professor Claire Jowitt has done some wonderful research showing clear evidence of mystical Judaism in his ideas and spirituality at this point – and that of many of the other radical groups and individuals bouncing around the republic.

In  April 1649, the first Digger commune was established on the common land near St George’s Hill in Weybridge; Winstanley later claiming that he heard the words: ‘Worke together. Eat bread together’ while in a trance. The commune sparked immediate concern amongst local landowners that their enclosures would be pulled down, with one writing “It is feared they have some design in hand.”

Winstanley and Everard and thirteen other Digger leaders released the pamphlet The True Levellers Standard Advanced in response. Thomas Fairfax – who must have already known Everard by this point – interviewed him and Winstanley at the urging of the local landowners on 20th April 1649.

Everard and Winstanley refused point blank to remove their hats in front of Fairfax, and it was Everard who acted as the group’s spokesman with the general, declaring that he: ‘was of the race of Jews; that all the liberties of the people were lost by the coming in of William the Conqueror, and that ever since, the people of God had lived under tyranny and oppression worse than that of our forefathers under the Egyptians.’ He justified the Digger actions by claiming a vision had told him. ‘Arise and dig, and plow the Earth and receive the fruits thereof.’

Despite their obvious sedition, Fairfax decided that the Diggers were essentially harmless rather than revolutionary, and told the local landowners to take it to the courts. By now Everard’s reputation had been shredded in the newsbooks and pamphlets. He was accused of being ‘a madd man’ and claimed that he ‘termeth himself a prophett’

The Diggers abandoned St George’s Hill in August 1649 after being accused of being Ranters –  a sexually liberated radical sect proscribed under the republic – and losing an ensuing court case. Everard seems to  have already left the movement by this point. There were reports in the national press that he was involved in the army mutiny in Oxfordshire in May 1649, but this is now believed to be a case of mistaken identity with the agitator Robert Everard.

In August 1649 Everard appeared in Bradfield, Berkshire, where John Pordage was the rector. Pordage claimed Everard first appeared to him in the form of ‘a spirit’, but it is likely that the two were already associated through local Berkshire connections. A year later Everard certainly appeared in the flesh, disguised as a harvest worker, sparking havoc in Bradfield. On Sunday, 1 September, a thirteen-year-old boy called William Snelling recited mysterious verses proclaiming ‘the great Jehova’ probably at Everard’s instigation. A week later, Pordage went into a trance during a church service running about and ‘bellowing like a bull.’ It was believed that Everard, Pordage, and a local self-proclaimed prophet called Tawny were all involved, but most people blamed Everard as a ‘man suspected to be a Sorcerer or Witch’, and the ‘malefic presence in the parish’.

 Shortly after this, at the end of September 1650, Everard was seen in a ‘frantick posture’ in London and the authorities once again arrested him at the start of October. This time it was decided that his visions were feigned and he was sent to Bridewell Prison as a charlatan on the orders of the Lord Mayor. His wife deperately tried to have him commited to Bedlam, but was unable initially to find the money to have him moved. He was still described as being ‘distracted’, and in the punishment book for Bridewel and Bethlem Hospital in December 1650: ‘many of Ranting Everard’s party are lunatick, and exceedingly distracted; they talk very high against the Parliament, and this present Government; for which some of them have received the lash’

By March 1651, it was realised that his mental breakdown was anything but feigned, and at Bridewell he was a danger to himself and others. He was finally moved to Bedlam on March 19th, but frustratingly yet again disappears from the historical record. He does not seem to have died in the hospital as no burial is recorded, and no release is mentioned. However, a William Everard was buried at St Katherine Cree, London, on 2 March 1659.

Of course, his enigmatic appearances and disappearances from the historic record are fertile ground for someone like me, but the real Everard was one of the most significant of the radicals of the 1640s, and should be remembered alongside Lilburne, Hampden, Winstanley and the rest. Although, I have always had a sneaking  suspicion that there is something of the Agent Provocateur about him – I wonder how that will play out!


