Archive for the ‘South Downs National Park’ Category

Toads Hole Valley is the largest greenfield site in Brighton & Hove allocated for development. It was left out of the South Downs National Park after it was severed from the downland when the A27 bypass was constructed. Currently there is an application to build 880 homes, a secondary school, business units, a community centre, doctor’s surgery and local shops.

Whilst not against the development of Toads Hole Valley in principle, we have objected to the current proposals on transport and climate change grounds. In particular, the failure to properly cater for pedestrians and cyclists. The development will encourage car use, even with a bus serving the site, because it is all too easy to drive from one part of the development to another. Therefore, we believe the development fails to conform to the Local Plan and national policy.

This site offers us a once in a generation opportunity to do something really quite special. Unfortunately, while there are some good aspects to this proposal, it is badly let down by its layout. The provision for people who want to walk and cycle is also poor. It will place pedestrians and cyclists in conflict on shared paths deterring people from leaving the car at home.

There is an urgent need to reduce carbon emissions, as we have seen by the recent youth marches and numerous scientific reports. Transport is the one area where we are failing, and failing badly. Yet this development, rather than offering solutions for the future, will lock in the bad habits of the past. This will make it harder for us to tackle climate change, not speed us towards the path we need to take.

The local shopping centre and doctor’s surgery need to be placed, near the community centre, closer to the heart of the community, so that it is easier to walk and cycle there. Pedestrian and cycle facilities need to be segregated to improve comfort, safety and attractiveness. While crossings need to be simplified. Currently the main junction has five separate stages for pedestrians and cyclists to cross to reach the southern side of Goldstone Crescent. Cars only have one. This is hardly prioritising walking and cycling as required by national planning policy.

There is no excuse for not getting this right and we hope the developers will take on board these concerns and amend the application to produce something that is truly groundbreaking.

More reading: BHFOE objection to Toads Hole Valley application


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We’re disappointed with Adur District Council’s decision to approve the New Monks Farm development, which in turn will see the closure of the Sussex Pad crossing. But our campaign is far from over.

We still have a chance to save the Sussex Pad – or getting a better replacement – by asking the Government to review the council’s decision.

Can you spare 5 minutes to send a letter and help keep the campaign going?

Ask the Government to save the Sussex Pad

At the start

Please share with family, friends and colleagues and encourage them to act to.

Many thanks

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The Sussex Pad is the best, safe road crossing of the A27 for cyclists for miles around. But now it’s under threat from the New Monks Farm development by the airport between Lancing and Shoreham.  The application is being decided by Adur District Council on 3 October, but there is no sign that it is taking the loss of this crossing and indeed other sustainable transport issues seriously.  West Sussex County Council and Highways England appear equally culpable in appearing to go along with these damaging proposals.

Local MPs from Worthing, Shoreham and Brighton & Hove have now joined the campaign to save the Sussex Pad crossing.  We are very grateful to Tim Loughton, Peter Kyle, Caroline Lucas and Lloyd Russell-Moyle who have all written or spoken to Jesse Norman MP, a Transport Minister about the loss of this important crossing and urged him to intervene.

Please sign our petition to save the Sussex Pad.

We have also written a second substantial objection that has been supported by many other local organisations including: Bricycles, Brighton and Hove Cycling UK, Brighton & Hove Friends of the Earth, Brighton Excelsior Cycling Club, Brighton Mitre Cycling Club, CTC local representatives, Horsham District Cycle Forum, Hovelo, Shoreham by Cycle, Sustrans Worthing Co-ordinator, VC Jubilee, West Sussex Cycle Forum, Worthing Cycle Forum.  In addition, Sussex Ramblers and the British Horse Society have also expressed concern at the proposals.

In this objection we dispel many of the myths and misleading statements that were made about the crossing and its proposed replacements.  We also strongly object to the fact that our previous objection was not properly reported to the planning committee and many of the issues we raised were not addressed by the committee reports or at the committee meeting.

