Clumps under threat from £5m Earth Trust expansion

One of Oxfordshire’s iconic landscape features, Wittenham Clumps, is in danger from a £5m expansion of the Earth Trust’s headquarters at Hill Farm, Little Wittenham, according to a group of local residents.

A new access road is proposed off Sires Hill, a car park for 185 vehicles, a café-cum-farm shop, two classrooms for schoolchildren, an amphitheatre for plays and exhibitions and replica Stone Age roundhouses.

But the Sires Hill Residents’ Association (SHRA) has lodged an objection with South Oxfordshire District Council about what it calls the Trust’s “ambitious project”.

The chief executive of the Earth Trust, Jayne Manley, said Wittenham Clumps receives “more visits than any other free to access greenspace in the south east” and, with a projected increase in visitor numbers, the Trust needs to make changes to “manage this properly and minimise the impact on the local community and the environment”.

The Earth Trust, whose centre is a popular venue for schools, says that, as the population of the area grows, more demands will be made on the area and the expansion of the site is to cater for the increasing number of visitors. The development is planned in three phases over eight years depending on funding.

Dr Manley said: “We take our guardianship of it very seriously.

“Our plans have been developed over the last three years and have involved the community and visitors, as well as statutory bodies and stakeholders.”

She said a public consultation during the summer had received huge support and the proposals well received.

SHRA said: “The plan is not in keeping with the Trust’s aims of promoting the conservation and protection of the natural and physical environment, wildlife, historical and archaeological features.”

Wittenham Clumps, a conservation farm, as well as extensive woodlands and the Sinodun Hills, form the 500-hectare estate.

The residents say the Trust’s plans ignore guidelines and will neither conserve nor enhance the landscape.