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Seven Sisters Country Park: South Downs Society’s plea for safeguarding

East Sussex County Council has carried out extensive public consultations on the future management of its rights of way and countryside sites, including the famous Seven Sisters Country Park. Decisions on their future are scheduled to be made by the Council at a meeting of its Cabinet at the end of June.  In the light of recent moves by both Eastbourne and Brighton and Hove Councils to sell off land in their ownership, the Society has written to each member of the East Sussex Cabinet urging them to guarantee “benign” ownership, ensuring the protection and improvement of the landscape, wildlife, cultural heritage and public enjoyment.

The text of our letter is as follows:

The Society recognises the achievement of the County Council over the years in acquiring and maintaining land for the purposes of countryside recreation over and above its statutory duties with regard to rights of way. We also fully recognise the financial pressures facing the authority which render increasingly difficult the achievement of the highest standards which you would wish to meet.
In the circumstances we have responded positively to your consultation on options for future management and we await with great interest the report due to be considered at your June meeting. As set out in our written response to the consultation, the Society would urge the County Council to:
1. Ensure that the rights of way function is adequately resourced in terms of staff and finance to meet not only its statutory obligations but also the reasonable expectations of its users and other stakeholders
2. Either deploy sufficient resources on a continuing basis on the management of its countryside estate or agree to dispose of its assets to one or more benign owners committed to maintaining and enhancing their landscape, wildlife, cultural heritage and quiet enjoyment. In our response we made particular positive reference to the National Park Authority and National Trust as potential new owners.
The Society, which owes its origins to the benevolent and protective acquisition of coastal downland close to Seven Sisters Country Park, looks forward with great interest to your deliberations and offers its continuing support towards the achievement of the national park objectives of conservation, understanding and enjoyment.
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Eastbourne ends downland sell-off!

The Society has campaigned alongside local residents and other environmental groups against Eastbourne Borough Council’s plans to sell off the bulk of its landholding in the national park. While the planning powers of the National Park Authority would have remained in place, and rights of way would have been protected, there is no substitute for benign ownership if landscape, wildlife, recreation and cultural heritage are to be conserved and enhanced, so there is much to celebrate in the recent decision of the Borough Council to stop the sale. The Society has continually offered to collaborate with the council and others to realise the potential of the landholding and looks forward to engaging in that process.

The South Downs Network of environmental groups active across the national park — of which the Society is an active member and secretariat — has also offered its expertise. Below is the text of the Network’s letter to Eastbourne:

 

14th March 2017

Councillor Tutt       Leader, Eastbourne Borough Council

Dear Councillor Tutt

Following our letter to you (30th January 2017) this is a positive follow-up to thank you for the bold decision you have taken to stop the sale of the Eastbourne downland estate farms. Our network of 40 organisations with environmental interests in the South Downs National Park is relieved that you have come to this conclusion, influenced by the overwhelming feelings of your Eastbourne residents in the recent poll.

We understand the financial difficulties and pressure to deliver public services that you are under, and recognise that this has no easy solutions. However, we strongly believed that selling the downland asset was not the right answer. Now you have stopped the sales you will be looking forward to how best to manage the downland estate and we re-emphasise the offer we made in our previous letter: “we will be more than happy to work with you, in partnership, to maximise the benefits from public land ownership”.

A strong partnership with the South Downs National Park Authority, Water Company, key organisations and local interests can be galvanised here. The estate is an invaluable public asset for the people of Eastbourne, for the local area and visitors from further afield. Your tenant farmers are making a valuable contribution. Their sensitive land management in food-growing helps deliver clean drinking water, wildlife and natural capital, along with its value for cultural heritage, public access, recreation and tourism and increasing the sustainability of the local economy in the face of climate change. With ownership and management in your control, as the publicly-accountable local authority for Eastbourne, much can be achieved.

The range of ecosystem services that the Eastbourne downland generates offers great opportunity, particularly if the UK’s post-Brexit farming policy results in more financial support for the maintenance of such services. Furthermore, your Downland Management Plan provides a useful base to affirm a renewed vision to develop a more comprehensive action plan for the Downs in harmony with local people while also recognising the national significance of this iconic landscape.