The Last Roundhead is available now, for around £8.00, through bookfinder.com – http://www.bookfinder.com/search/?author=Jemahl+Evans&title=The+Last+Roundhead&lang=en&st=xl&ac=qr

Concerns raised over Brighton and Hove City Council’s biggest sell-off of downland in 20 years

9 Nov 2016 / Neil Vowles

MORE than 100 acres of downland held in public ownership for decades is being flogged off in the biggest sale of its kind for 20 years.

Campaigners are calling for a freeze on the 120 acre downland sell-off by Brighton and Hove City Council warning of damaging repercussions for the South Downs with a loss of public access and reduced conservation at important wildlife sites.

The sales are being arranged by the cash-strapped council, which has to find 18 million of cuts in the next financial year and 145 million by 2020.

The sale includes two sites of special scientific interest, part of a Scheduled Ancient Monument, a 50-year old nature reserve and two vital parts of the Devil s Dyke setting according to opponents of the sale.

Council bosses said the land represented just one per cent of its 12,000 acre Downland estate, the equivalent of around 7,000 football pitches, with the sale of “less valuable heritage assets” in a bid to help fund the 5.8 million Stanmer Park restoration project.

Campaigners are concerned that the sales could be just the beginning of a wider sell-off but council officials insisted no more are planned at present.

Land sales causing campaigners concern include three acres of The Junipers at the old Sussex Wildlife Trust Saddlescombe Nature Reserve sold to a private buyer for the paltry sum of 35,000 .

Environmentalists say it is the sole remaining site for juniper in East Sussex, a well-known site for rare orchid species and bats, and the single most important plot in the whole Downland estate.

Devil s Dyke Field has been sold to its tenant while the ten-acre Park Wall Farm at Falmer was snapped up for 175,000 though the council said it would be protected as grazing land.

Campaigners are also unhappy about the proposed sale of the 22-acre site The Racecourse outside Poynings, a wonderful fossil site that is the match of the better-known Bridport Cliffs in Dorset, and the loss from public ownership of Plumpton Hill Scarp though the council has said this will continue to be farmed by Plumpton College with public access fixed in perpetuity.

Environmental campaigner Dave Bangs said all the land should be kept in public ownership in perpetuity.

He added: These sales open the door to privatisation of Brighton s entire Downland Estate.

Without democratic public accountability we must expect threats to public usage, neglect, damage to important wildlife habitat, inappropriate development, and more shooting and hunting.”

Chris Todd, of Brighton and Hove Friends of the Earth, said: “We have real concerns about this, most of the public is largely unaware of what is being done.

I think people thought it was just a few minor old buildings or pieces of land of small value whereas they are proposing to sell hugely important wildlife sites.”

A city council spokeswoman said: The sites chosen are non-core assets owned by the council, some of which are outside the city s boundaries.

Most of the Downland Estate is within the South Downs National Park and protected by the highest level of statutory protection possible.

When the council sells land we take advice from specialist agents to make sure appropriate control mechanisms are put in place to protect the council and the city s residents against future development or possible changes in use.


SIR Herbert Carden is one of the founding fathers of Brighton and the city s impressive downland landholding is considered by many to be his greatest legacy.

His vision, 80 years before the South Downs National Park was created, was to preserve the Downs for the enjoyment of its residents and protect the city s water supply.

Sir Herbert was prepared to back up his ideology with his wallet, buying land when it became available and reselling it to the council at no profit.

It is a vision and an example that subsequent Labour politicians in the city have failed to live up to, according to environmentalists opposed to proposals to sell up to 120 acres of publicly owned downland.

Chris Todd, of Brighton and Hove Friends of the Earth, said: The council is seeing this land purely as a money-making resource but it was originally purchased to protect the area from development and protect the water supply.

It was purchased for its conservation value and that has been completely forgotten.

I think we have lost a bit of vision in the city.

For environmental campaigners with long memories, talk of downland sales under a Labour council is a strong case of d j vu.

In 1995 Brighton Borough Council proposed the sale of large swathes of the estate.

The proposals, prompted by financial concerns following a change in local government financing, were reined in, in the face of widespread opposition.

