Friday, 9 November 2018

Astroturfing Whitehawk's nature reserve

A strange thing happened after we posted our last article about a campaign in Brighton to save a designated nature reserve on Whitehawk Hill from housing development.

All of a sudden, an apparent counter-campaign was announced, declaring that "Whitehawk says yes" to the destruction of the precious green space and its wildlife.

We say "apparent" counter-campaign because, unlike our friends around Whitehawk who are opposing the scheme, it is not at all clear that it has any real community basis. Less grassroots and more astroturf, it would seem.

The "yes" campaign has been announced by a "group" calling itself Brighton YIMBY (Yes In My Backyard  a grammatically inept attempt to come up with the opposite of Not in My Backyard. Or "No in My Backyard" as they presumably call it).

They have a Facebook group with no fewer than 17 members and on Twitter they have a mighty army of 107 followers.

Sadly for their credibility, very few of these seem to have anything to do with Brighton. Admittedly, @BrightonNimby are followed by a local renters' union (@ACORN_Brighton). But the support of @kooksbrighton, Kooks restaurant, and  ‏@gastrobrighton, a writer specialising in "Brighton's gastro scene", seem somehow less relevant to the cause...

We could find just three other followers who say they are from Brighton.

The first of these is Jonny Anstead (@JonnyAnstead). He declares: "I build homes with TOWN (@wetweettown) and live in Brighton". TOWN is a London-based development company, which is itself also one of the select band of @BrightonNimby's Twitter followers.

The second is Brighton resident Nick Jacob (@nickNJjacob) who works for GlobalCapital magazine.

The third is Rico Wojtulewicz (@Rico4Hove). Conservative candidate for Central Hove, Wojtulewicz also happens to be the senior policy advisor for the House Builders Association (HBA), the housebuilding division of the National Federation of Builders.

The business connection to @BrightonNimby is strong. They are followed by a swathe of professional urbanists and organisations interested in "regeneration and development".

Apart from property firm TOWN, there is also King & Co (@KingandCompany) "a residential property developer based in Hatfield, Hertfordshire".

Another follower is Meaning Conference (@MeaningConf ) "the annual gathering for people who believe business can and must be a force for positive change in our dynamic and volatile world" which is taking place in Brighton on November 15, 2018.

There also seems to be a certain overlap with the PricedOut campaign for more housebuilding. @PricedOutUK was the first Twitter account to follow @BrightonNimby.

Reuben Young (@TheReubenYoung) of PricedOut and former director Duncan Stott (@DuncanStott),  a "geeky liberal", "YIMBY" and "Brit living in America", were also quick to follow.

Most of all, @BrightonNimby is followed by other "Yimby" twitter accounts from the UK and elsewhere.

Well, by "elsewhere" we mean the USA, where there seems to be a surprising level of support for @BrightonYimby and their heroic struggle to concrete over the Whitehawk Hill nature reserve.

Among the many American followers are Santa Cruz YIMBY (@SantaCruzYIMBY) which brazenly admits it is "advocating for the construction of all types of housing development in Santa Cruz County".

There is also one Jesse Kanson-Benanav (@jessekb) who terms himself "YIMBY warrior for more housing" and is "affordable housing developer" at @BBHousing. This turns out to be "B'nai B'rith Housing", which builds "non-sectarian housing, both affordable and mixed income", in Greater Boston, USA.

On the surface, @BrightonNimby's followers seem to reflect a range of political positions. There is Daniel Francis (@danfrancis02) Labour group leader in the London Borough of Bexley; Alex Wagner (@Jenkinsite) chair of Shrewsbury Lib Dems and former Tory councillor Chris Howell (@moufflon).

More eccentrically, there is Phil Ryan (@therealphilryan) who terms himself a "Radical centrist. Globalist shill".

But the real affiliation of the YIMBY movement is not actually political in the usual sense of the word.

Take, for example, East of England YIMBY (@EofEYimby ) and their statement that they are "bringing developers and communities together".

Hackney YIMBY (@HackneyYIMBY) are even more explicit when they come out as "Pro-development, Pro-growth".

This is the crunch line, straight from the mouth of one of the UK "YIMBY" groups. Pro-growth means pro-profit, pro-money-making.

When we consider the large number of property developers associated with the YIMBY cause, we are left with the suspicion that all their talk about helping young people afford housing is nothing but spin, masking the age-old desire to make a quick buck.

Making money isn't a political belief or principle. It is a total lack of principle. It is just self-interest of the lowest kind, made even lower by the pretence that it is something else, an altruistic concern for the well-being of other people.

In the USA, the YIMBY "movement" is already being exposed. Truthout magazine, for instance, reported: 'The YIMBYs’ “build, build, build' platform only stands to benefit a fortunate few".