Please sign our petition to save the Sussex Pad.

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Hilary Benn MP with Robin Crane, chairman of the South Downs Campaign holding a signed copy of the Confirmation Order

Hilary Benn with Robin Crane, chairman of the South Downs Campaign holding a signed copy of the Confirmation Order in 2009

After such a long battle to get the South Downs designated a National Park, in which Brighton & Hove Friends of the Earth played a prominent part, it seems almost surreal to realise that the designation is now 5 years old.  The campaign could be said to have started in the 1920s when people started agitating for National Parks to be created in the UK.  However, it wasn’t until after the 2nd World War that the legislation was passed in 1949, by the then Labour Government, to allow National Parks to be established.

The critical moment for the South Downs was in 1947 when the National Parks Committee chaired by Sir Arthur Hobhouse recommended that the South Downs be one of 12 landscapes that should be designated as a National Park. By the 1990s it was the only one that hadn’t.  That was due to lobbying by various vested interests in 1956, when the South Downs was turned down as a National Park on the spurious grounds that due to intensive farming it no longer offered the required recreational opportunities.  Yet this was clearly a trumped up excuse.  The area is simply littered with rights of way and while it might not have as much open access land as other National Parks, it is one of the most visited of all the UK’s National Parks.  People in effect had voted with their feet and its landscape beauty (which was not deemed to have been diminished by farming) was later recognised when it was designated as two Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) in the 1960s.

In the 1980s, as development threats started to intensify and modern agricultural practices were still causing harm to the area, it was people like Paul Millmore and Phil Belden who started pushing the case for a National Park.  However, it wasn’t until 1990 that the South Downs Campaign was formed at Sussex Wildlife Trust headquarters under the chairmanship of Robin Crane, who led the campaign right up to its dissolution in 2010.

Along the way there were many ups and downs and Brighton played a big part in rejuvenating the campaign in 1995 when the Council (then Labour) tried to sell off the downland estate and faced a huge backlash with a 12,000 signature petition opposing the sale.  This was no mean feat before the time of social media and electronic petitions.  The Council backed down and then to its credit got behind the National Park campaign, with full cross party support (Conservative, Green and Labour).

The 1997 General Election was also a key moment, when Farmer Harmer decided to plough up a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) at Offham Down.  He was well within his rights, but the situation was not helped by a weak and underfunded Government Agency, unable to properly protect these valuable sites.  However, it made great media and resulted in John Gummer (then Secretary of State for the Environment) having to order a Stop Notice to protect the site during the General Election campaign (only the 4th that he had ever issued).

After the election, Michael Meacher became the new Secretary of State and was instrumental in creating the right framework for the National Park to be created.  We received strong support from the city’s MPs, particularly Dave Lepper and Des Turner, and a wealth of other people too numerous to mention.  And despite being almost tripped up by the poor decisions taken on the New Forest National Park, we finally achieved the South Downs National Park in 2009, with the order confirming the designation coming in to effect on 31 March 2010.  It covered a much larger area than could have been anticipated and that was down to the keen interest and enthusiasm shown by the then Secretary of State, Hilary Benn and his minister Huw Irranca-Davies.  They in effect finished the job that the Labour Government had first started some 60 years earlier.

Today, Margaret Paren, a former member of the South Downs Campaign, has chaired the National Park Authority since its establishment and overseen its development and progress.  Already, it is taking a more strategic and consistent approach to planning.  It has supported nearly 200 local community projects, secured funding for research, restoration work and investment in new cycle routes throughout the National Park.  It has produced a Management Plan and this year embarks on its own Local Plan.  There is much to do and the threats to National Parks are increasing as Government slashes the already very small National Parks’ funding and presses ahead with dismantling the planning system and spending money on new roads.

On a day of celebration, it was appropriate to see the Brighton & Hove bus carrying Paul Millmore’s name heading to Lewes and beyond.  But we must also realise that the future of the South Downs is not guaranteed.  It may be in a better place than it was 5, 10 or even 20 years ago, but it faces some very big challenges over the next few years.  If it succeeds in overcoming these, then we will know how successful it has been.


