South Downs National Park Authority (SDNPA) let down the local communities? Iford Shoot Appeal Hearing:
The long and drawn out saga of the battle to protect the South Downs by local communities against the expansion of commercial shooting on the Downs near Lewes took another turn last month. Despite previous planning action by the local council, commercial shooting on the Downs near Lewes has continued over the last 10 years. Finally, the Lewes District Council (on behalf of the SDNPA) issued an enforcement notice on 14 August 2018. This then generated an appeal which was heard by the government’s planning inspector at a hearing on 10 March 2020 in Lewes. As you can see things take a hell of a long time in the planning world! However, the SDNPA Planning Dept seems to have approached this appeal and previous planning issues in this area in a somewhat halfhearted way. The SDNPA seemed to have made no efforts to support their case of enforcement against commercial game shooting on the South Downs near Lewes. Whilst the game shooting organisation had legal counsel (a barrister) and a planning consultant present, the National Park had no matching legal representative nor any senior planning officers present. Sadly, the SDNPA left the defence of their case up to the local Enforcement Officer from the Lewes District Council who said very little during the hearing and a South Downs National Park Officer who did put forward some points in favour of the enforcement case. Fortunately, the owners of Breaky Bottom Vineyard engaged a barrister who was a key figure in putting the alternative case to the inspector against the expansion of shooting beyond the 28 days legal limit. The Friends of the South Downs (South Downs Society) were represented by one of their local volunteer District Officers, Brian Davies, who spoke at the hearing giving evidence against the expansion of commercial shooting.
Because this case raises a number of principle issues regarding planning, we have made a report on the public hearing (see link below). We are not only concerned with the matter of support by senior officers of the SDNPA to their frontline staff but we are also concerned with a number of other issues which this whole saga raises including, – the lack of fair and proper public notifications of the appeal hearing , the proximity of shooting activities to public rights of way, the noise of shooting echoing around the Downs, the effect on the flora and fauna of the area, the use of the National Parks Whole Estate Plans in making out a case for shooting and the impact which such intensive activities have on the nearby villages and their residents.
Commercial Shooting activities at this location are clearly at odds with a number of the policies of the South Downs National Park including: Landscape Tranquillity Policy (SD7), Landscape (SD4), Biodiversity (SD9) and Section 6B, – Enjoyment of the National Park and it’s policy SD23. Intensive activities like shooting in a relatively small area of this National Park location go against the grain and the National Park purposes, which state:
- Conserve and enhance the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage.
- Promote opportunities for the understanding and enjoyment of the special qualities of national parks by the public.
One would hope that the Government’s Planning Inspector will refuse the appeal. The decision will be announced in the next couple of months. You can read our detailed report by clicking the heading below:
The image above is approximate in the centre of this sketch map