It highlights the role of "pro-development activist" Sonja Trauss, who this week lost an election battle in San Francisco after more than a year of pushing "aggressive pro-development policies" in City Hall.

Says Truthout: "Entrenched online in the libertarian strongholds of Reddit and TechCrunch, and in the real world through real estate- and tech-sponsored nonprofits like SPUR and YIMBY Action, Trauss’s followers live by the neoliberal belief that deregulation and building more housing, even if it’s only affordable to the richest of the rich, will trickle down and eventually make housing affordable for all."

And it reveals that North America’s first YIMBY convening, YIMBY2016, was funded by property development groups, such as the National Association of Realtors and the Boulder Area Realtor Association.

In fact the article's headline itself tells us all we need to know, and what the people of Whitehawk and Brighton need to understand about the "campaign" being launched to deprive them of their green space: "YIMBYs: The Darlings of the Real Estate Industry".

Monday, 5 November 2018

Save Whitehawk Hill Nature Reserve!

Whitehawk Hill is a Down, right in Brighton, an ancient and sacred landscape and high quality landscape which should be in the National Park & have full landscape & species protection.(in fact a full council meeting voted for its inclusion, only to be followed by a small meeting vetoing that 'democratic' vote). It is a statutory Local Nature reserve, a Common, statutory Access land under the CROW Act and an Ancient Neolithic Scheduled Monument. It's pretty special.

Brighton & Hove Council have chosen part of the Nature Reserve for a housing development of 217 1 & 2 bed flats, in 5 blocks, 6 & 8 storey. An "Urban Fringe Assessment" was drawn up in 2014, identifying greenfield sites for housing. One site, Craven Vale Allotments, also on this Nature Reserve, jumped into action and ran a successful campaign and the site was removed. Whitehawk has only just realised the threat which the council tells us is a done deal, that we are too late. 
We are not.

BHCC has gone into partnership with the hawkish landlords Hyde, link to a Corporate Watch article below if you're interested. 

Locals have called Public Meeting:

Monday, 12 November from 19:00-21:00
St Cuthman's community church hall, Whitehawk Way, BN2 5HE, Brighton. 

If you love our City's wild spaces and wildlife, please try to come.

This month the World Wildlife Fund released a report which told us that wild animal populations have decreased globally by 60% in just 48 years - since 1970.

This profoundly endangers the future quality of human life.

This is not a far-away problem. It is on our doorstep.

If we are to halt and reverse this extinction process, the protection of every LOCAL high-value space for wildlife is a categorical imperative.

The need to protect nature is co-equal with the need for high quality, low-cost housing for all.

We must find solutions which protect those two imperatives.


We have heard ourselves called 'NIMBYS' (selfish people who say 'Not In My Back Yard' to developments).

Perhaps the Londoners who successfully campaigned against the destruction of Epping Forest, Hampstead Heath, Tooting Common or Walthamstow Marsh were 'nimbys' ??

Perhaps the pre-war Brighton folk who campaigned against new housing on top of the Devils Dyke and Ditchling Downs were nimbys ?

Perhaps the pre-war Eastbourne folk who campaigned against new towns on Beachy Head, Seven Sisters and Birling Gap were nimbys ??

If the breaking up of the Whitehawk Hill Local Nature Reserve goes ahead then nothing will off-limits...nothing will be sacrosanct.

If Whitehawk Hill is broken, then there is no reason why Castle Hill National Nature Reserve, or the Local Nature Reserves of the Wild Park, Bevendean Down, Stanmer, Benfield Hill, Beacon Hill and Withdean Woods should not be broken, too.

Top pundits (like Anthony Seldon) have already called for this (as with his call for building on the whole Hollingbury Hill inlier).

The breaking of Whitehawk Hill WILL mean the future breaking of other sacrosanct sites...and will further encourage that process nationally.

Brighton's attitude to the protection of its Downs has always been contradictory.

Its pre-war council leader, Herbert Carden, both bought the Devils Dyke to protect it from housing development and campaigned for a major motor racing track between the Dyke and Portslade which would have destroyed all its Downs.

Its erstwhile Labour leader, Steve Bassam, attempted to flog off its hugely important 13,000 acre Downland Estate and opposed the creation of the new South Downs National Park, despite Labour Environment Minister Michael Meacher proposing it. (Steve B later changed his mind on both

Now Brighton's draft City Plan both calls for the protection of its Local Nature Reserves and Local Wildlife Sites and suggests ripping the heart out of the Whitehawk Hill LNR.

Whitehawk Hill is as important to Brighton as the Royal Pavilion


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A Right to Roam comrade had sited our first briefing here -

Dave Bangs' book on the Hill * free PDF* -

Council's blurb on the Hill -

Corporate Watch report on Hyde -

The housing proposal  -