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Brighton & Hove Friends of the Earth (BHFOE) is pleased to see that EON is progressing with the Rampion windfarm with the announcement that it will be using 116, 3.5MW turbines, with a tip height of 140.2 metres in a smaller array than originally planned.   The wind farm will provide enough electricity for 290,000 homes and save 600,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide each year.

BHFOE is also welcoming that fact that since the start of the initial consultation, the width of the wind farm has been reduced quite significantly.  In the latest plans, the field of view has reduced from 33 to 10.6 degrees when viewed from the Heritage Coast and the distance of the closest turbine (to the Heritage Coast) has also been increased.  These changes, along with the fact that EON has selected a turbine which is only 140 metres tall, mean that the visual impact from the Heritage Coast and the South Downs National Park is very much reduced.

Chris Todd from BHFOE said:

“This is really good news as it brings us another step closer to reducing our carbon emissions here in Sussex.  We also welcome the fact that EON has altered the size and layout of the wind farm which will dramatically reduce the visual impact from the Heritage Coast and the wider South Downs.

“We look forward to the wind farm producing its first electricity in 2017 and being fully commissioned the following year.  Given the current failure to properly address climate change both in this country and abroad, this is a much needed development.”

Other wind farm facts:

[1]   The wind farm will be built in an area covering 72 square kilometres compared with the 122 square kilometres it was given permission for and the 167 square kilometres that it first proposed.  EON was also given permission to build up to 175 turbines.

[2]   Energy generated in 1 year is estimated to be 1,366 GWh.

[3]   From Devil’s Dyke the field of view has reduced from 58.3 to 28.2 degrees, although the distance to the nearest turbine is about the same as before.

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Brighton & Hove Friends of the Earth (BHFOE) has welcomed the City Council’s rejection of a Conservative motion to join the A27 Action Campaign, when both Labour and Greens voted against it.  BHFOE is concerned that dualling the A27 would harm the city’s interests, undermine public transport and increase congestion and pollution as more people would be tempted to drive along the south coast rather than use the train or bus.  See our previous blog for more detail.

A key thrust of the Conservative argument in support of dualling the A27 was that it would allow the space for more sustainable transport to be improved.  However, BHFOE is not convinced by this argument as many of the coastal towns have smaller populations and traffic levels compared to Brighton & Hove and many improvements could be done now.  The reality is that West Sussex County Council has done very little to promote walking, cycling and public transport, other than a few notable exceptions, as it has clung on to the hope that one day an upgrade to the A27 would solve all of its transport problems.  In reality, it is likely to lead to more traffic and pollution and the quality of life in West Sussex will probably fall, while the impact on the South Downs would be severe.

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News Release, Wednesday, 16 July, 2014

A27 dualling could cost the city

Brighton & Hove Friends of the Earth (BHFOE) is calling on Brighton & Hove City Council to reject the Conservative Notice of Motion to support the A27 Action Campaign [1] at the Full Council meeting tomorrow [2].  Apart from the fact that dualling the A27, particularly around Worthing, would be extremely costly, BHFOE does not believe it is in the interests of the city.  Also, it is sceptical that there is any evidence that it would boost economic growth.

New roads generate more traffic and that will increase congestion and pollution within the city as more people are tempted to drive along the south coast.  This would also undermine public transport and put the city’s road network under further stress while reducing the transport options for tourists visiting the city.  Much of the traffic on the A27 is local traffic and requires local transport solutions, not big new roads.

Chris Todd from BHFOE said:

“Many councillors spent years supporting the creation of the South Downs National Park.  Now they risk throwing much of that away if they support the A27 Action Campaign.  This group’s aim to see the A27 dualled along its whole length would be extremely costly economically and environmentally.  If successful, it could then lead to more roadbuilding around Brighton & Hove, and cause huge damage to the South Downs.

