Sir: What would Esther Oxford say if we arrived at her house without appointment, climbed over her garden fence and wandered into her kitchen? Or of we interviewed her most objectionable neighbours about her personal habits? This is how she treated the Tinkers Bubble community in her article "Not so hippy, not so happy" (5 September).
Having arrived on a day when all but two of us were out, she suggested that we had "dispersed". She insulted many of the people of Norton whom she has never met by stating that they shared the prejudices of a vociferous minority. And she insulted members of the Trust that she has never met by calling us workshy, "grubby paupers".
Above all she failed to mention that allegations of "tribal drumming", "endangering deer", "traffic congestion", "fire risk", "controversial shit-pit" and so on were carefully examined at the planning inquiry in Norton village hall - and dismissed. The DoE inspector, who visited the site, concluded that "there was no significant nuisance now", that "the development would cause no harm to amenity", and was even an example of "sustainable development". He recommended that permission be granted because our low-impact agricultural experiment would cause no harm and could not be carried out without us living on our land.
The Environment Secretary, John Gummer, did not disagree with the inspector on questions of nuisance or amenity. He refused our planning appeal on the grounds that our "merely subsistence" lifestyle constituted only a "personal preference", while any benefit to the rural economy would be "negligible". How odd that when Esther Oxford arrived two of us were away selling our first crop of organic apples!
Our aim is to build a better quality of life and a sustainable rural economy based on the efficient use of local resources. Does this constitute poverty?
John Benton; Chris Black; Andrew Chant; Louise Chant; Simon Fairlie; Theo Hopkins; Lee Hughes; Graham Kirk; George Monbiot; Emma Must; Steve Offord; Penny Ross; Oliver Tickell; Carl War; Michael Zair
Tinkers Bubble Trust,