Plumpton artist takes blow torch to painting in ‘symbolic protest’ at Eton College homes plan

A Plumpton artist whose work commands four-figure prices has taken a blow torch to his own landscape painting in protest at proposals for a new 3,000-home development in East Chiltington.

Wednesday, 4th August 2021, 12:47 pm
Grant Dejonge with his artwork

Grant Dejonge said it was his way of making his voice heard and highlighting the ‘potential destruction’ of the countryside area and the habitat and wildlife it supports.

Once an urban artist living in Brighton, Grant’s move to Plumpton 15 years ago inspired him to start painting the beautiful landscape around his home.

The now-burned painting depicted a field of sunflowers in nearby East Chiltington, where Eton College is hoping to build a new development on land it owns.

With the damaged artwork, after taking a blow torch to the centre

From the blighted painting, Grant plans to create a new, darker artwork which will show the sunflower field’s beauty ‘ravaged by greed’ – to illustrate that once the countryside is buried under an urban sprawl, it will be lost forever.

Grant will be giving the new artwork to campaign group Don’t Urbanise the Downs, which was set up in March this year to fight the new town proposals – and which now has over 2,800 supporters.

The work will be auctioned to raise funds for the group.

Grant said: “I think Eton’s plans are driven purely by greed – we do not need a new town to meet our district housing targets and we certainly shouldn’t be putting one here in what is one of the few remaining areas of unspoilt countryside and active farmland in Sussex – right next to the South Downs National Park.

“There is no infrastructure here at all to support an urban area, no roads, sewage systems or even mains gas and the increase in traffic levels would completely overwhelm our already over-stretched local roads.

“This is my way of making my voice heard and giving support to Don’t Urbanise the Downs.

“It would be a tragedy if this new town were to go ahead – we need to start protecting and cherishing nature instead of wiping it out wholesale like this.”

Developer Welbeck Land, working on behalf of Eton College, has defended the proposed scheme as providing ‘a positive solution to the government requirement to provide new homes in Sussex and to boost the local rural economy’.

A spokesman said that, while all development at scale in England was ‘likely to be controversial’, it was committed to engaging with local partners, stakeholders and the community to develop the plans ‘with the needs of the district and the wider area as a central focus’.

Marc Munier, leader of Don’t Urbanise the Downs, said: “A public consultation by Lewes District Council is now underway and we need as many people as possible to make their views about this crazy scheme by Eton known.

“Grant’s generous gesture in destroying a valuable painting – and then giving us his new artwork to auction, will help us to continue to raise awareness at this important stage in the planning process.

“We’d urge people to look at our website - www.donturbanisethedowns - for information on participating in the consultation, and to join us in our fight.”

The campaign group is staging several ‘drop-in days’ during the public consultation period, which will be held at Ditchling Village Hall on from 1pm to 6pm on Saturday (August 7); Lewes Town Hall from 11am to 6pm on Saturday, August 14, and at Cooksbridge Village Hall from 1pm to 6pm on Saturday, August 21.

Grant’s re-worked painting showing the destruction of the sunflower field will be on display at the Lewes Drop-In Day at the town hall.