“Rather than going backwards we need to be moving forward with ideas and solutions fit for the 21st century.  Many of the concerns businesses have could be addressed by small online improvements, such as a new junction at Crossbush, and by measures to reduce traffic.  If as they claim traffic and congestion is so bad yet so critical to the economy it begs the questions:  Why are we doing relatively well along the south coast?  And secondly, why have local authorities, aside from Brighton & Hove, done so little to promote walking, cycling and public transport and traffic reduction measures?”

“Given the cost of doing anything around Worthing – a tunnel is like to be of the order of £2 billion – it is unlikely the A27 will be dualled any time soon.  This campaign is only raising false hope while failing to tackle the real problem of there being too much traffic.  Car journeys don’t start and end on the A27, they start and end in the towns and cities adjacent to it.  These are the places where the congestion will transfer to.  The city’s energy and efforts would be far better focussed on tackling the real issues of our day:  climate change [3], air pollution, obesity, diabetes, mental health are putting the NHS under severe strain and costing it billions.  Isn’t it about time we had some joined up thinking and started promoting healthier transport choices?”

[1]   The Conservative Notice of Motion states:  “In order further to promote business investment and economic growth in the Greater Brighton area this Council resolves to pledge its support to the newly-formed A27 Action campaign.”

[2]   BHCC’s Full Council meeting is taking place on Thursday, 17 July, 4.30pm Council Chamber, Brighton Town Hall.

[3]   The UK’s Committee for Climate Change yesterday published a report saying that we are unlikely to meet our carbon reduction targets without greater action.  Building new roads increase carbon emissions and will make this task even harder and more costly.


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News release issued Monday, 7 July, 2014

Council risks making a bad position worse

Urban fringe report being adopted as policy without any public scrutiny

Brighton & Hove Friends of the Earth (BHFOE) is calling on Brighton & Hove City Council to put on hold the consultation on the proposed modifications to the City Plan.  These are due to be considered at Policy & Resources Committee on Friday [1].  BHFOE believes that going ahead with the proposed modifications is premature.  The Urban Fringe Assessment Report has not been subject to any consultation or public scrutiny yet the Council appears to be adopting it as policy [2].

Instead, BHFOE would like to see a public consultation on Urban Fringe Report take place first with modifications to the City Plan coming forward after that.  It is particularly concerned about the proposed amendments to the urban fringe Policy SA4 [see note 1].

Chris Todd from BHFOE said:

“We understand that the Council is between a rock and a hard place because of Government changes to the planning system [3].  However, the proposed modifications to the City Plan will make a bad situation worse.  These changes will give developers the green light to build on any of the sites listed in the urban fringe report, even if the consultants have got their facts wrong.

“Whilst we are not saying no development anywhere, we have serious concerns about loss of green space (which is in short supply across the city) and the impact on the National Park with some of these proposals.  That’s why we need to have this report properly scrutinised now before any changes are made to the City Plan.

“We were also very surprised to see the amount of housing on major development areas fall [4].  This has led to housing being shifted from sustainable locations, where there is good access to services, to the urban fringe where there are not.  This needs reversing.

“We also need our local MPs and councillors to make strong representations to Government about the unfairness of the current planning system and the problems created by London’s distorted housing market [5].”

[1]   BHCC’s Policy & Resources Committee meets at 2pm, Friday, 11 July, 2014 in the Council Chamber at Hove Town Hall, to discuss the proposed modifications to the City Plan, which includes amending the amount of housing across the whole city, not just the urban fringe.  It is also recommending changing the policy on the urban fringe (SA4) to the following:

Development within the urban fringe will be permitted where:

a) a site has been allocated for development in a development plan document; or

b) a site (or part of a site) has been identified in the 2014 Urban Fringe Assessment Study as having potential for residential development; or

c) a countryside location can be justified;

and where it can be clearly demonstrated that:

d) the proposal has had regard to the downland landscape setting of the city;

e) all any adverse impacts of development are minimised and appropriately mitigated and/or compensated for; and

f) where appropriate, the proposal helps to achieve the policy objectives set out above.

