Bitter debate rages over use of farmland for campsite

Jonathan Simper in his camping fields along the River Deben. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Jonathan Simper in his fields along the River Deben. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

A farmer is locked in a bitter dispute with neighbours over opening up fields for use as a campsite.

Jonathan Simper runs a farm in Church Road, Ramsholt and will open up an area of his land as a campsite later this year.  

Usually, farmers are permitted by law to open up their fields to be used as campsites for 28 days a year.  

Last summer, the government allowed farmers to extend this to 56 days as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. It is allowing them to do the same this year.  

Mr Simper said it was important for people to get outside and added that he would be closely sticking to the rules while the campsite was in place.  

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“Last summer, it was undoubtedly what society needed and what society will need this year as well,” said Mr Simper.  

"They haven't just changed the regulations for the sake of it.

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"I am going to stick to the 56 days." 

He said that the last year had been incredibly difficult for his business and had necessitated him re-opening the temporary site.  

"I’ve had to do it,” said Mr Simper.  

“We usually sell our asparagus into the London restaurant market and that completely collapsed.”  

Jonathan Simper in his camping fields along the River Deben. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

There are concerns about the impact of the campsite on local surroundings Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

However, some residents are concerned about the impact of the campsite - particularly after East Suffolk Council dismissed plans for a more permanent site due to insufficient access and fears of the impact on the environment.  

Resident Christopher Woods said the situation had become “bitter” and said that, in his view, there had been a lack of communication.

Mr Woods said he appreciated Mr Simper’s concerns about his business but fears the environmental impact from large numbers of visitors. 

“There comes a time when the damage done to the amenity is irreversible,” said Mr Woods.  

"It's a highly sensitive area of the AONB."

Another resident, Christopher Langley, said he was concerned about the impact on wildlife.

"There is the disturbance to the wildlife down there, it's on a particularly sensitive part of the river," said Mr Langley. 

"There are quite a number of rare birds that nest there."

Mr Langley also said there had been problems with litter, but Mr Simper denied this.

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