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Archive for the ‘South Downs National Park’ Category

The second round of consultation on the Rampion wind farm is currently underway and will finish on 8 August, 2012.  Brighton & Hove Friends of the Earth (BHFOE) is urging people to get involved and let their views be known.  It is supportive of the proposals as it believes we need to take urgent action to tackle climate change.  However, it is disappointed with the level of detail provided in the draft Environmental Statement produced by E.ON which it feels is inadequate.  It would like to see more justification and evidence as to why a shorter cable route through the South Downs National Park is not possible and it would also like to see proposals to mitigate and compensate the visual impact on the Heritage Coast – the undeveloped coastline of the South Downs between Seaford and Eastbourne.

It does not believe that the impact on the National Park has been taken seriously enough and wants E.ON to review its proposals.  Another example of a failure to understand the importance of the National Park is in the way that E.ON is taking the cable across the South Downs Way.  For example, E.ON is proposing that where the cable crosses National Cycle Routes it will be done without disturbing the cycle routes so that they can remain open all of the time.  BHFOE welcomes this but is questionning why this same approach is not being applied to the South Downs Way which is probably better used and more important to the local economy.

BHFOE is also calling on the developers to establish a visitor / educational centre to be established in the Brighton – Shoreham area to increase awareness about climate change and renewable energy.

BHFOE has produced a flier outlining its concerns.  Please take the opportunity to have your say.

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Conditional support for Rampion windfarm and calls for better consultation
Responding (BHFOE Rampion Windfarm 1st Consultation Response) to the first round of consultation on the Rampion windfarm which ended yesterday [1], Brighton & Hove Friends of the Earth (BHFOE) is only giving conditional support to the project. The group says the windfarm is urgently required to reduce carbon emissions but that E.ON needs to do more to avoid damaging the South Downs National Park.  BHFOE is also calling for a full 12 week consultation once the detailed environmental reports come out [2]. 
BHFOE welcomes the cabling on land being placed underground to reduce the landscape impact.  However, BHFOE believes that E.ON has failed to demonstrate how it has avoided impacts on the National Park, particularly the Heritage Coast [3] for which inadequate photo-montages were produced. 
Chris Todd from BHFOE said:
“We really want to see this development succeed.  In this part of the country we have done little to develop renewable energy and we need to play our part.  Rampion represents an important step towards reducing our carbon emissions and tackling climate change.
“However, that must not blind us to just accept any old development.  E.ON needs to demonstrate that impacts on the South Downs have been minimised as far as practicable.  We are concerned about harm to the Heritage Coast and don’t believe enough has been done to protect this area.  It also seems odd that E.ON requires a 14km cable route through the National Park at a point where it is only 4-5km wide.
“We’ve just had a 12 week process which has been great at raising awareness about Rampion, but not so good as a consultation.  The lack of information has made it difficult for people to really engage.  The next round of consultation will see a mountain of information released, with only 6 weeks allowed for responses.  This is perverse and many people will struggle with such a short timescale.  E.ON should reconsider.”
ENDS
Notes to editors:
[1]    The formal community consultation has run from Monday, 13 February until Sunday, 6 May 2012 (12 weeks) but very little technical information was released.  For example, the Environmental Impact Assessment was not published.  The information that was presented was often inadequate, such as the lack of photo-montages from the Heritage Coast, which has made it difficult for the public to make informed comments on the proposals.  So while the process has been good at awareness raising, and BHFOE has congratulated E.ON on this aspect of it, it has not really been a satisfactory consultation.
[2]    Almost immediately after the close of the community consultation, the formal statutory consultation will start mid-May 2012 for 6 weeks.  However, this will include the publication of substantial documents such as the Environmental Impact Assessment and other important documentation.  These documents will take some time to read and only having 6 weeks to do this, draft responses and seek agreement from committees and boards will be difficult for many organisations and members of the public.  The closeness of the start of second consultation to the end of the first also raises suspicions that the consultation process is more of a tick box exercise rather than a real engagement with local people.  Given the short amount of time between the two consultations, it is unrealistic that E.ON will make any substantial changes, if at all, as a result of feedback received so far. 
[3]    The Heritage Coast extends from the Martello Tower in Seaford to the Martello Tower in Eastbourne, and represents the main coastal element of the South Downs National Park.  This stretch of coastline is one of the few unspoilt stretches of coastline in the south east of England.  The white chalk cliffs are an iconic image of England, particularly linked to images of the Second World War and have featured in many films.
Media Contact:  Chris Todd  01273 553044  or  07889 302229