Yours sincerely

Dr Tony Whitbread, Chairman, South Downs Network

Cc Mr R Cottrill, Chief Executive, Eastbourne Borough Council

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Please Don’t Sell the Eastbourne Downs

As part of the Society’s continuing campaign alongside local residents and other environmental organisations to keep the downs in benign ownership, we have — as a member of the South Downs Network of around 40 organisations — again written to the leader of Eastbourne Borough Council urging the authority to call a halt to its plans to sell four farms in a key part of the national park behind Beachy Head. The Society, from January 2017, acts as secretary to the Network.

 

Dear Councillor Tutt                                                                                            30 January 2017

Leader, Eastbourne Borough Council

PLEASE DON’T SELL THE EASTBOURNE DOWNS

We, the South Downs Network of organisations with an environmental interest in the national park, urge you to stop the proposed sale of the four farms, comprising three-quarters of the Eastbourne downland estate.

This land is an invaluable public asset for the people of Eastbourne, for the local area and visitors from further afield. It has great value for its rich natural capital, its biodiversity and cultural heritage, to public amenity and the town’s drinking water supply. It is vital that ownership and management rest with the Borough Council, as the democratic, publicly-accountable local authority for Eastbourne, to continue its great work in conserving and enhancing the land and complying with the words and spirit of the 1926 Eastbourne Corporation Act.

Under your careful ownership there is a synergy of the tenant farmers’ sheep grazing; people wandering from “honeypot” sites to the more tranquil downland and chalk grassland restoration enabled by “joining up” different compartments. This synergy would fail if the estate was broken up. We hear assurances that you have given about the land being in the National Park, rights of way being protected and covenants on the land. However, from practical experience across the South Downs this will not safeguard the Eastbourne Downs. No guarantees can be given that current, relatively benign farming practices will continue. Recent examples show how insecure these apparent protections are. Twyford Down in Hampshire was a legally protected Site of Special Scientific Interest and Scheduled Ancient Monument– destroyed. Covenants on Brighton Marina to prevent building higher than the cliffs – tested and torn up in the Court of Appeal. St Mary’s Farm, sold by Brighton Council and subsequently to an investment bank, which, to gain a good return on its investment, rented it to an intensive arable farmer who ploughed up the grassland and to a commercial shoot that bulldozed out copse-centres for game rearing.

We strongly recommend that the Council re-thinks its policy, looks more closely at the range of ecosystem services that the Eastbourne Downland generates and sets out a renewed vision for its Downs in harmony with its people. This should respect the fact that the land is held in trust by the Council on behalf of the people of Eastbourne.

If you take this approach we will be more than happy to work with you, in partnership, to maximise the benefits from public land ownership; you can be assured that this would be a most popular move, applauded by the people of Eastbourne.

I am copying this letter to Caroline Ansell MP, to Councillor Gill Mattock and to selected media.

 

Dr Tony Whitbread

Chair, South Downs Network

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“Fight for it or lose it!”

The Society, in collaboration with local residents and other organisations, continues to campaign against the plans of local councils to dispose of their landholdings in the national park. Here is a press release that we issued jointly with CPRE at the end of January:

 

‘Fight for it or lose it,’

warn campaigners over Downland sale


Countryside campaigners have joined forces to issue an urgent appeal calling for local people to join the battle to save thousands of acres of Downland before it is ‘too late’.

 The Sussex branch of the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE Sussex) and The South Downs Society are hoping a new wave of ‘people power’ could force Eastbourne Borough Council to rethink its plans to sell-off the land, which was originally bought for the people of Eastbourne in 1926.

“We think it is unacceptable that the council is now looking to auction this land off to the highest bidder for short-term economic gain,” says CPRE Director, Kia Trainor. “The council must halt and reconsider this plan and we are hoping that a strong message from the people of Sussex will make them do so.”

“This land includes of some of Sussex’s most iconic landscapes, and was acquired for the people of Eastbourne ‘in perpetuity’ in order to ensure that it was protected ‘for the enjoyment of all.’”

Many local residents are still unaware of the Council’s intention to sell the land which is made up of four farms in the South Downs National Park. The Eastbourne Downland Estate extends to 4,200 acres – much of which is internationally important due to its unique biodiversity and rare wildlife habitats.

