Thursday, 28 January 2010

Stop The Adversane / North Heath Development

4000 houses – a development the size of Billingshurst and Pulborough added together – are threatening to engulf the tiny hamlet of Adversane.

This area, at the moment, is quintessential rural Sussex – just look at the pictures in my October 2008 blog. It lies alongside the picturesque Arun valley, within sight of the New South Downs National Park, surrounded by ancient woodland and a matrix of species rich hedgerows and grazing land . Government policy itself says that we should be putting new development on “brown field” sights, not in the heart of the countryside.

The Adversane New Town proposal fails any test of reasonableness in so many areas – yet proposed it is.

STAND (Stop The Adversane/North Heath Development) is a small group of concerned local people who have formed to oppose this proposal. And yes I do have a vested interest in that I live in the area as well!

STAND, along with many individuals and organisations, has already written its objections. It is continuing its campaign by organising a petition in an effort to persuade Horsham District Council to remove this threat

Please Sign this Petition without Delay

STAND’s Petition, for ‘signature’ by those who object to the proposed New Community, is now available online at (Please visit regularly). If you prefer, you can obtain hard copies of petition forms from Andrew Swaffield at Beverley, Gay Street Lane, Pulborough RH20 2HW. There will also be a paper Petitions posted to people who live in the area.

The purpose of the Petition is to show the extent of continuing opposition to the proposal by those who live or work locally or who may be affected by the development. Please sign and ask others to do so.

The Petition asks for first and last names, postcode and email address (these are mandatory for the online version). We also ask you to volunteer your home address, telephone number; these are optional but will help show that the Petition is genuine and that the results have not been fabricated. The details may be used specifically to keep those interested in STAND’s objectives informed of news and progress unless we are told that you do not want them to be used for that purpose.

STAND is anxious that its Petition has the highest credibility and, thus, by signing it you will be confirming that you have not signed another identical Petition arranged by STAND, e.g. a paper one. This confirmation will not stop anyone from sending a separate Submission to Horsham District Council with reasoned and detailed objections.

This development is only one of many being proposed around Sussex. It is not a matter of objecting to one and trying to push the development somewhere else. The whole concept of continual growth in housing numbers needs to be questioned along with the many dubious proposals for their location.

Friday, 22 January 2010

No Laybrook Landfill

Last night I was delighted to go along to a local group meeting, excellently chaired by Shipley Parish Council, to hear objections to a large landfill site being proposed between Thakeham, Coolham and Ashington. Evening meetings may not be everyone’s cup of tea but it is always an education and I am always impressed with the quality of the case that local people can put together when they are worried about something.

And the proposed landfill at Laybrook is a major worry. Over 4 million tons of rubbish over 21 years, many thousands of lorry movements per year, destroyed tranquillity, impact on local wildlife including the threat of damage to one of the most innovative wildlife projects in the country.

The developers, however, have “Thakeham Village Action” to contend with and the case being put together is not just a NIMBY reaction, but an excellent articulation of how we should not even be thinking about landfill in the 21st century. We are running out of holes in the ground anyway and this should stimulate us to find much more appropriate solutions to our waste problems. There are many alternative approaches out there and practically every other European country is doing far better than us. Why is it that German people only send 3kg of waste per person to landfill, whereas we send 320Kg?

Throwing things away is an unacceptable side of our consumer society – there is no “away” left and every time we put something in the rubbish bin we should think where it will go. We can’t complain about rubbish dumps at the end of our gardens if we fill up a wheelie bin every week. The only long-term solution is a zero-waste society – create less waste, recycle much more, and even the waste that remains should be a resource for something else.

We now have just a week to object to this proposal, and I would recommend that everyone who chances upon this posting should put in an objection. The details are on the “no Laybrook landfill” web site.

Also, of course, these holes in the ground are not devoid of wildlife. One of my previous blog postings includes some excellent information from Pip Edgecombe showing just how valuable this particular area is. These sites are assets and we should be able to come up with far better ideas of what to do with them than fill them with rubbish. The company at the Laybrook site has been making profit out of brick making from clay won from that site for a very long time. And good luck to them. But rather than trying to make yet more money by turning it into a waste dump, surely the more responsible thing to do would be to turn it over to the local community, maybe developing it as a local nature reserve so it can add to the value of the Knepp Wildland project next door rather than threaten it.

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

A winter wonderland

Snowy weather, like we’ve had over the last couple of weeks, always makes us wonder about how wildlife copes in such conditions. Between now and spring is generally the time of year when most mortality happens. Food, for most wildlife, is scarce at the very time when they need it most so, unfortunately, this is the time when the weakest tend to die.

Even in a truly wild situation, when all the predators were still roaming the primeval wildwood, it is likely that it was winter, rather than large carnivores, that had most effect on the populations of herbivores like deer and small mammals.

At present we have more deer in the countryside than at any time in history, and their grazing is often damaging woodland. If their numbers are knocked back by a harsh winter then plants and regenerating shrubs will stand more of a chance in spring.

But, walking around, you may be able to see another side to winter. If you walk through the woods you see trees bent over because of the weight of the snow, often there are major branches broken off and lying on the ground. If you look at woods in parts of Europe, where snow is more common, even in summer you will often find trees and shrubs inexplicably bent over in an arch-shape. This is cause by the weight of snow in winter. You can start to see some examples of this in our woods following the snow. Evergreens like holly seem to be effected most and I have seen several large well-shaped holly trees broken to pieces because of all the snow that had built up on them.

To start with this looks like more death and destruction. But this is part of the ecology of the area – an intimate part of the way the environment works not just some disaster that it has to recover from.

A winter like this changes the “structure” of habitats like woodland and forest. It re-shapes them, damaging some trees but leaving others, opening up the canopy in places. This is creating diversity. A winter like this could well help make our woods more open and sunny when the spring does eventually get here, allowing plants that were becoming overshadowed to thrive.

I can make one guess at what might happen as a result of winter 2010. Woods in England have gradually become more overshadowed over the last few decades. This may partly be because there is less management - less cutting to provide firewood and so on. But it could also be part of an ecological change because of a lack of harsh winters. Holly has become more abundant in some woods and, as a dense evergreen, many other plants have been overshadowed and woods have become poorer. As conservationists, we have become a little worried that this apparently natural change seems to be having a negative effect on nature. Perhaps this is where harsh winters come in. Holly seems to have been most heavily effected by the snow so may now be at a disadvantage. Furthermore, animals like deer and rabbits have very little to eat at this time of year. It is likely that they will turn their attention to the bark of holly trees – not something they would do if there was something else to eat (have you tried tasting holly trees?!) but surprisingly nutritious. So, as well as being knocked back by physical damage from snow, holly bushes may now find themselves killed by ring-barking. Effectively, in the absence of harsh winters, holly may become too competitive and so reduce the richness of a wood. When a harsh winter hits then holly is knocked back, enriching the forest.

So, the direct effects of winter may be harsh and will indeed kill a lot of wildlife. But it may be that the structural diversity will improve and this could create the conditions suitable for a rich wildlife in the future.