Eton plans to build 3,000 homes on 500-acre plot of countryside

Angry villagers blast Eton over controversial plans to build 3,000 homes on 500-acre plot of unspoilt countryside it owns in East Sussex

  • The boarding school owns a large swathe of unspoilt countryside in East Sussex 
  • 500-acre site in East Chiltington, on the edge of the South Downs National Park 
  • Locals say Eton stands to make £120million from the controversial development
  • Residents are in a ‘David and Goliath’ battle and have now formed protest group 

Eton College has been accused of ‘greed and hypocrisy’ over controversial plans to sell off land it owns in the countryside to make way for 3,000 homes.

The £48,000-a-year boarding school owns a large swathe of unspoilt countryside in East Chiltington, on the edge of the South Downs National Park in East Sussex.

Locals say they are embroiled in a ‘David and Goliath’ battle and have since formed a protest group in a bid to block the development on the 500-acre site.

Residents say the homes would add some 6,000 residents to the parish and 4,200 cars, equating to 3.5million more car trips in the area each year.

Critics claim Eton stands to make around £120million from the development.

Marc Munier, who is leading the action group Don’t Urbanise The Downs (left) and Parish councillor Mike Elms (right) on the proposed site 

The view across the land owned by Eton – which would look very different with 3,000 new homes

The prestigious boarding school in Windsor owns this large swathe of unspoilt countryside in the hamlet of East Chiltington

Critics claim Eton College (pictured) stands to make around £120million from the development

East Chiltington Parish Council has already stated it sees ‘no merit’ in Eton’s proposal

A developer working on behalf of Eton College has contacted the local parish council to give notice of the plans.   

But furious locals have accused Eton of ‘double standards’, as the college seeks to reduce its own carbon footprint by installing LED lights in its houses and solar panels on its sports hall. 

Last year Eton’s environment society held a Zoom webinar which focused on what ‘everyone can do to help the environment.’

Marc Munier, who is leading the action group Don’t Urbanise The Downs, said the development would see thousands of homes ‘dumped on the site’ at the expense of an ‘incredibly rare rural environment’.

The site is home to wildlife including barn owls and great crested newts. 

Mr Munier, 43, who works in sales and advertising, said: ‘Eton College don’t need the money, they have so much in assets.

‘They are a venerable institution and I don’t know if it is greed or something else but I don’t understand why they are behaving in this way.

‘There are very few remaining Sussex villages not already blighted by over-development so our aim is to stop this Eton scheme in its tracks as success for them means any distant land owner will be seeking to do the same.

‘This is not about the hamlet of East Chiltington, it’s about protecting our green and pleasant land from people who only want to make a quick buck.

‘Eton College stands to make £120m if they are successful in getting planning on this site, that will lead to an increase of 1,200 per cent in the number of houses within the parish. 

‘This is one of the most rich, most privileged schools in the world dumping 3,000 houses where they don’t belong at the expense of an incredibly rare rural environment which is a loss to anyone who has ever walked on the downs.

‘We’re in a David and Goliath battle.’ 

Mr Munier (left) and Mr Elms (right) have already lodged furious objections to the proposals 

The 500-acre site is situated at the edge of the South Downs National Park

Parish councillor Mike Elms, 55, a company director, added: ‘It is surprising that a school which is all about legacy and history does not want to protect the land and instead wishes to concrete over it to make a profit.

‘How would they react if 3,000 homes were built at the edge of or on their playing fields?’

Sarah McLoughlin, who runs the Forest School nursery close to the land in question, accused Eton of double standards.

She said: ‘If Eton College really want to celebrate their eco credentials they need to drop this scheme immediately – it is an absolute farce for them to put something like this forward and think that they are in the slightest way reducing their carbon footprint.’

A letter submitted by Andrew Simpson Planning, on behalf of Eton, said it was ‘approaching this project recognising that local people are unlikely to welcome us at first.’ 

A full public consultation is expected to take place this summer. 

East Chiltington Parish Council has already stated it sees ‘no merit’ in Eton’s proposal.  

Tory MP for Lewes Maria Caulfield said: ‘The Eton College proposal is completely unacceptable, and I have offered to call this in with the Secretary of State.’

Lewes District Council leader James MacCleary, a Liberal Democrat, added: ‘I don’t really have the words to say how strongly I would oppose this application. Building 3,000 houses on East Chiltington is unacceptable..it will fundamentally alter the nature of that entire part of the district.’

Welbeck Land, which is working on the proposal on behalf of Eton College, said: ‘Welbeck Land submitted the land at North Barnes Farm to Lewes District Council at the end of last year as part of the review of the Lewes District Local Plan Part 1.’ 

Eton College referred press calls to Welbeck Land. 

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