Felix Dennis is best known as a publisher accused of corrupting the nation’s children in the Oz obscenity trials in the 1970s. Today, he seems keener to maintain the status quo and hopes to scupper plans for a new eco-town in the picturesque British countryside where he lives. He has written a book called How to Get Rich and spends his time trying to stop others from achieving the success he has been allowed.
A hero to the 1970s youth movement, Mr Dennis, 61, claims to be an environmentalist, but he has shown himself to be just another selfish rich old geezer. The opening salvo in his fight against the eco-town was a letter of protest to Hazel Blears, the UK�s Communities and Local Government minister.
The multimillionaire, whose publishing empire now includes the magazines Maxim, Viz and The Week, wants to stop the town being built near historic Dorsington Manor, his luxurious home. The eco-town, known as Middle Quinton, on the site of the old Long Marston army camp four miles south of Stratford upon-Avon, would provide 6,000 homes.
It is one of the ten – each containing up to 20,000 homes – proposed by Gordon Brown last year. The pledge was seen as an effort to wrestle control of the environmental agenda from David Cameron while also building three million new homes by 2020.
The proposed settlements would be built to zero-rated carbon standards yet remain “family-friendly”. As well as containing state-of-the-art re- cycling and water conservation schemes, they would have gardens, green spaces and good-quality houses, rather than apartments. Within the settlements, shops, primary and secondary schools would all be in walking distance to try to cut carbon emisssions.
Mr Dennis rejects all charges of Nimbyism. He claims that the proposed development would threaten a beautiful country area, bring thousands more cars on to narrow rural lanes, cause light pollution and disrupt major footpaths including the Heart of England Way. He also says that the plans have no support from the local authority or other local stakeholders.
Mr Dennis started his publishing career at Oz, the Sixties counterculture magazine that was prosecuted for obscenity in 1971. Though all three Oz editors were found guilty, Mr Dennis was given a lesser sentence because the judge considered him “very much less intelligent” – and therefore less responsible – than his co-accused. The remark allegedly drove Mr Dennis to create his business empire, now thought to be worth Pounds 720 million, to prove the judge wrong.
The proposed site, currently used for Sunday markets, is owned by the Midlands property group St Modwen, while the Stratford-based developer the Bird Group owns 120 adjoining acres that would rocket in value if the eco-town were to receive planning permission.
The group’s managing director, Tony Bird, said: “I’m extremely excited by it. I love Stratford – I dread to think what will happen if we don’t do this at Long Marston. Stratford will become a housing estate and it’s congested enough already.”
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