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“Size isn’t Everything” say A27 campaigners

On Thursday 21 September the Society’s Policy Officer chaired a public meeting in Arundel organised by the Arundel A27 Forum, a grouping of organisations and individuals committed to seeking more environmentally sustainable solutions to traffic issues in and around the town. Over 100 people attended and indicated their opposition to the grander bypass options put forward by Highways England, the government’s trunk roads agency, and support for more modest measures.

The Society and its partners issued a press release shortly after the meeting:

 

“Size isn’t Everything” say A27 Campaigners

A packed meeting at Arundel’s Norfolk Arms last Thursday warmly welcomed a local, more integrated approach to the town’s traffic problems than relying on a big new bypass.

Local residents joined speakers from regional and national organisations in questioning the evidence submitted in their current public consultation by the government’s agency for trunk roads, Highways England, to justify their three bypass options.

Said Kay Wagland, Ford Road resident, town councillor and local campaigner with Arundel SCATE (South Coast Alliance on Transport and the Environment), “Bypasses are about speeding drivers past places and that’s the remit of Highways England. Arundel residents need to be able to get in and out of their own town safely and conveniently on foot, bike, bus and, yes, by car. None of this is helped by the bypass ‘choices’ we’re being offered.”

David Johnson, chair of Sussex Branch of the Campaign to Protect Rural England, presented a short new video, The End of the Road, based on extensive national studies of the impact of new road schemes. “Research”, said David, “shows that building roads generates more traffic, causes permanent environmental damage and leads to little economic gain. It’s a tired formula that we can’t afford and benefits nobody in the long run.”

Bridget Fox from the Campaign for Better Transport agreed, “As the remit of Highways England is limited to managing and improving the trunk road network, it’s no surprise that they show bigger and better bypasses as their solution but this isn’t going to solve traffic problems in or around Arundel.”

Kay Wagland and fellow SCATE member Simon Rose concluded that “Bypass Option 1” from the Highways England consultation was a definite improvement on both of the other options, following the existing route of the A27 more closely and having a much less damaging environmental impact, while still easing traffic through the current hold-ups. But they showed the meeting how an improved, less expensive design for Option 1, known as the “new purple route” would perform even better. This can be studied on the website of the Arundel  A27 Forum. There seemed no enthusiasm amongst those present for Highways England’s more grandiose Options 3 and 5A and their viaducts sweeping across the Arun valley.

The meeting was chaired by the Policy Officer for the South Downs Society, Steve Ankers, who concluded, “Some politicians and many members of the public seem to cling to the idea that the more expensive the solution, the better the outcome. We need to look closely at what the actual problems are that we’re hoping to solve. Even from the evidence that Highways England have put forward the grand bypass options don’t score well. Arundel and the National Park deserve better.”

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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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A27 Chichester Bypass: Road to Ruin?

The Society has issued the following press release in connection with proposals for a new expressway, northern bypass for Chichester:

Road to Ruin?

“The South Downs National Park would be severely damaged by a Chichester northern bypass” says the park’s official “friends” group, the South Downs Society.

Although formal public consultation has not yet begun on various options drawn up by Highways England, the government’s agency for trunk roads, it is already clear that two of the possible routes would pass to the north of Chichester, between the city and the national park.

“We fully recognise that there are major traffic issues on the bypass and understand the need for improvements,” says South Downs Society chairman, Robert Cheesman, “but those changes can be made to the existing route, not by constructing a major new expressway along the edge of the national park. We have a very special landscape here, designated of national importance, and planning policy insists that better options be found.”

The Society, and a range of environmental, business and other organisations, have been engaged with Highways England and their transport consultants for over a year, considering congestion, road safety and other issues along the A27 at Arundel, Worthing/Lancing and east of Lewes and how to address them, but the proposals for Chichester bypass have taken them by surprise.

Says Robert Cheesman, “The problems along the A27 are not hard to identify. It’s not just about delays for car drivers but also the impact of  traffic on the landscape of the national park and the quiet enjoyment of those visiting it. We want people to be able to enjoy the park’s special qualities and reach it on foot or by more environmentally sustainable forms of transport. When the various possible improvement schemes eventually emerge, the South Downs Society will look at each option on the basis of the likely effects on the national park and how we can all enjoy it.”