“This policy on the part of the Borough Council to put at risk all the environmental and recreation gains made since the downland was bought has united not only Eastbourne residents but all those with a love of the South Downs,” says Steve Ankers, Policy Officer for the South Downs Society. “This would be a betrayal of the far-sighted vision shown by the Council nearly a century ago.”

Eastbourne Borough Council says that if it is sold the land would still be protected by the planning restrictions imposed by the National Park Authority and by legislation covering its public rights of way. However, the campaigners say this won’t go far enough and have warned that landscape enhancement, archaeology and visitor access will all be in jeopardy.

“For Eastbourne, it is a short-term and rather desperate ‘family silver’ sale, seeking to rob downland Peter to pay for urban regeneration Paul,” says Phil Belden, former Director of Operations at the South Downs National Park.

“Public ownership provides the opportunity to influence the way our land is managed. As constituents we can engage with our councillors/officers to achieve commendable conservation and access gains. Unless there is a benign private owner, there can be no assurances.”

 

 

 

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Stanmer Park

On 8 December the Planning Committee for the national park approved a scheme submitted by the owners of Stanmer, Brighton and Hove City Council, for restoring elements of the park landscape and rearranging the car parking. The Society had welcomed the thrust of the proposals but objected to the large increase in car parking associated with the project.

The Society frequently takes the opportunity to address the committee on proposals on which it has particular concerns or which it wishes to support. In this case we were unsuccessful.

Here is the text of our oral comments to the meeting, from the Society’s Policy Officer:

SDNPA Planning Committee 8 December: Stanmer Park

I’m speaking this morning on behalf of both the South Downs Society and CPRE Sussex.

We believe there is much to welcome in the proposals. Stanmer is a major source of enjoyment and access to the national park. Indeed, living only a few minutes away, I have been a regular visitor to the park, the house and tearoom for many years and know the site well. The city council is to be commended on its efforts to reinvigorate the estate and secure external funding to that end.

We welcome the removal of parking from the access roads and its relocation to the perimeter of the park, provided this can be adequately screened. We agree that the provision of access to the area round the walled garden, the house and the church from any direction other than the entrance gates would be unacceptable.

We acknowledge the need for existing residents and businesses to have vehicle access to their properties, both for themselves and for their customers, and that there will therefore be some continuing traffic through the park. But, and it is a big but, we very much oppose the plan to increase significantly (a net gain of more than 200 spaces) the parking in the very heart of the estate in order to encourage substantial business growth in this inappropriate location – for a third refreshment outlet and for a commercial garden centre. Business growth like this should not be at the expense of conservation and quiet enjoyment.

References in the application to differential pricing between the car parks is misleading: if it were genuinely anticipated that motorists would be discouraged from parking in the centre of the park, there would be no need for such a large increase in numbers of parking spaces and the inevitably associated increase in traffic through the park, in fundamental contradiction to the stated aims of the scheme. It follows that we do not support the new access road between the church and the house or the tree felling programme required for the parking provision.

We would urge you to reject this element of the proposals and seek a more sensitive solution to the issues of traffic and access at Stanmer. The Park has good public transport links and the city council should do more to promote these.

Thank you.

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A27 East of Lewes

Highways England, responsible for improving and maintaining the trunk road network, have been consulting on a range of possible schemes aimed at speeding up journey times and reducing accidents on the A27 between Lewes and Polegate. Here is a link to the consultation “paperwork”:

https://highwaysengland.citizenspace.com/he/a27-east-of-lewes/consult_view/

….and here is the Society’s response:

A27 East of Lewes improvement scheme

Comments of the South Downs Society

The South Downs Society has nearly 2,000 members and is the recognised national park society for the South Downs National Park. Its focus is the conservation and enhancement of the special qualities of the park and their quiet enjoyment. Our comments will reflect this focus.