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Adam Trimingham recently published his views on the lack of coordinated access to the South Downs National Park. You can see his article here

Adam Trimingham is indeed right that the South Downs are wonderful asset (Argus, 5 October 2011) and we are lucky enough, as a city, to own vast swathes of them.   Yet the tragedy is that they are difficult to access for many residents. 

Improvements need to be made for walkers and cyclists so people don’t feel they always need to drive out to the Downs.  Two routes which require urgent attention are along Dyke Road and Ditchling Road.  However, the responsibility for these routes lies with the City Council not the National Park Authority.   So Adam’s frustration with the National Park Authority is somewhat misplaced.

What is also of great concern, as Adam highlights, is the lack of joined up thinking around Stanmer Park.  Why is the Council even thinking of flogging off more assets before it has consulted on the future of its downland?  And why is it doing this before exploring all the options for Stanmer Park, including a National Park visitors’ centre amongst many other ideas?

Whoever is in charge needs to sort the current mess out before it’s too late.  Stanmer Park should be one of our main gateways into the National Park.  Yet the way things are going, it risks falling into further decline.   This is not good for residents, nor is it good for the local economy.  Indeed, it’s nothing short of a tragedy.

This letter from Chris Todd was published in the Argus on 12th October 2011

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Brighton & Hove Friends of the Earth

 News Release

For Immediate Release:  31 March 2010

National Park Celebrations

Group celebrates success after 15 years of campaigning

Brighton & Hove Friends of the Earth’s (BHFOE) is celebrating the creation of the new South Downs National Park.  While Hilary Benn, Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs signed the Order in November last year which finalised the boundary of the National Park, it didn’t come into force until today.  At the same time the previous Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty designations have been rescinded [1].

BHFOE first became involved with campaigning for a National Park in 1995, at the time when Brighton Council tried to sell off the downland estate [2].  It was particularly active, along with other FOE groups in the early years, before Government and its advisors accepted that there should be a National Park [3].  In the late 1990s it also joined the South Downs Campaign a network of organisations across Sussex and Hampshire campaigning for a National Park covering the widest possible area.

Chris Todd, spokesperson for BHFOE (and former South Downs Campaign officer) said:

 “Little did I realise in 1995 that I would be standing here today celebrating a South Downs National Park.  At the time it seemed a remote possibility and its achievement is something quite remarkable.  Many people are unaware quite how long this campaign has gone on for and the persistence and dedication it has demanded.  BHFOE’s involvement of 15 years seems small compared to some who have campaigned on this for over quarter of a century.

“The fact that we now have a South Downs National Park is a testament to all the hard work that has been put in over many, many years.  It hasn’t been easy and we’ve had to overcome a number obstacles and set-backs.  But the final result has been worth it.”

ENDS

Notes to editors:

[1]   Tomorrow on 1 April, 2010, the South Downs National Park Authority will become the body legally responsible for managing the new South Downs National Park

[2]   BHFOE was part of a local network called Keep Our Downs Public which formed to oppose the sell-off of Brighton’s downland.  It was successful in doing this and in the process convinced the Council (with all-party support) to back the bid for a National Park.

[3]   BHFOE played a big part in the publicity around the ploughing up of the Downs at Offham Down by Farmer Harmer 3 weeks before the 1997 General Election.  It worked with other local groups, including Lewes Friends of the Earth and other Lewes based groups to monitor the site and to organise its unploughing.

The group, working with others, also helped organise various public meetings across the Downs, a big event at Stanmer Park and led on collecting 21,000 signatures that David Lepper, MP for Brighton Pavilion, presented to Parliament in January 1999.

Contact:  Chris Todd  01273 553044  or  07889 302229

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