Meanwhile, Chichester bypass seems to have jumped to the front of the queue of A27 schemes and the Society will be lobbying vigorously against any options that involve building a new dual carriageway expressway right along the boundary of the national park. The Society hopes that as many individuals and organisations as possible will comment during the public consultation scheduled for the spring, but meanwhile is urging people to put their names to the following petition:

Click HERE to go to the petition

 

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STOP THE CUTS: Campaign for National Parks and 38 Degrees join forces for South Downs walk to highlight the effects of the Government cuts on National Park services

The South Downs Society has organised a special walk at Queen Elizabeth country park, Hampshire, for environmental pressure group 38 Degrees in support of its campaign, with CNP, against government budget cuts for the country’s national parks.  CNP has issued a press release as follows:

National Parks will welcome hundreds of people this weekend as part of a unique partnership between the Campaign for National Parks and pressure group 38 Degrees to highlight our Stop the Cuts campaign.

Walks have been set up in all ten of the English National Parks to enable people to meet together to learn more about the challenges facing our precious landscapes and to enjoy the glorious countryside.

The South Downs 5km walk has been set up by our sister organisation, the South Downs Society. It starts in the Queen Elizabeth Country Park and includes a fairly steep uphill climb to the top of Butser Hill, which at 270m is the highest point on the South Downs chalk ridge and the second highest within the National Park.

National Park Authorities have had their Government budgets cut by up to 40% in real terms over the past five years and there is real concern that Defra – the lead Department for National Parks – will have to make huge cuts to meet the Government’s £20bn savings plan over the lifetime of this parliament.

Fiona Howie, Campaign for National Parks Chief Executive, said she was delighted that so many people were taking part in the walks to help promote the huge challenges facing National Park Authorities.

“National Parks are among the most beautiful and valued landscapes in the British Isles, containing some of our most breath-taking scenery, rare wildlife and cultural heritage. Ninety million visits are made to them every year, with people eager to enjoy their iconic landscapes, uninterrupted views and tranquillity.

“Our Parks are living landscapes, home to diverse communities, and must be conserved for the benefit of all – both now and in the future. That is why we are leading a campaign calling on the Government to stop cutting funding for the English National Parks and to make sure National Park Authorities have enough money to protect our most iconic landscapes for future generations.

“To deal with the huge funding cuts National Park Authorities have been forced to cut back on the maintenance of footpaths, close visitor centre and reduce funding for flood protection, forestry, climate change, education and ranger services.”

Robert Cheesman, South Downs Society chair, said: “As the Friends group for the South Downs National Park, we campaigned vigorously for the creation of the National Park and we believe the new Park Authority needs the resources to do its job of caring for this precious landscape.

“We are wholly behind the efforts of the Campaign for National Park and 38 Degrees in calling on government to protect the National Parks from damaging budget cuts, and we are delighted to arrange a special walk for their supporters. A well cared for National Park is good for the local economy and vital for local communities.”

The walk comes a fortnight after the annual National Parks Week when the Minister Rory Stewart MP, described National Parks as the soul of Britain and as areas which brought together the environment, traditional farming communities, tourists and elements of our history, poetry and literature.

“I would like to work very closely with National Parks and the British public to make sure everybody in Britain has the unique experience of going to one of our National Parks,” he said in a You Tube video.

Ms Howie welcomed the Minister’s words but said warm words were not enough: “We recognise that National Parks need to continue to evolve and we know they are being proactive about accessing new sources of funding. But National parks are national assets and the Government needs to give them sufficient resources to make sure they continue to deliver important environmental, social, economic and cultural benefits to the nation,” she stressed.

 

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Unrestricted barn conversions: a threat to the national park

The South Downs Society has acted in concert with the other national park societies across the country in urging government to exclude the parks from a possible change in planning law that would allow old farm buildings to become new houses without the need for planning permission.

Below is a link to a press release from the Campaign for National Parks, the umbrella organisation for national park societies, about an open letter sent to the planning minister.

http://cnp.org.uk/news/news-release-letter-planning-minister-nick-boles-mp