Mr Todd said: 20 years ago the council tried to sell off the downland thinking it wasn’t really valued and they got a rude awakening.

Since then the council has respected the public desire to maintain public ownership of the Downs.

They might not be trying to sell off on the same scale this time but these are nationally important wildlife sites being sold off.

Two decades on, the move is again being driven by financial necessity, this time to raise around 2.5 million of match-funding for the Stanmer Park restoration.

Brighton and Hove City Council said it had been forced to plan creatively to save one of the city s most picturesque, historically significant and most visited parks .

But environmentalists claim that the land being sold off is of greater environmental value than Stanmer Park.

Brighton-based author and environmental campaigner Dave Bangs said: We estimate that the total sum gained so far from these sales is around 290,000.

This is below the price of one suburban semi in many parts of Brighton and a pathetic sum for such dreadful losses of land with multiple public values.

Maintenance, let alone restoration, of the city s heritage gems and green spaces is becoming increasingly strained with ever dwindling budgets austerity measures will mean the council will have cut £145 million from its budget between 2011 and 2020.

It means that for major works, such as the long-proposed restoration of Stanmer Park, the authority is largely reliant on outside bodies such as the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Even then the council is expected to do its part in match-funding what it receives.

In times of plenty, that additional funding could be found within existing budgets and reserves but now funding has to be found through selling assets assets which could provide revenue for the council for years to come.

There remain serious reservations over the proposed 5.8 million Stanmer Park project which includes the restoration of 20 hectares of the park s landscape, reconfiguring traffic and creating new horticultural training opportunities.

Mr Todd said: I think it is a good idea to reduce the number of cars in the park by increasing the perimeter car parking but not at the cost of so many trees while the idea of having a supermarket sized car park in the middle is illogical and nonsensical.

Of real concern for campaigners now opposing the sell-off is the question of what will happen to land once it goes into public ownership.

The past history is not good according to Mr Bangs.

A 2011 report by campaigners revealed that more than half of Forestry Commission land sold in and around Sussex had been made inaccessible to walkers after passing into private hands.

Barriers built up along public rights of way, breaches of environmental safety standards by hunting and the dividing up of woodland were all observed.

Mr Bangs said: It s happened before.

St Mary s Farm, which was sold by Brighton Council, had ancient pasture and woods bulldozed and it s now a game bird shoot.

Woods sold by the Forestry Commission are now without public access, neglected and used for shooting.

Residents are being reassured that downland will continue to be protected under private ownership.

A South Downs National Park spokesman said: We work closely with both private and local authority landowners.

Approximately 60 per cent of the National Park, all of it in private hands, is now covered by farm clusters groups of farmers and landowners working together to make a real difference to our landscapes, habitats and wildlife that they couldn t achieve alone.

Planning permission would be required before any land could change from agriculture to other uses.

For public rights of way an owner would need to apply for permission to change rights and this is very unlikely to be approved.

But Mr Todd warned that private sector ownership was likely to leave a negative impact.

He said: You are not going to get huge housing development suddenly appearing on the Downs but you could see incremental development which in its way is the most damaging.

What s more likely is that the land could be ploughed up which makes it less accessible The people who buy this land will want to get a commercial return on it, managing the wildlife is not likely to be their number one priority.

And the worst case scenario is that downland could fall into the hands of unscrupulous landowners who show disregard for wildlife conservation.

Earlier this year, campaigners were left aghast at the damage wreaked by wealthy landowner James Hyatt who ordered the felling of 13 acres of ancient forest at Pondtail Wood near Hurstpierpoint.

Mr Todd said: Although Pondtail Wood was not sold from public ownership, there is nothing to stop somebody from purchasing land from Brighton and Hove City Council and selling it on.

Anyone could end up with these bits of land and could do all sorts of things before authorities can step in to do something about it.


Expert view by Simon Lewis

I EXPECT that a lot of these pieces of land will go to neighbouring properties depending on their location and proximity to other landowners.

The site at Saddlescombe is just three acres of scrubland which could go to anybody really.

