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Looking at National Landscapes

The Glover Review promoted a shared Landscapes Service to give a bigger voice to the National Landscapes – designated National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs). In case this becomes a reality, we are looking at other National Parks and AONBs in the UK in order to build links with them and their ‘Friends of’ groups. Join us as we begin this series by looking at Chichester Harbour.

Photo by Jeremy Bacon

Chichester Harbour AONB is a large natural harbour to the southwest of the city of Chichester on the river Solent. It is one of the few remaining undeveloped coastal areas in Southern England and remains relatively wild. Its wide expanses and intricate creeks are a major wildlife haven and among some of Britain’s most popular boating waters.

The harbour and surrounding land is managed by Chichester Harbour Conservancy. Its duty is the conservancy, maintenance and improvement of the Harbour and the Amenity Area for recreation and leisure, nature conservation and natural beauty. It is the statutory Harbour Authority and is responsible for the safety of navigation, the regulation of moorings, works and dredging, enforcement of harbour byelaws and the collection of dues and charges.

Harbour Dues paid by yachtsmen meet the cost of running the harbour, maintaining the navigation marks, controlling works and dredging and enforcing the byelaws.  Mooring charges meet the cost of maintaining and administering Conservancy moorings and mooring sites and contribute to the cost of running the Harbour.  Other income pays for environmental work such as tree planting, recording and surveying wildlife, footpath maintenance, providing information about the area and running the Education Centre.

Chichester Harbour is of national and international importance for landscape and nature conservation and is a special place for wildlife. A wide variety of animals, birds and other creatures live in and around the Harbour – some are very easy to spot, whereas others may be hidden in the intertidal mud or in the water, making them less obvious. 

Supporting the Conservancy, the Friends of Chichester Harbour was founded in 1987 as a focus for voluntary effort in the harbour, and to try to involve more people. The objectives of the new group were simple, “to provide a focus for and to encourage the development of voluntary activities in Chichester Harbour and its amenity area”. Initially, the emphasis was on practical work with the occasional social activity, such as boat trips and walks – a long way from the high-profile fund-raising organisation that now exists.

For example, the Friends of Chichester Harbour’s ‘Return of the Tern: Nature Recovery on the Southern Coastal Plain’ project has been awarded a grant of £182,300 from the Government’s £40 million second round of the Green Recovery Challenge Fund.

The project will focus on nature recovery along the south coast. It will also head inland west and east along wildlife corridors, to the foot of the South Downs. Placement of nine new tern rafts with remote-operated CCTV cameras at strategic harbour points is included in the project as well as conducting a small fish survey and reshingling Stakes Island and Ella Nore Spit and the appointment of a nature recovery officer.

Photo by Jeremy Bacon
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Tree Guards: Protectors or Polluters?

Chris Steibelt, Trustee, is heading a new project and tells us why Friends of the South Downs have decided to launch this campaign

It’s more than likely for this to be a common sight in our countryside in the coming years as the UK Government sets ambitious targets for planting as many as 3000 hectares of woodland per annum. That’s a good thing though, isn’t it? Tree planting forms a key part of our goal to reach net zero carbon emissions in the next three decades. We all love trees!

Chris Steibelt and Lottie

Our enthusiasm at Friends of the South Downs for this ambitious government initiative is tainted just a little. Most planted saplings need some form of protection from rodents and deer in order to survive until they are well established. The common solution is to use a tree guard. These need to be durable and translucent for at least five years and the most cost-effective solution to date is those made of plastic. The good news is, technology has advanced and not all that plastic is fossil fuel based. Today, many products made with UV stabilised polypropylene which is generally recyclable. How could this be a problem?

All too often, tree guards are left to deteriorate

The problem: our countryside is already littered with redundant tree guards. We also have the prospect of another 9 million being added each year! In our haste to plant trees it seems we haven’t really thought hard enough about who will recover the guards and who will bear the cost.  

At Friends of the South Downs, we want to create more awareness on this issue and explore the options. We have decided to launch a new campaign, as inspired by the fantastic work of The Friends of the Dales, not to stop the use of tree guards, but to:

•             Increase public awareness both within the South Downs National Park and nationally

•             Call for greater accountability for removal of redundant tree guards – you put them in, you take them out!

•             Lobby tree planting organisations to use alternative methods

•             Work with the South Downs National Park Authority to introduce regulations within the Park covering the use of tree guards

•             Encourage greater use of bio compostable tree guards

•             Organize collection days around the South Downs National Park to remove redundant tree guards

Otterburn, 2019. The Friends of the Dales with Plastic Free Skipton. Tubes reused by Skipton Town Council

We’d like to hear your views. Have you come across areas of woodland with disintegrating tree guards? Please send us your photos and location (OS grid ref/ What3words / WhatsApp – share your location). Would you and your family be willing to help us on a collection day? Please drop us a line using the Contact Us button above or share to our Facebook page.

Chris Steibelt


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Threat to the Landscape Setting of Historic Buildings

Society DOs from R to L: Brian Davies, Derek Read, Chris Baines-Holmes, Liz Thomas and Rosalyn St Pierre. Policy Officer Vic Ient is on the left.

In November last year our East Sussex district officer team visited Swanborough Manor in East Sussex. We all agreed it was very interesting to look around and inside this unique historical building which started life in the 11thC as the grange to the nearby Cluniac  (St Pancras) Priory in Lewes. But that wasn’t our main purpose. We were reviewing the threat to the landscape setting of such historic building caused by nearby developments.