Rationale for the scheme and general comments

The objectives of the scheme as outlined in the consultation are to:

  1. Improve journey time and reliability
  2. Support walking, cycling and other non-car travel
  3. Improve safety
  4. Reduce community severance
  5. Minimise environmental impact
  6. Respect the special qualities of the national park

 

  1. Improve journey time: No information is supplied to indicate the scale or nature of journey time as an issue, other than to refer to “below average journey times”, which is presumably an error in presentation. We note that the greatest predicted shortening of journey time for any of the schemes presented appears to be a maximum of 90 seconds in the case of Drusillas roundabout and one of the Polegate options, with 30 or 60 seconds more common. While acknowledging that the benefit of any reduction in journey times for large volumes of traffic will add up, we question the overall value being attributed to this scheme benefit. It would also be helpful to know how journey time reliability compares with dualled stretches of the same road nearby. We are aware from personal experience of major holdups on the dualled Brighton bypass immediately to the west, less so on the single carriageway stretch now under consideration.

We would also query the potential impact of additional or “induced” traffic likely to be generated by any scheme and the extent to which this has been factored into the scheme evaluation process. We have previously requested, and been promised, in relation to A27 schemes at Arundel and Worthing/Lancing, the outcomes of origin and destination surveys, mobile phone data and traffic modelling in order better to assess these impacts. We will continue to press for this information to be made available in a timely and publicly accessible form in order to inform responses.

 

2           Support non car travel: We welcome moves to improve access to and within the national park by means other than private car. We will consider the options in this light, though always balanced against other environmental issues such as visual impact. We note with great disappointment that reference to non-car travel in the consultation does not appear to include bus or train. We have previously stated, and will repeat, our dissatisfaction with the narrow scope of this exercise. To consider costs and benefits of highway schemes without consideration of the rail alternatives greatly diminishes the value of the consultation. If schemes proposed here were implemented, and if they were sufficient to encourage a shift from rail use to car between Eastbourne and Lewes, the implications for traffic and car parking in the latter could be significant.

Provision of laybys on the A27, suitably located, may help to encourage walking and cycling.

 

  1. Improve safety: The Society welcomes moves to reduce accidents, and the risk of accidents, to both motorists and non-car travellers. No information is presented to indicate the nature and scale of this issue and whether, for example, incident rates are above average for trunk roads with similar traffic patterns, or how these rates compare with other parts of the A27.

 

  1. Reduce community severance: This may be an issue at Selmeston although almost the whole of the village is located north of the road. We welcome in principle moves to reduce the current impact of the road on the village, subject to other environmental considerations like the visual impact of any changes. Severance appears to be a more substantial issue at Wilmington which these proposals scarcely address.

 

  1. Minimise environmental impact: This is a major consideration for this Society. We will consider options against a range of criteria including visual and aural impact during both night and day, effect on wildlife and the special qualities of the national park, both in the short and long term. This will include the potential impact within and close to the park of any additional, induced or diverted traffic on the A27 and other roads nearby.

 

  1. Special qualities of the national park: This is the “core business” of this Society and we will comment on the options in this light. The National Planning Policy Framework places the highest level of protection on national parks, requiring any scheme to meet high standards of design, implementation and mitigation and, in particular, indicating that planning permission should be refused for “major development” except in exceptional circumstances. Any diversion of the trunk road around Selmeston and passing through the national park would need to meet this stringent test. Any implemented scheme must be subject to appropriate landscaping and subsequent maintenance, especially as existing vegetation will be affected and the noise and visual impact may well be increased by higher speeds and traffic levels. If necessary in order to achieve this, additional land may need to be acquired.

 

 Walking and cycling path

Any proposal to extend the walking and cycling route along the A27, with safe crossings of the trunk road and other highways, is welcomed in principle.

Reconnecting foot/bridle paths truncated by the road schemes also needs to be addressed.

 

Selmeston options

 The identified benefits for all options, and benefit to cost ratio, are identified in the consultation as slight and are lower than for the walking/cycling route.

Options 1 and 4 offer scope for reducing traffic impact on properties and businesses on the A27 itself and the main village may benefit from a reduction in traffic noise. It is not known whether the pub will welcome the removal of passing traffic. Option 6 may achieve minor benefits in terms of road safety but will have little effect on journey times or on improving the amenity of the village.