I imagine it would probably be most attractive to someone from the horsey community, someone who wanted a nice little site for their pony.

It s far more likely to be used for recreation, for a pony, than for any kind of shoot or anything like that.

Plumpton Hill is the last of the sites to go and it has an agricultural tenancy on it so there is almost no chance of getting vacant possession on that unless the college goes out of existence.

I would expect it would go to an institution, it certainly isn’t a very profitable investment so that is why it is going for such a low price.

It s highly unlikely that it would get anything through planning for the sites.

It depends a lot on the proximity to the villages and to other buildings but I would be very surprised to see any development on them whatsoever.

Even for horses you would have to get planning permission for a stable though you could try for something temporary.

Mipim UK and BNP Paribas: Property speculators are carving up our cities

By Daniel Margrain – 23rd October 2016 – follow Daniel on Twitter

Wed take money off the devil—meet the property speculators carving up your city

In a previous article, I outlined how the creation of a major asset bubble as exemplified by the rising cost of housing, is a deliberate government policy geared towards satisfying the asset diversification needs of the super rich rather than meeting the human need for homes for ordinary people to live in. In other words, the key motivating factor determining the Conservative governments housing policy, is not to end the housing crisis, but to bolster the investment opportunities of the rich which will make it worse.

To this end, the government under former PM David Cameron, almost nine months ago, announced its decision to demolish what remains of council homes and replace them with private housing. The Housing and Planning Bill, which became law in May, is forcing families living in social housing and earning £30,000-£40,000 in London to pay rents nearly as high as those in the private sector. It is also compelling local authorities to sell ‘high value’ housing, either by transferring public housing into private hands or giving the land it sits on to property developers. It is this combination of factors that explains the exponential growth in the construction of new tower blocks throughout London and other major cities.

Mipim UK Property Speculators Convention

A Tory housing policy focused on encouraging safe conditions for foreign investment funds and financial safe havens for billionaires, was the context for the Mipim UK Property Speculators Convention at Kensington Olympia in west London (19-21 October). Sir Edward Lister, chair of the government’s Homes and Communities Agency, explained “We’re involved in bringing parties together, marketing areas to attract the right kind of people to them…We brand local authorities, industries and areas to make them attractive to investors.”

“One of the things that attracts people to the UK is the relative stability,”said John Slade, CEO of BNP Paribas Real Estate in the UK. “But popularity is more important to politicians than the future of our businesses.” “The government remains absolutely committed to ensure that the UK remains one of the most open places for investment,” he said. But investment opportunities are undermined following any attempts by the government to increase supply.

Increasing supply would not only have a detrimental impact as far as large investors are concerned, but will also adversely affect the property investment portfolios of politicians. The 126 MPs who declared that they receive rental income from property, represent over 19 per cent of the house, the vast majority of whom are Conservatives. It’s in the joint interests of MPs and major property developers who lobby on their behalf to continue to push the market further into housing and to loosen planning controls.

 Social cleansing & privatisation of space

The impact of the lack of availability of affordable housing (combined with the bedroom tax) is twofold: It results in the effective social cleansing from major cities of the poor and those on middle incomes, and alters former public spaces into sanitised privatised ones. This process not only reduces the demographic mix of locales, but it also undermines social networks and local economies upon which local businesses depend for their livelihoods.

More broadly, the hollowing out of large parts of cities changes our perceptions of what constitutes private and public spaces and for what use the state intends to put them to. The February 13 edition of the Guardian reported on a London rally that protested against the corporate takeover of public streets and squares. Protesters cited London’s Canary Wharf, Olympic Park and the Broadgate development in the City as public places now governed by the rules of the corporations that own them.

The main issues that underpinned the London protests relate to how economic conditions are re-redefining many urban spaces as cultural centres of production. This is leading not to diversification but rather to a uniformity in which the high street, airport, shopping mall, museum and art gallery are increasingly speaking corporate culture rather than aesthetic pleasure.