The team take stock of the adjacent building works

Our Society believe the area around a listed building should be treated with special regard especially when it comes to constructing anything nearby. Anybody applying for planning permission to alter or construct a new building in the vicinity of a listed building should demonstrate how they are protecting the ‘setting’ of a listed building. This applies to Grade II listed buildings and moreover to Grade I buildings.


Please read on….


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Glover Review – Independent review calls for radical plan for England’s National Parks

This long-awaited review was published on 21st September 2019. Click HERE to read the Glover committee summary and detailed report. We welcome the ambition of the review, and many of its recommendations, but it is also clear that a key issue will be – how the proposals are implemented in detail and over what timeframe?

We were pleased that the report quoted our national partner organisation – the Campaign for National Parks (CNP) several times and addressed many of their themes. Also, that it highlighted several initiatives in different National Parks which have been driven by / included significant input from the local park societies like the Friends of the South Downs.

The report says that they want to see public bodies recognise the status of national landscapes, as they do not always do so at present. The report goes further to say that the existing duty of ‘regard’ is too weak. He believes public bodies should be required to help further the purposes of National Parks.

The Society will be reviewing the 168-page report in detail along with the SDNPA response (click HERE). This will help us prepare for the campaign to actually get the recommendations implemented by the Government.

Key recommendations include:

  • A new National Landscapes Service
  • Creating a 1,000 strong ranger service
  • Giving more help to children to connect with nature
  • A transformed approach to recover and enhance nature, working with farmers and conservation groups to reverse years of decline and bring landscapes alive
  • Backing for new National Parks

We would welcome your comments which you can send to our Policy Officer, Vic Ient :

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Chalk Streams of Hampshire

A recent episode of the BBC Countryfile series featured iconic chalk streams, tackling pollution of water courses and the reduction of chemical fertilizers in farming amongst other things. The iconic world-class, crystal-clear chalk streams of Hampshire in the South Downs National Park kick-off this episode.

The TV programme opened with the feature on the crystal-clear waters of chalk streams in Hampshire within the pristine landscape and with these opening remarks “Chalk streams are a resource to be treasured and protected; they are almost unique to Southern England.” Countryfile visits Cheriton in the Hampshire, part of the South Downs National Park, through which the river Itchen flows from its nearby source. We see volunteers working to keep the water clear. Over recent years they have transformed the stream keeping it clear and free flowing. An expert shows us how to test for pollution from ‘brightening agents’ used in washing machine powders and liquids which could enter water courses through broken pipes.


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Registration of historic rights of way and of the benefits of extending the cut-off date for their registration – House of Lords Short Debate

On Tuesday 2nd April the House of Lords held a short debate to discuss the benefits of extending the 2026 cut-off date for registration of historic rights of way. Our President, Baroness Maggie Jones, spoke in this debate in support of an extension with a mention of the society, “… as the President of the Friends of the South Downs – which does fantastic work campaigning to protect and preserve the landscape of the South Downs National Park and providing a huge range of guided walks on the footpaths and bridleways.”

“The rights of way network is one of our nation’s greatest assets: it connects people to nature and our rural environment and describes how our ancestors interacted with, and enjoyed, the landscape over centuries.


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Consultation response to further quarrying in the National Park

The Friends of the South Downs believe that there is not a rising demand for ‘soft sand’ and that we see no reason why further sites should be allocated in West Sussex; especially those in the National Park.

What’s at stake? The review shortlisted 9 sites. 7 inside the National Park and 2 just outside (starred *)  the Park:

  1. Buncton Manor Farm (new site), Washington
  2. Chantry Lane (Extension), Storrington and Sullington*
  3. Coopers Moor (Extension) Duncton
  4. Duncton Common (Extension) Duncton and Petworth
  5. East of West Heath Common (Extension) Harting and Rogate
  6. Ham Farm (new  site) Steyning and Wiston*
  7. Minsted West (Extension) Stedham with Iping
  8. Severals East (new site) Woolbeding with Redford
  9. Severals West (new site) Woolbeding with Redford

These, as well as those soft sand sites previously considered during the preparation of the Joint Minerals Local Plan, will be assessed for their suitability for potential allocation. The ‘soft sand review’ sets out three main issues for consideration which are:

  1. the need for soft sand;
  2. the strategy for soft sand supply; and
  3. potential sites and site selection.

The review relies solely upon the ‘Local Aggregates Assessments’ (LAA) to predict ‘needs’ from 2019 to 2033 (14 years). This LAA also relied up historical sales of the material to assess annual demand alongside the usage and to extrapolate future demand.


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Consultation Response to Fracking as Permitted Development

Response from the South Downs Society (Friends of the South Downs).

The ‘Friends of the South Downs‘ is the membership charity, working to campaign, protect and conserve the landscape of the National Park.

These are the views of the District Officers – who respond to planning consultations and Local Planning Issues on behalf of the Society.

We do not consider that the scope of drilling exploration fits within the definition of permitted development.  It has landscape impact and restoration consequences; archaeological implications; aquifer implications; earth tremor implications for historic structures; and traffic implications on rural roads that may need Grampian conditions to alleviate.  This is well beyond the scope of permitted development even if the permission is time limited.