Options 1 and 4 involve in varying degree new road construction within the national park and constitute major development. The acknowledged “large adverse and long term effects on the character of the surrounding landscape” and “large adverse long term effects on views from the national park including the South Downs Way and Firle Beacon” of any southerly bypass passing through the national park, as acknowledged in the consultation material, are not outweighed by evidence of benefits submitted in the consultation. Hence, pending the availability in digestible form of evidence to support the case for the improvements, we object to options 1 and 4. Option 6 involves a smaller degree of road construction in the national park but its visual impact and, as with options 1 and 4, the effect on rights of way, will nevertheless be significant and negative.

 

Drusillas roundabout

 We welcome this scheme. It appears to facilitate walking, cycling and particularly horse riding routes across and along the A27 while also achieving the stated objective of reducing journey times for road traffic, at relatively modest cost.

 

Wilmington options

 We recognise the current difficulties for walkers, cyclists and horse riders seeking to cross the A27 at this point, as well as the problems facing motorists in certain manoeuvres. There are significant current issues of severance of the Wilmington community by the A27 and its traffic which the new proposals are only able to address in a minor way. Both options would be highly visible and would damage the village green with little scope for mitigation. Option 2 appears to offer greater benefits in respect of achieving a safe crossing for vulnerable users including horse riders but, in disagreement with the findings of the consultation documentation, we feel this is at a significant adverse cost to the appearance of the landscape owing to the need for major ramps, steps and other infrastructure associated with the proposed underpass. While option 1 also entails the creation of discordant urban features in the landscape and may yield lesser benefits in terms of road safety, we would express a guarded preference for this option over option 2, which seems to involve more highly visible, intrusive infrastructure. If a scheme can be devised that achieves some safety improvements without widening the highway and introducing visually intrusive elements to the landscape, we would be more prepared to support that.

 

Polegate options

 Where widening of the road is envisaged, as with the existing dual carriageway north to Cophall roundabout, substantial existing planting may be lost and this will impact on views from the national park. This will need to be replaced. Otherwise, we do not believe that the options identified will have significant impacts on the national park other than in respect of the effect they may have on traffic levels along the A27 and nearby roads as outlined above under point 1, Improving journey time.

 

Prioritising investment

 It follows from our comments above that the development of a continuous walking and cycling route alongside the A27, together with appropriate crossing points, is our highest priority. We also support improvements at Drusillas roundabout, prefer Option 1 to Option 2 at Wilmington and object to the published options at Selmeston.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A better rail service for Cooksbridge?

Govia Thameslink Railway, which includes Southern Rail, is currently carrying out a public consultation on possible timetable revisions (this is for beyond the current strikes!)   The Society has responded to the consultation as follows:

 

During the previous round of consultation this Society, the national park society for the South Downs National Park, requested that the timetable revisions under consideration should recognise the designation of the national park and the statutory duty on public agencies and utilities to have regard to that designation. In particular we pressed for an improved service to Cooksbridge station, providing enhanced access to the downs.

 On page 25 of the current consultation this need is acknowledged and the Society welcomes that recognition.
 
Qu. 35 poses a question in relation to the frequency of services at Plumpton and Cooksbridge. This Society, though regretting any proposed reduction in service at Plumpton would welcome the introduction of a two hourly service throughout the week at Cooksbridge.
 
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The Shale Wealth Fund: compensating local communities

Government is consulting on the creation of a fund to ensure that local communities where shale gas is being extracted (“fracking”) benefit from that activity. The Society has responded to the consultation as follows:

 

These are the comments of the South Downs Society, the national park society for the South Downs National Park.

The Society has nearly 2,000 members and its focus is campaigning for the conservation and enhancement of the special qualities of the national park and their quiet enjoyment. Our comments will reflect this focus.

We note an emphasis in the consultation on the role of shale gas in regional development and the wish (para 1.19) to “rebalance growth across the regions”. The need for such a rebalancing is clearly less in evidence in the south east, unless it is intended to suggest that this region be accordingly afforded lower priority in pressures for exploitation.

We query what is intended by the expression (para 3.3) “shale sites themselves are small, with a lesser visual impact than many other forms of development.”  It is our understanding that the visual impact – as well as aural, disturbance, aerial and subterranean impacts – will be considerable, and significantly greater than for conventional fossil fuel exploitation, owing in part to an increased number and frequency of wellheads.