Privatised public zones are appearing throughout Britain. They include Birmingham’s Brindley place, a significant canal-side development, and Princesshay in Exeter, described as a “shopping destination featuring over 60 shops set in a series of interconnecting open streets and squares”. Intrinsic to the privatisation agenda is the Public Space Protection Order (PSPO). Introduced by the coalition government, the PSPO is another form of social cleansing that is intended to criminalise those sleeping rough and to drive them from towns and city centres.

In other words, the formal ordering and disciplining of the poorest within urban spaces has had the affect of pushing them to the periphery, out of sight and out of mind of urban powers for whom responsibility is increasingly disavowed. In this way, spaces are shaped by neoliberal economic forces which alter the landscapes of cities and re-package them under the banner ‘urban renaissance’.

Landscapes of power

Begun under New Labour, the ideology that underpins urban renaissance reflects a historical contradiction between planning in terms of social need and the process of competitive accumulation which is expressed in living and working urban spaces. This contradiction can be traced back to the 1947 Town and Planning Act. Although urban planners have often been cast in an heroic role protecting the public from shoddy contractors and the short-term drive for profit by speculators, town planning has been skewed historically by deeply undemocratic practices.

Under Theresa May’s government these undemocratic practices are manifested in the kind of supply-side strategies for urban investment outlined above. Examples are regeneration programmes predicated on place promotion and development with culture, heritage and conspicuous consumption in mind. This vision, in other words, is paradoxically linked to the ideology of progress as seen through the visual lens of economic power.

The expression of this power can be seen in terms of the redevelopment of waterside areas such as London’s Docklands. Although a regenerated or ‘cleaned up’ Docklands maintains some of the visual references of its past, it nevertheless is a space that has lost almost all the social and political symbolism it once carried. It is a view of the past that has lost all power to express what that past meant.

In effect, developers in these circumstances remove all ‘unsuitable’ symbols of the past within the urban landscape and replace them with superficial inauthentic post-industrial elements. They succeed in this ‘Truman Show’ totalitarian image-making by projecting the collective desires of the powerless into a corporate landscape of power.

Back at the convention

Meanwhile, back at the speculators convention at Olympia, Sir Edward Lister, chair of the government’s Homes and Communities Agency, who also happens to consult for real estate giant CBRE, claimed that last year was the best year for house building on record, yet last year under 40,000 new build registrations in the public and affordable sector were made. In the immediate post-war years (1945 to 1951) some 1.2 million new houses were built. In 1968 a record 425,000 homes were built, over 180,000 of which were local authority homes.

Mass council house building is the most effective way to house people but this undermines the profits of private firms. One way they do this is by holding onto land rather than developing it, so that prices are pushed upwards. As prices within the private rental market soar, more firms are trying to get their hands on the profits generated. According to 2015 research from Paragon PLC, the private rented sector (PRS) “is the second largest housing tenure, accounting for one-in-five homes in England alone, overtaking the social rented sector for the first time since the 1960s. This represents a significant increase in the number of households living in private rented homes.” The report added, the PRS has “more than doubled since 2001 and is now the second largest housing tenure…PRS is now home to 4.9 million households.”

Private – good, public – bad 

The increase in private rented dwellings is largely the result of the fact that council housing has been gutted and the majority of people can’t afford to buy their own homes. But investors think that the change in numbers is down to the market reflecting what people want. Tory policy for housing focuses on getting people to buy houses. But this ideological drive is out of sync with the needs of capital. Investors need a political climate in which renting is encouraged. However, the Tories are ideologically tied to a house buying culture. This isn’t the case in countries such as Holland or Germany where government investment in social housing for rent is the norm.

According to the Department for Communities and Local Government annual report into social housing selloffs, of the 21,992 dwellings sold over the past year in the UK, 12,557 were sold by local authorities and 9,435 by housing associations. The local authorities figure is a 1 per cent increase on last year. The housing association figure represents an 18 per cent rise. Government funds for housing associations are drying up. In order to make money these associations are effectively forced to sell their properties to the private sector. The profits gained are then reinvested into their businesses reducing the overall availability of affordable housing stock.

