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Jamie Oliver's wealthy neighbours want him to fight new housing estate

Jamie Oliver’s wealthy neighbours want his help to fight new housing estate they fear will blight their ‘chocolate box’ Essex village where TV chef lives in £6million mansion

  • Celebrity chef, 45, lives with wife Jools, 46, in £6M farmhouse in Finchingfield 
  • Residents fear image of quaint village could be ruined by affordable housing
  • Plans are in place to build 50 affordable houses in a field on the main road  

Well-heeled neighbours of TV chef Jamie Oliver have called for his support in halting a controversial affordable housing plan they fear will blight their ‘chocolate-box’ village.

The celebrity chef, 45, lives with his wife Jools, 46, and their five children in a £6million, six-bedroom farmhouse, in the picture-perfect village of Finchingfield, Essex.

Idyllic Finchingfield, with a population of fewer than 1,500 people, is the UK’s most-photographed village, where the average house price is around £425,000.

Idyllic Finchingfield, with a population of fewer than 1,500 people, and just 300 houses, is the UK’s most-photographed village, where the average house price is around £425,000

The celebrity chef, 45, lives with his wife Jools, 46, and their five children in a £6million, six-bedroom farmhouse (pictured), in the picture-perfect village of Finchingfield, Essex

Concerned residents fear the image of their quaint home could be ruined by plans to build 50 affordable houses in a field on the main road

Residents have approached Jamie Oliver and his wife to try and get their backing on the issue and are hoping for their support

But concerned residents fear the image of their quaint home could be ruined by plans to build 50 affordable houses in a field on the main road leading in to Finchingfield.

Over 100 outraged residents have joined a campaign group called Save Finchingfield.

They are lobbying their local MP James Cleverly, as well as Secretary of State for Housing, Robert Jenrick, to revoke the plans.

Over 100 outraged residents have joined a campaign group called Save Finchingfield

But some members of the campaign group say they face a ‘ticking clock’.

And residents have approached Jamie Oliver and his wife to try and get their backing on the issue and are hoping for their support.

Michelle Chipperfield, 44, one of the residents who set up the Save Finchingfield group, said: ‘Myself and another lady in the village have tried to contact him online – but to no avail.

‘It would be great to get his support. I’ve seen him and his wife a couple of times in the village, and I’ve always said to myself that I should approach him and ask him.

‘But they’re not about much. They live about two miles outside of the main village, and they don’t really get involved in local activities – apart from coming to church on Christmas Eve.’

And Ms Chipperfield described the housing plan for Finchingfield as ‘dreadful’ – and said it is ‘fiercely’ rejected by residents.

She said: ‘We live in this tiny chocolate-box village that is one of the most photographed places in the UK, and is so unique and full of history. It just needs to be protected.

‘I do accept that the village has to grow – but I believe the national baseline is to grow by two per cent per year.

‘If these 50 houses get built in our village, we’re looking at a growth of 22 per cent, pretty much overnight.’

Michelle Chipperfield, 44, one of the residents who set up the Save Finchingfield group, said: ‘Myself and another lady in the village have tried to contact him online – but to no avail’

The plans for the 50 houses were initially put forward approximately three years ago – but were rejected by Finchingfield Parish Council, as well as Braintree District Council and 125 Finchingfield residents.

However, a government inspector last year found that Braintree District Council did not have a five-year local plan in place for housing in Finchingfield, as required by the government.

The plan for 50 houses to be built in the village was therefore able to be pushed through in October 2020, with a report being published in November.

Ms Chipperfield added: ‘It’s just such a shame that Finchingfield has fallen foul of these housing plans, because of a lack of plan from Braintree District Council.

The plans for the 50 houses were initially put forward approximately three years ago – but were rejected by Finchingfield Parish Council, as well as Braintree District Council and 125 Finchingfield residents

‘People are getting kind of frustrated about it. It’s also quite a desirable area, and we have tried affordable housing in the past – but it’s not an area where it really works.

‘The average housing price in Finchingfield as of last year was £425,000 – so what will be classed as affordable? How will it work?’

Michelle said that village residents are now lobbying their local MP James Cleverly, as well as Secretary of State for Housing, Robert Jenrick, to review the plans.

She said: ‘Robert Jenrick is the only one who has the power now to get these plans reviewed.

‘We have been campaigning locally to try and put the pressure on both him and James Cleverly. We are trying to reiterate that nobody is happy with these plans.

Cllr Coverdale added that, as a member of the parish council, the housing plans were ‘frustrating’ to him – given that both the current and the previous parish councils rejected the plans

‘But it’s a ticking clock – and it’s disappointing that we are just getting very generic, copy-and-paste emails from James Cleverly.’

Meanwhile, Finchingfield parish councillor for housing, David Coverdale, added that village residents have been ‘deprived of their democratic right’ to be involved in the plans.

Mr Coverdale, 74, said: ‘This is all about making a load of money, with a complete disregard for democracy. It is purley opportunistic.

‘The hearing in October in which the housing plans got pushed through took place over Zoom – which, for many residents in Finchingfield, is a completely different world.

‘There is a fundamental democratic deficit going on here – residents are being deprived of their democractic right to take part in the plans.

‘At this point we don’t have any legal recourse – all we can do is just ask the housing minister to look at these plans again.’

Cllr Coverdale added that, as a member of the parish council, the housing plans were ‘frustrating’ to him – given that both the current and the previous parish councils rejected the plans.

He said: ‘It just doesn’t make sense to build them here.

‘You would struggle to find anywhere in Essex further away from a train station, or a supermarket, or a secondary school – and there are no bus services to speak of to get to those places.

‘We are really in the middle of nowhere.’

The privately-owned field on which the houses are due to be built has not yet been sold off to developers.

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