The controversy surrounding Botton Village took a new twist last Thursday when villagers spoke out for the first time against plans which have split the community in two.
Over 250 people attended a public meeting in Castleton to discuss the ongoing situation at Botton Village.
“I was absolutely amazed,” said Neil Davidson, who has organised the Action for Botton protest group in response to changes taking place at Botton village.
“We expected we might get 50 people, but there was 250 and it was immensely moving.
“I don’t know of any local meeting that I have ever been to where everybody has been of the same mind.”
For the first time, the public meeting allowed co-workers and villagers from Botton to offer their opinion on the changes that are taking place in the community.
The campaign began when Camphill Village Trust, which manages the site, announced it was to put a stop to the shared living that had defined Botton since its creation in 1955.
Carers had lived in communal homes with villagers, who have a range of learning difficulties and disabilities, but the changes would put a stop to this tradition.
The carers would also be forced to accept paid employment, which stands in the face of the shared living ethos, otherwise they would be asked to leave - and some already have.
In addition to a number of co-workers, three villagers came to the meeting and spoke about their own experiences.
Mr Davidson explained: “They said they wanted to live with their co-workers and added ‘they are our house parents and that’s how we want to live. We don’t want shift workers, we want CVT to go away and leave us to how we have lived for the last 20 years, when we have been happy’.”
Mr Davidson spoke at his pride of being able to give these residents a voice. They were aged between 25 and 50 and each had learning difficulties, but spoke with a clear voice against the changes proposed by Camphill Village Trust.
“They had immense courage,” said Mr Davidson. “It’s not easy for them and it took sheer guts to actually come to a meeting and stand up and have their say.
“The difficulty they have had throughout is they haven’t been able to give their side of the story.”
The trio all received a standing ovation, when they had concluded their speeches.
Noticeably absent from the discussion was any representative from the Camphill Village Trust, which runs Botton, despite them being invited to attend.
Instead, a chair was reserved with a sign saying ‘CVT’ and sat empty in the hall all evening.
Mr Davidson said: “It was the only empty seat in there. It’s just bizarre and they gave us no reason for not attending.”
The protest against Camphill’s changes show no sign of slowing down and on August 16 a candlelit vigil is to be held in the village - if the trust allows - or in the hills above if they refuse.
A “declaration of independence” was also signed by many of those in attendance, stating Action for Botton’s hope that that the shared living ethos of Botton could be restored and the community returned to its prosperous form.
Prior to the meeting, MP Robert Goodwill had met with the campaigners to hear their concerns, and was said to be “very supportive” of the campaigners.