Essentially, housing associations behave like private companies. This process is being accelerated as a result of the Housing and Planning Act which forces local authorities to sell off council housing. The proceeds are then used to encourage housing associations to extend Right to Buy which will reduce the amount of affordable housing stock even further. As long as the Tories remain in power, the likelihood local communities will remain stable and socioeconomically diverse in the not too distant future is remote.


Abolishing Standards Board for England may have undermined planning system

Axing a local Government standards and ethics watchdog could have undermined the planning system, campaigners say.

The Standards Board for England ensured that councillors’ conduct did not fall below a required standard, before it was abolished in March 2012.

Since then councils have been required to adopt a code of conduct based on the seven Nolan principles of public life. However there is no compulsion in law to force local authorities to establish any code.

Neil Sinden, Policy and Campaigns Director, Campaign to Protect Rural England, said he was worried its abolition was damaging the integrity of the planning system.

Writing on telegraph.co.uk, he said: “CPRE believes that local councillors should fulfil their planning responsibilities to the highest standards of probity and transparency. They must be beyond reproach.

“The latest revelations raise serious questions about whether the current standards regime, particularly following the recent abolition of the Standards Board, is sufficient to ensure public confidence in the operation of the planning system.

“As the full force of the Government’s planning reforms begin to be felt on the ground, as well as more damaging development in the wrong places, we are set to see a surge in public concern about whether the planning system is fit for purpose.”

Mr Sinden said the CPRE was worried that there were only “limited opportunities” for people to complain about how planning permissions were granted.

He said: “There are currently very limited opportunities for those who have concerns over the way these responsibilities are exercised.

“Judicial review is often prohibitively expensive and the Government is currently considering curtailing its scope. Recourse to the Local Government Ombudsman is usually too late to be an effective remedy.”

He added: “In CPRE’s view, our system of controls over land use and development, exercised through the planning system, should be regarded as one of the triumphs of the post-war settlement, alongside the national health service.

“For its continued effectiveness, it relies above all else on public confidence in local planners and councillors who between them are usually responsible for around half a million planning decisions each year.”

A Communities and Local Government department spokesman said: “The old Standards Board regime prevented councillors from championing the interests of their local residents and suppressed freedom of speech.

“Councillors were told that they couldn’t vote for or against a development if they had campaigned on the issue in a local election. We have replaced this discredited quango with new rules on transparency, and a new criminal offence to tackle the extremely rare instance of corruption.”

Related Articles

30 Country estates given £4million subsidy in 2014 for grouse-shooting

Duke of Westminster given millions in public cash for grouse moor: investigation
Published: 28 Oct, 2016
English grouse moors, including one owned by royalty, have been shored up with millions of pounds in public money despite the climate of austerity.
Thirty of the estates where the birds are raised and shot received £4 million (US$4.85 million) in public cash in 2014, including one owned by the Duke of Westminster.
The duke is the richest landowner in the UK and is worth an estimated £9 billion.
The investigation carried out by Friends of the Earth supports an argument by campaigners who say that grouse farming is damaging to the environment and uses far too much space.
MPs are due to debate the issue on Monday after 120,000 people signed a petition to ban the most common form of grouse shooting……..


Grouse shooting estates shored up by millions in subsidies
Common agricultural policy money given to estates in England, including one owned by the Duke of Westminster, Britain’s richest landowner
by Damian Carrington
Friday 28 October 2016
Ref: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/oct/28/grouse-shooting-estates-shored-up-by-millions-in-subsidies

England’s vast grouse shooting estates receive millions of pounds in public subsidies according to an investigation by Friends of the Earth.
Thirty of the estates received £4m of taxpayer’s money between them in 2014, the year examined by the pressure group, including one owned by the Duke of Westminster, the richest landowner in Britain with land holdings estimated to be worth £9bn. The campaigners, who argue that grouse moor management harms the environment and wildlife, found the moors cover over half a million acres, an area equivalent to all the land within the M25, Greater London and parts of the home counties.

The estates are owned by a mixture of lords, dukes, earls and barons as well as bankers, businessmen and firms based in offshore tax havens.
MPs will debate the issue of grouse shooting on Monday, as the result of an official petition backed by more than 120,000 people which demands a ban on driven shooting, where beaters flush birds towards the guns.

