MP MARIA Caulfield was branded a “lying b****” in a row over the opening of a controversial caviar farm.

Fine food importer Ken Benning made the remark responding to news she had asked Sajid Javid, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, to review his bid to build a six-acre fish farm in East Chiltington.

Her request, known as “calling it in”, means if Lewes District Council’s planning committee approves the application tonight, it will be deferred to Mr Javid to consider.

The council’s planning officers have recommended it for approval but there have been widespread objections from residents.

Mr Benning, who bought the land from his parents and already runs a caviar farm on Exmoor, also accused her of “taking the p***” and having her “head in the sand”.

He claims that she previously pledged support to his scheme.

A website against the plans said that a member of the MP’s office said Maria “clearly stated she would be supporting residents and not the caviar farm”.

Mr Benning said: “By calling it in she has taken it too far.

“If she wants to take me on, bring it on. I will have her for lying.

“I met with her and she said she did not think it was an over development.

“If she had not supported me in the meeting why would I email her thanking her for her support?

“I have a background in politics and I know a lot of people in Westminster.

“I have letters from David Cameron, the Queen and Prince Charles supporting our business.

“Planning officers saw the site yesterday and saw nothing wrong with the application.

He said he had tried to “appease” objectors but claimed they were “clutching at straws” in a “malicious campaign”, adding: “The whole thing has got completely out of hand.”

Ms Caulfield insisted she has remained neutral – which Mr Benning later said he would be happy with if she put this in writing.

She said “virtually the whole village” contacted her on the subject with “genuine concerns”, adding: “The application could potentially have a huge impact so I have asked for the Government’s expertise to make sure all the right checks have been done.

“I will not apologise for standing up for my residents.”


CALLING in a planning application takes the power out of the hands of the local authority and leaves it with the secretary of state, normally when the proposal has national significance. In her letter to Sajid Javid, Lewes MP Maria Caulfield said this was because it was the first of its kind in the UK. This independent review is fairly rare but the department for communities and local government confirmed it would be reviewed if necessary.


IF THE plans go ahead it will pave the way for a six-acre Caviar farm with up to 400 sturgeon fish swimming in giant fish ponds in the tiny hamlet of East Chiltington.

The ponds would be in two fallow fields in the area north of Plumpton.

The plans will turn a modest plot of land at one end of the village into a caviar farm with a wind turbine, a miniature reservoir, some barns and farm buildings and five water beds, at least two of which would be used to rear the 5ft Siberian sturgeon whose eggs will be farmed.

Fine food importer, Ken Benning, who grew up in the village and bought the farm from his parents, said the plan for the wind turbine has since been withdrawn to “appease objectors” and a driveway had been moved back.

In a new approach of its kind, he said the farm will be humane because the sturgeon will not be killed.

Instead, their eggs will be harvested and they will be returned to the water to breed again.

The eggs will only be harvested every two years and the water draining to fill the ponds will be done in winter, Mr Benning said.

Residents of the hamlet say the farm will scar the landscape, disrupt their peaceful community and drain water from sea trout spawning grounds.

The proposal faced massive opposition from residents, with more than 100 objections received since the plans were submitted.

Council officers have recommended the plans for approval and Mr Benning insists it will not cause the disturbance that villagers fear.

The farm would not draw off the main water system.