BHFOE wants b) above deleted as it believes it is premature and will prejudice which sites will be developed before there has been any scrutiny of the Urban Fringe Assessment or before they are considered in Part 2 of the City Plan.

[2]   The Brighton & Hove Urban Fringe Assessment by consultants LUC has been produced without any stakeholder involvement nor has it been subject to public scrutiny to test whether its recommendations are sound.  For example, the South Downs National Park Authority was not involved in the production of the report, so none of the claims about possible impacts on the South Downs have been tested or assessed by the body charged with safeguarding their future.

[3]   The Government changed the planning system making it easier for developers to do what they want if an area does not have an up to date adopted Local Plan.  Unfortunately, the time given to local planning authorities to draft, consult and adopt a Local Plan were ridiculously short.  See CPRE’s website for an outline of concerns with the new planning system.

[4]   Housing numbers on major development areas is set to fall from 6,155 units to 6,010,a drop of 145 homes, the main drops being in the New England Quarter and London Road area, Hove Station and Shoreham Harbour.  See pages 8/9, Appendix 2, Brighton & Hove City Plan Part One – Proposed Modifications Schedule.

[5]   See article in Planning Resource.  This highlights the housing pressure many local planning authorities are under around London because of the failure to build enough housing in the capital.

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Press release issued Thursday, 27 February, 2014

No building in National Park

Clear message to developers at Ovingdean

Brighton & Hove Friends of the Earth (BHFOE) is calling on developers, Lightwood Property, to clarify whether their housing plans for Ovingdean and Woodingdean include building in the National Park.  Documents submitted to the Brighton & Hove City Plan process shows a number of options for developing between Ovingdean and Woodingdean, three of which include building in the National Park [1].

While the developer has yet to hold the public consultation on its proposals [2], if these include all the options it has previously put forward, BHFOE would be strongly opposed to its plans.  Only option 1, outside of the National Park should be considered as a possible site for development, recognising that there is a real need for more homes in the city.  BHFOE would be opposed to option 2, which involves building on the school’s sports pitches and relocating these within the National Park.  Options 3, 4 and 5 all involve building in the National Park on land which also has local wildlife designations.

Chris Todd from BHFOE said:

“The developers have previously produced a number of options for developing in this area.  Now it seems that they are serious about these plans they need to come clean, sooner rather than later, as to what they are proposing.

“This is an extremely narrow part of the National Park and sensitive to any form of development.  It is entirely unsuitable to large new housing proposals.  Any development here could throttle the National Park and sever The Mount Pleasant area from the wider South Downs.

“Only option 1, which lies outside of the National Park is worthy of any consideration.  Option 2 which involves building on the playing fields and relocating them further away from the school in the National Park is also unacceptable.”

[1]   See Lightwood Property website – http://www.brightoncityplan.co.uk/ this link takes you direct to document produced for City Plan.  The various options are outlined on pages 40 – 49 of this document.

[2]   A public exhibition will be held on 11 and 12 March at Longhill School about the plans.

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Brighton & Hove Friends of the Earth (BHFOE) has registered its interest in the Rampion wind farm proposals with the Planning Inspectorate today.  The deadline for registering an interest in the proposals and potentially submitting further information or appearing at any hearings is tomorrow – 11 May, 2013.
The group welcomes the steps E.ON has taken to address concerns raised during the public consultation, particularly reducing the scheme’s impact on the Heritage Coast.  However, while it is backing the proposals in principle, it would still like to see further improvements made.
It is also pressing for a package of community benefits to offset the long term landscape impacts.  These could include: removal of eyesores on the South Downs, a better crossing for the South Downs Way over the A283 and a visitor/educational centre.  It would also like to see the options for community ownership of one or two turbines explored more thoroughly.  To see its full submission click here.

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