The petition claims the management of grouse moors leads to the illegal killing of birds of prey such as hen harriers, which prey on grouse, and the legal killing of foxes, stoats and mountain hares. It adds that the heather burning involved could worsen flooding and climate change.
“These shocking new figures reveal the true, horrifying scale of grouse moors in England and the madness of the current farm payments system that subsidises them”, said Guy Shrubsole of Friends of the Earth.

“Instead of handing out taxpayers’ money to billionaires and offshore firms to indulge in an elite sport, the government must reform farm payments so public money is spent on public goods – like tree-planting, restoring wildlife habitats, farming sustainably and preventing flooding downstream”, he said. The future of the £3bn a year the UK receives in EU agricultural subsidies is a key part of the Brexit debate.

Amanda Anderson, director of the Moorland Association, said driven grouse shooting played an important role in conservation: “Almost two-thirds of England’s upland sites of special scientific interest (SSSIs) are managed grouse moors. Management has helped conserve this unique landscape, whereas elsewhere in Britain it has been lost to afforestation, windfarms or overgrazing”. Grouse shooting in England and Wales leads to more than £15m a year being spent in rural areas and supports more than 1,500 jobs, according to Anderson. She said: “There is no place for the illegal killing of any wildlife and no place in the Moorland Association for a grouse moor owner or manager found to have broken the law.”

The Friends of the Earth investigation took a Moorland Association map showing ‘keepered grouse moors’ in England and compared it with government datasets and satellite images, which show where burning has taken place, to calculate the area. It found 550,000 acres of grouse moor, all in the north of England. FoE then used Land Registry data to identify 30 of the grouse moor estates, which cover 300,000 acres of the total. These estates received £4m of taxpayer subsidies in 2014 via the EU common agricultural policy (CAP).

The largest subsidy was given to the Lilburn estate in Northumberland, owned by Duncan Davidson, the founder of housebuilding giant Persimmon Homes. In 2014, the estate received £1.6m in CAP subsidy, with another £1.3m in 2015.

The Abbeystead estate in Lancashire owned by the Duke of Westminster’s Grosvenor estate received £7,200 in farm subsidies in 2014 and £203,000 in 2015. The Grosvenor Estate describes Abbeystead as “one of the premier sporting estates in the UK” and it is reputed to hold the record for most grouse shot in a single day: a total of 2,929 birds killed by eight shooters on 12 August 1915. The Mossdale estate in the Yorkshire Dales, owned by the Van Cutsem family, obtained £54,000 in subsides in 2014 and £170,000 in 2015. In June, the estate resigned from the Moorland Association after a keeper was filmed setting illegal pole traps.
Records in Companies House show that some of the 30 estates identified by Friends of the Earth are owned by firms registered in offshore tax havens, such as the British Virgin Islands, Liechtenstein, Jersey and Guernsey.

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) does not support the petition to ban driven grouse shooting, but argues that new laws are needed. “As currently practised, intensive driven grouse shooting is a negative environmental impact”, said the RSPB’s Jeff Knott. “Grouse shooting can deliver benefits [for some birds], but not enough grouse moors are delivering to the highest standards”. The RSPB wants grouse shoots to require licences, which can be removed if the moors are not managed properly or if wildlife crimes occur. “Voluntary approaches clearly haven’t worked, said Knott. “There is denial that there is any problem and anyone who says otherwise is called anti-shooting.” A spokesperson for the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said: “We continue to work with conservation groups and landowners to ensure sustainable grouse shooting balances both environmental and economic needs”.

The UK’s forthcoming departure from the EU has sparked a fierce debate about the future of agricultural subsidies. It was revealed in September that a billionaire Saudi prince received £400,000 a year to subsidise a farm where he breeds racehorses. The National Trust and many green NGOs have argued for a complete overhaul, ending payments for simply owning land and only rewarding farmers who improve the environment and help wildlife. The suggestion is opposed by the National Farmers Union, which says food production is vital.