We address below the consultation questions on which we wish to express a view.

Consultation Question 1: Do you think that providing opportunities for both local and regional investments are the right priorities for the Shale Wealth Fund?

Yes. While residents and others may be affected locally by visual and other impacts and traffic, there may be regional impacts such as effects on aquifers (notwithstanding government assurances) and the tourist economy.

Consultation Question 2: Do you agree that a more local level should receive revenues before a more regional level (establishing the ‘trickle up’ principle)?

No. This may provide an undesirable incentive to some local communities to seek to outweigh any genuine planning and environmental concerns with money or investment. Planning decisions should not be made on those lines. This seems less likely to happen at regional level.

Consultation Question 4: Should the government retain flexibility regarding the proportion of funding between delivering benefits at local and regional levels, to enable learning from the industry pilot schemes and once the magnitude of shale revenues becomes clearer?

Yes.

Consultation Question 5: Do you have views on how the “local community” to a shale site should be defined for the purposes of the Shale Wealth Fund?

The community should be defined to include those likely to be affected by activities associated with extraction, such as lorry movements, as well as those directly affected by a drilling site by living close by.

Consultation Question 6: Do you agree that the “local community” should be defined on a case-by case basis?

Yes.

Consultation Question 7: Do you think a set of principles should be developed to ensure consistency of approach for different shale developments?

Yes.

Consultation Question 9: Do you agree that at a local level, it should be for local people to determine how the Shale Wealth Fund is spent?

While local people should be involved in the decision making, there should be objectives or criteria set for the funding to ensure it is used to compensate for the full range of impacts from fracking, including allocating to projects which improve the natural environment under threat.

Consultation Question 11: At the local level, should expenditure from the Shale Wealth Fund be subject to any ring-fences for a specific purpose? If so, should these be locally or centrally determined, and do you have views on what they should be?

A significant part of any extraction could take place beneath the South Downs National Park despite robust arguments having been made against that. If so, given the national park statutory purposes of conservation, understanding and enjoyment, it would be appropriate not only to compensate local communities but also recreational users of those parts of the park affected by fracking related activities, either beneath, within or close to the park. This would indicate a need for part of the fund within a national park to be ring-fenced to provide environmental enhancements and improved access, preferably to be allocated by the national park authority.

Consultation Question 12: At the local level, would an appropriate use of the Shale Wealth Fund be to make direct payments to households?

No. Other than, say, compensation for subsidence, other physical damage or blight – which should presumably be handled separately – it would be inappropriate for individual householders to be incentivised to overcome any legitimate concerns they may have about the proposed activity in order to unbalance the consideration of proper planning issues.

Consultation Question 14: How can the government ensure that decisions are as directly influenced by local residents as possible?

By affording more scope for local planning authorities (the traditional and democratically accountable mechanism) to consider the full range of potential effects of any proposal including aerial and subterranean impacts; and by discouraging ministers and planning inspectors from overruling the planning decisions made.

Consultation Question 16: What kind of investments do you think should be made from a regional level of the Shale Wealth Fund?

It would be appropriate to include investment in the natural environment and reductions in carbon emissions to compensate for the negative impacts of fracking including climate change.

Consultation Question 17: Do you think a regional level of the Shale Wealth Fund should be administered by direct grants to specific organisations, or through an open bidding process? How can the views of residents across the regions be best taken into account?

We would support an open bidding process, enabling environmental organisations like ourselves, as well as community groups, to apply for funding. If it were decided to allocate funds direct to specific organisations, that should include the national park authorities where they have planning responsibilities for any areas affected by fracking and associated activity.

Consultation Question 18: Do you have views on how a regional level of the Shale Wealth Fund should be governed? Are there existing regional organisations, or local or national governance structures that would be particularly suited to oversight of such a fund?

National park authorities should be responsible for, or at least involved in, the governance of any fund disbursed in a national park.

