Thursday 24 September 2009

Concreting over the countryside

A “strategic site option”. This is code for a New Town, and that is what is threatened between Billingshurst and Pulborough around what is now the small hamlet of Adversane.

The proposal is for between 4000 and 5000 houses on about 155 ha of quiet rural West Sussex. That will be a population of around 10 to 12,000 people – bigger than both Billingshurst and Pulborough added together, and about the same size as the much criticised Ford “Eco” Town south of Arundel.

A new town of this size would essentially join up Billingshurst and Pulborough, making an expanded settlement of over 8,000 houses. Add in the 1750 houses also proposed for Billingshurst and 280 for Pulborough and we are heading for a major urban settlement of around 10,000 houses (total), more than 25,000 people. I thought that amalgamation of settlements into a large sub-urban mass was something that we were trying to avoid these days!

Swept away will be ancient woodlands, species rich hedgerows and the foraging areas of one of Europe’s rarest bats. Tranquillity would disappear to be replaced by many thousand extra car movements along the A29 and surrounding roads. This major development would completely devastate the area, changing it from a rural location into an expanse of suburbia.

And how do we know about it - through one of the passages in the Core Strategy of the Horsham District Councils Local Development Framework. Hardly bed-time reading for normal human-beings, but it shows how astute you have to be to stand a chance of arguing against major urban expansion.

I have seen reports tucked away in some of the local papers and the magnitude of the threat is slowly dawning on people. The Local Parish Councils, to their credit, are doing what they can to raise awareness. But I am slightly amazed that our local media, normally so good at these matters, are not jumping up and down.

So who would live in this new town and where would they work? There is no demand for a large work force in the area and no proposal for major industrial development to support the huge population increase. The consultation document itself says that this development would not support a range of services - an admission that it will be a dormitory town for people working elsewhere, probably in London. As such this form of town could be placed anywhere around London, there is no overriding need for it to be in Adversane. There is nothing wrong with people working in London whilst living in and appreciating Sussex. But we are now being threatened by a waste tip for London’s waste down the road at Laybrook, and a sub-urban sprawl designed only to be a dormitory town for London. Isn’t this all getting a bit unbalanced?

This is so often the case. We get big, menacing plans for housing development, being told that we are forced into this because of the South East Plan. But there are other policies in the SE Plan, including policies for nature conservation, and all policies are supposed to be balanced against each other. We have the site allocations for housing, so where are the site allocations for nature development?

Perhaps some policies are more equal than others.

Have your say!

Get the documents and response forms at
and go along to the exhibitions at Billingshurst Village Hall on 10am on 26th September and at Adversane Village Hall on 3rd October.

Let’s not sleep-walk into a miniature Milton-Keynes.

Wednesday 2 September 2009

This is not a barren quarry devoid of life!

My last blog posting outlined my general concerns about our throw-away society, in particular highlighting concerns about the proposed Laybrook landfill site as an example of the damage that can be done. I do not know the site but I had an excellent comment back from Pip Edgcombe who has clearly done significant research in the area.

I think this is a comment well worth reading so rather than leaving people to click on the comments box, I though I'd just publish it word for word as a separate blog posting:

This hole in the ground, Laybrook brickworks, does have significant existing wildlife interest. Far from being a barren quarry devoid of life, the varied mosaic of different habitats in and around the brickworks and the fact that it remains relatively undisturbed for much of the time has resulted in a site which supports a diverse mix of invertebrate, bird and mammal species. Many of the UK Biodiversity Action Plan priority species and other high conservation species are represented.

23 bird species with high conservation status were recorded by Cory's consultants (ESL) but based on other records and local knowledge this is a very conservative figure, it could be as high as 45.

There is a considerable bat population at the site with 8 species (including barbastelles) being recorded by ESL at the site and another over the adjacent fishing ponds. Many of the foraging habitats and the hedges used as flight lines by the bats will be destroyed. Work being undertaken at Knepp indicate that ESLs records are incomplete.

Water voles are also present on the site. There are very few colonies anywhere in the Adur, and the existing populations are extremely fragmented and vulnerable to extinction. The proposed landfill, rather than affording protection that is required by law, will result in the total destruction of their habitat.

As far as invertebrates are concerned the site is incredibly rich which is why it can support so many other species. Of the 565 species recorded by ESL, 60 have formal conservation status. ESL themselves describe it as a ‘site with a wide diversity of invertebrate interest’. The reason there are so many insects is because of the wide variety of habitats. Most of these will be destroyed during the construction and running of the landfill site. Mitigation measures are proposed to replace the hedges and plant new trees. However the current habitats have developed over tens, probably hundreds of years. They cannot be replaced overnight. The result will be habitat simplification, with a concomitant simplification of biodiversity that again the more common, competitive, species at the expense of far rarer niche-specialists. In addition, there will be a considerable delay before any restoration is carried out and be functional even at a basic level.

Landfill gas, landfill gas flare emissions, leachate, polluted surface water, dust, litter, noise and vermin are known to impact flora and fauna. Planning permission for the landfill should be refused as it is not needed and not wanted but also on the basis that this is an area of great biodiversity value, the ecology reports submitted by Cory's consultants are not complete and that the full impact on the ecology of the brickworks and the surrounding area has not been assessed.

Very many thanks, Pip, its good to have an insight from someone who knows the area.