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Archive for the ‘South Downs National Park’ Category

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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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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