US government orders against the Chinese companies which own Warfield-based chemicals-firm Syngenta will not be considered by the council against plans for 4,000 homes in the north of Bracknell Forest.

The authority said its responsibilities do not extend to comments made by the American government after the Trump administration banned United States investments in firms which Washington said were owned or controlled by the Chinese military.

EXPLAINED: What are the plans for Syngenta's Warfield site?

What’s the connection between the US government, China and Bracknell Forest?

In an order made by the Trump administration in November 2020, ChemChina and SinoChem were placed on the ‘blacklist’ of companies US firms were banned from investing in.

Upon making the order last year, President Donald Trump said China was ‘directly threatening’the United States through ‘the development and modernization of its military, intelligence, and other security apparatuses’.

The Chinese companies were therefore ‘blacklisted’ because key to this threat, the President claimed, was China’s “large, ostensibly private economy”.

Bracknell News:

ChemChina and SinoChem own Syngenta, the group at the centre of controversial plans to build 4,000 homes on 240 hectares of their protected greenbelt land at Jealott’s Hill in Warfield up to 2049.

The plans, which also include building a Science and Innovation Park for Syngenta, schools and health centres, were revealed in September 2019 as part of Bracknell Forest Council’s latest draft local plan.

A consultation on the plans followed which attracted hundreds of comments in opposition to the Jealott’s Hill plan.

Late last year, campaign group Save Jealott’s Hill submitted a petitionsigned by more than 4,600 people which called for the plans to be scrapped.

Bracknell News:

BFC is currently considering the consultation responses before it unveils the ‘submission’ version of the local plan in the coming months.

Does it matter that these companies have been blacklisted by the US government?

It does to the Save Jealott’s Hill campaign.

In previous months, the campaign group highlighted the wealth of Syngenta ownersChemChina and SinoChem -- both of which reported revenues in the tens of billions of dollars in 2019and 2020respectively -- as part of a suggestion the chemicals company could fund their new science park without needing to build 4,000 homes on their land.

READ MORE: Syngenta responds to campaign wealth claims

Now the pro-countryside campaigners claim the link between Syngenta’s Chinese ownership and plans to develop green space in Warfield cannot be ignored.

A campaign spokesperson said: “Since Syngenta are considered by the US Pentagon to be owned or controlled by the Chinese military and are the subject of a White House Presidential Executive Order issued in November 2020 this could potentially raise all kinds of diplomatic issues for the Johnson government in light of the Huawei experience earlier in 2020.

Bracknell News:

“In light of these revelations there remains no possible justification for either Bracknell Forest Council or Westminster to continue to encourage these people in their outrageous plans to plunder our countryside in order to enrich their, no longer secret, controllers.”

But to Bracknell Forest Council, the US government’s actions are not something the authority will consider when moving forward with the housebuilding proposals.

Responding to the campaign’s comments, Cllr Chris Turrell, BFC’s planning chief, said: “The council is tasked with a number of responsibilities relating to economic growth, housing and the associated infrastructure.

READ MORE: Campaigners urge council to drop 4,000 homes plan

“Our role is to consider the planning implications in such matters.

“As a local authority, our given responsibilities do not extend to matters concerning connections to site ownership or comments made by the American Government, rather than that of the UK Government.

“The Jealott's Hill site is just one of a number of development opportunities.

Bracknell News:

“The Submission version Local Plan is yet to be considered by the council, but once agreed, will be available for public comments prior to its examination by an independent inspector from the UK's Planning Inspectorate.”

What does Syngenta have to say about these claims?

A Syngenta spokesperson said: “We are committed to research at Jealott’s Hill and our consortium development proposal for the site supports our ambition and continued investment.

“Syngenta is headquartered in Switzerland, has a multinational executive team and board, a US-national as CEO, and operates transparently under local law and regulations across more than 90 countries, employing 28,500 in total, including many world-class scientists.

READ MORE: Jealott's Hill - responses to plans for 4,000 homes in Warfield

“Syngenta and its legacy companies have operated at Jealott’s Hill for the past 90 years and we believe the benefits of our development proposal will be significant for the Bracknell Forest area’”.