The Campaign for National Parks and the Friends of the South Downs (South Downs Society) joined forces this month in a review of some of the critical planning and highways issues in and near the South Downs National Park. Ruth Bradshaw, the Policy and Research Manager of Campaign for National Parks met up with Vic Ient, the Policy & Planning Officer of the Friends of the South Downs, last week and undertook a tour of the ‘hot spots’ of the eastern and central area of the South Downs National Park.
The review encompassed:
Lewes area – Arundel A27 by-pass plans, – Shoreham Cement Works – Super-store & 600 home development near Shoreham Airport – 800 homes development at Toad’s Hole Valley near the National Park on the edge of Brighton & Hove City Council area – A 10,000 home new town development proposal north of the downland villages Poyning and Fulking. The field trip finished of by visiting the site of the commercial and 3200 homes development going ahead at Burgess Hill. Our report of the field trip are:
Lewes area review:
Key aspects of the review included visiting the, as yet, undeveloped brownfield site in North Street, Lewes where permission was granted in 2016 for 415 homes including affordable housing as well as commercial and workshop accommodation alongside public realm buildings including a medical centre. Vic Ient commented “It’s all very well for the government to put pressure on planning authorities to allow planning permission but there’s no way of forcing a developer to actually construct the houses!” Vic continued “Sadly, in this case, and despite Lewes District Council owning a third of the site, actual construction seems a long way off”.
The review also took them along the possible route of Highways England’s proposal for an ‘off-line’ A27 dual carriageway from Lewes to Polegate which would partly run through the National Park. Though the threat of a major motorway style road east of Lewes seems a long way off, Vic Ient was keen to brief Campaign for National Parks on this potentially environmentally damaging major new road development. Vic Ient said “The Society support the current £75 million plan by Highways England to improve the exisiting road which is due to be implemented next year in 2020″.
Arundel A27 By-pass
At Arundel they met up with local campaigners Emma and Mike Tristram along with David Johnson, Vice-Chair of the Campaign for Rural England (CPRE) Sussex, to review Highways England’s plans for an A27 Arundel bypass. Ruth Bradshaw said, “Having seen the areas of the National Park and ancient woodland which are threatened by Highways England’s proposals for the bypass, I’m more determined than ever that the Government should be considering all potential options for this location. This must include the option of excluding major road-building and promoting public transport.”
Emma is Secretary of the Arundel Bypass Neighbourhood Committee (ABNC) and a Binsted Arts Festival Committee member. Mike is a trustee of Arun Countryside Trust (MAVES) and, as a farmer and grower, a member of the South Downs National Park Authority’s Partnership body. ABNC has been running a campaign since 2014 to protect Arundel’s outstanding countryside from the very damaging Arundel bypass scheme.
Emma Tristram said “The bypass route chosen in 2018, known as Option 5A, destroys parts of the South Downs National Park, two villages (Binsted and Tortington), nationally important woodland (Binsted Woods), and the Arun watermeadows. Highways England’s choice of this route, after a very faulty and biased public consultation in 2017, was challenged in the courts by me and by the South Downs National Park. Highways England have decided to re-run the consultation in late 2019 and are at present studying six route corridors. Local campaigners have put forward a much less damaging road improvement – a short section of wide single carriageway between two roundabouts, to improve traffic flow without ruining this beautiful countryside.”
Mike and Emma led us on a tour covering the Arundel water meadows, Tortington, Binsted and some of the areas of ancient woodland that would be destroyed by Option 5A, also the Binsted Rife valley, one of the only two ‘flushed fen’ wetland habitats along the South Coast, which is a haven for wildlife and birds, and would be destroyed by another route corridor.
IKEA & 600 home development near Shoreham Airport
CPRE Vice-Chair David Johnson then took over leadership of the Sussex tour. They visited the site of a new major department store development near Shoreham airport where it is proposed an IKEA shopping centre is built. Adjacent to this an area has been given planning permission for 600 homes. One of the worries with these developments is they are right across the road from the National Park and will impact the views from the National Park. More importantly, that they will create more traffic on the already crowded A27 route as there is no sustainable transport system to link to this site.
Shoreham Cement Works
David then took them on a tour to view the derelict Shoreham cement works. This site started life in 1860 and the current buildings date from the mid-20th century and provide an ugly reminder of how derelict industry buildings can scar the landscape.
This view of the cement works is taken from the 12th century Coombes church on the opposite side of the river.
“The two places couldn’t be more different” said David Johnson, “the tranquil and beautiful mediaeval hamlet and farm on one side and a reminder how we can mess up the countryside on the other”. South Downs Society Policy Officer, Vic Ient, said “I hope the owner of the site will work with the National Park to create a plan for the former cement works which will both be commercially sound and will enhance the countryside and remove the ugly buildings.”
800 Homes at Toad’s Hole Valley
The team then went on to review developments close to the Park’s boundary including Toad’s Hole Valley near the A27 Brighton & Hove by-pass where there are some 800 homes to be built (part of the Brighton and Hove city local plan). Vic Ient pointed out the proposal by the Friends of the South Downs to create a green tunnel for residents from the new development so that they may be able to gain access to the South Downs and Devils Dyke without getting in their cars and driving round an alternative road route. This same ‘green tunnel’ would offer a connection for wildlife between the two sides of the A27 dual carriageway.
10,000 homes proposal north of the South Downs near Henfield
On the north side on the Park they toured through the lanes and villages north of Poyning and Fulking towards Albourne where there is private investment proposal by Mayfield Market Towns to build 10,000 homes. Vic Ient said “The Mayfield development doesn’t seem to have any sustainable transport plans. This sort of development will just simply encourage more and more car users and will add to the effect of climate change.” A group has been formed to oppose the development called LAMBS.
3200 Homes at Burgess Hill
The Review concluded with a discussion of the area north of Burgess Hill which has government backing to build some 3200 homes as well as commercial development in what’s called the ‘Northern Arc.’ Vic Ient commented, “Whilst these areas are outside the National Park they contribute to the pressure on the environment and on the Park itself including visual impact and pressure on the network of lanes which could turn them into rat runs.”
Summary of the Visit
Ruth summed up the visit saying “ The visit was a really useful opportunity for me to get a better understanding of some of the current challenges facing the South Downs. Seeing the National Park looking so beautiful in the summer sunshine was also a great reminder of how important it is for us all to have parts of the countryside which are protected from damaging development.”