 

Click on this link for the consultation paper and full list of questions:

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/544241/shale_wealth_fund_final_pdf-a.pdf

 

 

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A27 Chichester Bypass

Highways England is undertaking a public consultation on options for improving the A27 Chichester Bypass. The Society has submitted the following comments:

These are the views of the South Downs Society in response to the current open consultation on the above. The Society, the national park society for the South Downs National Park, has nearly 2,000 members and its focus is the conservation and enhancement of the special qualities for which the park was designated. Our comments will reflect this focus.

The Society fully recognises the need to address the issues of congestion, unpredictable journey times and accidents on this stretch of the A27 and regards it as essential that any options progressed must have full regard to any implications for current and future traffic levels elsewhere along the road, including Worthing/Lancing and east of Lewes. We very much regret that the current exercise is road-based only and has been divorced from any real consideration of rail and bus transport: we regard this shift from integrated thinking on transport policy to be an unacceptable weakness in the approach.

That said, the Society welcomes the fact that no bypass options passing north of the city and close to the national park have been included in the consultation. If such options were to be resurrected the Society would strongly object.

We believe that any preferred option should be able to demonstrate that it can reduce congestion and unpredictable journey times on the Chichester bypass and bring about a commensurate reduction in traffic displaced by that congestion onto roads within the national park. It is essential that origin and destination survey data, mobile phone data and the results of any traffic modelling are shared with the public in a timely and user-friendly fashion in order to facilitate informed discussion about the potential implications of any changes to the bypass.

It is not this Society’s belief that the aim should be to create a 70 mph expressway. It would be our strong expectation that such a road would induce yet more traffic, increasing its contribution to climate change, potentially encouraging traffic to cross the national park to access it, diverting custom and thus the prospect of investment from the parallel, competing railway, and adding to the obvious traffic problems on the A27 further east.

The Society has attended the exhibitions of the options and taken the opportunity to discuss them with the staff present.

There are clearly local environmental implications attached to each of the options: these will rightly be raised by those directly concerned. As this Society’s remit is the impact on the national park, and much of the impact will be felt on the opposite, southern side of the city, we will restrict ourselves to one or two comments:

  • We note that a positive value, an “economic benefit”, is attached in the scheme evaluation to any reduction in journey time. From discussion with the staff at the exhibition it appears that no consideration has been given to whether a reduced journey time is an unmixed blessing, an absolute benefit: if, for example, car commuting from the south into the city centre may be achieved more quickly, will this not encourage more car traffic and is the city centre geared to accommodating it?
  • Views into the national park are as important as those within, or outwards from, the park. We would oppose the eastern end of the proposed link road forming part of option 2 where it passes beyond the B2201 towards Hunston. It would damage the iconic view of the cathedral and South Downs from the Chichester Canal at Poyntz Bridge, a view made famous in a painting by Turner, as well as destroying the tranquillity of the canal.

 

The consultation runs until 22 September. Here is a link to the Highways England consultation website:

http://www.highways.gov.uk/roads/road-projects/a27-chichester-improvement/

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Major new housing development on the edge of Chichester

The Society has written today, 6 July, to local press in the Chichester area expressing our concerns over a planning application for 750 dwellings on the west side of the city. The text of the letter is as follows:

 

Joined up Planning

It may seem unusual for an environmental organisation like ours, the South Downs Society – the “Friends” group for the South Downs National Park – to focus attention on the need for a new road link but that’s our strong plea in connection with the current planning application for up to 750 houses on the west side of Chichester, described as “West Of Centurion Way And West Of Old Broyle Road”.

We campaigned against the loss of this site for new housing but we lost – it’s now allocated for development. But, if and when Chichester District Council agree a scheme for the site, it shouldn’t be allowed to proceed without a satisfactory highway access, and that’s what is in real danger of happening. The current application seeks permission to access the site from a new roundabout junction with the B2178 Old Broyle Road, with the general intention that at some unspecified time it will be possible to link the development to the A27 to the south. Meanwhile, the traffic generated by the new development will head in a variety of unsatisfactory directions, including through the national park.

The South Downs Society has submitted its objection to the planning application on this basis and we would invite others to join us. The District Council has a duty in law to demonstrate that it is taking the national park into consideration whenever it makes decisions – it must show that awareness now.