MSDC Leader passes the buck…

We have finally had a reply to our Open Letter to MSDC Leader Jonathan Ash Edwards:

http://www.soflag.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2022/05/JAE-to-SOFLAG-17-05-22.pdf

In it he doesn’t answer any of the questions we raised about how destroying SA13 fits in with MSDC’s much trumpeted green agenda, and he doesn’t even acknowledge our invitation to come and see the site for himself.

Instead, he tries to blame the destruction of SA12 & SA13 on “the law”

It would be funny if it wasn’t so serious. He says “The law does not allow Councillors to pick and choose sites following examination” conveniently omitting the fact that it was Councillors including himself who ignored widespread opposition and forced the site to be included in the examination in the first place!!

This attempt to shift the blame shows that he knows that concreting over the rewilded nature haven at SA13 is simply wrong, and will cause irreversible environmental damage.

We have replied repeating our original questions that he didn’t answer:

1. We invited you to come and meet us and see the site and its unique nature for yourself. Are you be prepared to do so now?

2. How does building on a rewilded nature haven fit in with MSDC’s Sustainable Economy Strategy, objective 8 of which is to “improve, manage and promote biodiversity and nature recovery”

3. How can turning a natural wildlife habitat into a 300 house estate achieve the required Biodiversity Net Gain of 10%?

4. How does building on this rewilded ready made carbon sink fit in with MSDC’s claims to support net zero and the Blue Campaign?

We await his response…

“Conservationists” – or Consultants in Sheep’s Clothing?

In the murky world of planning and development, environmentalists are not always what they seem…

A company called CSA Environmental has been approaching local residents who live adjacent to Site SA13 and who have ponds that could be home to legally protected amphibians such as great crested newts.

They have been reported as saying that they are conservationists and are asking if they can do surveys to see if newts live in the ponds. But they are not always being 100% transparent about who or what these surveys are for.

In fact they are working on behalf of the developer Thakeham Homes, and these surveys will be used to support their planning application.

CSA Environmental’s website highlights their “successes” in helping planning applications get through when there are environmental obstacles. One example is a large development of 450 houses near Margate that they helped to push through on appeal despite opposition from the local council, residents and expert groups such as CPRE who knew it would be hugely damaging to the local environment.

This is what CSA do. In their own words they help developers “resolve constraints” and “identify risks before they become a problem”

Those “risks and constraints” are the wildlife, nature and biodiversity that will be lost by concreting over precious natural greenfield sites such as SA13.

CSA Environmental are on the side of the Developers, not the wildlife….

We keep on fighting, and we know whose side we’re on.

www.change.org/SaveMidSussexWildlifeHaven

LATEST PRESS COVERAGE…

MSDC fail to explain “greenwashing”

The campaign to save the irreplaceable nature haven at Site SA13 is gathering momentum and in the last two weeks we have had great coverage in the local press online:

The Argus

Mid Sussex Times

and also in print – with a double page spread in the Middy!

Journalists from both papers questioned Mid Sussex District Council on their justification for destroying this rewilded habitat while at the same time proclaiming their support for rewilding through the Blue Flag campaign.

The Council’s response? Just the same old flannel about due process being followed  – SOFLAG are still fighting through this “process” which isn’t finished yet. They also talk about the government’s housing targets, but Sites SA12 & SA13 aren’t needed to reach the required housing figure, and in any case the Council are intending to challenge these targets which they admit are unworkable.

There is no acceptable reason for their refusal to think again on these sites, and SOFLAG will continue to highlight what we see as hypocrisy and greenwash from a Council that claims to promote rewilding and fight climate change. Words mean nothing if actions speak the opposite…

Please sign and share the petition if you haven’t already:

www.change.org/SaveMidSussexNatureHaven

Even less reason for destruction…

On Thursday 24th February Mid Sussex District Council’s District Planning Committee will give the final go-ahead to the last phase of the Keymer Tiles / Kingsway development, located to the north of Folders Lane.
The published Committee Report shows that the number of housing units will increase by 33 to a total of 513 – all within a few hundred metres of Sites SA12 & SA13.
These extra houses will not only increase pressure on the already congested roads and local infrastructure, but of course REDUCE the need for the destruction of the nature haven at SA13 by adding more houses to the Council’s “housing land supply” figure. This is the ongoing target that MSDC quote when justifying the planned development, despite the fact that they can already achieve it without SA12 & SA13.
The Committee Report also refers to the newly strengthened protection for biodiversity in the legally binding National Planning Policy Framework and even quotes the paragraph from the Planning Policy. MSDC have to apply this to every new development – and it’s clear that if they applied it properly to the rich biodiversity in the rewilded nature haven SA13 there could only be one outcome. It’s there in black and white…..

Latest Consultation reveals ongoing concerns from Natural England & South Downs National Park Authority…

Mid Sussex District Council have now published the responses to their Main Modifications Consultation. These reveal that it’s not just concerned citizens who continue to have reservations about the environmental impacts of the Site Allocations DPD – and not just for Sites SA12 & SA13.

One of the modifications was a strengthening of the commitment to “Biodiversity Net Gain” which basically means that any development mustlead to an increase in biodiversity. MSDC have targets, written in black and white, which apply to the housing site allocations:

  • Maximise the biodiversity units gained
  • A minimum 10% biodiversity net gain
  • Secure RELEVANT & MEANINGFUL biodiversity net gain linked to wider nature recovery

It is impossible to see how these can be achieved by destroying the rich and varied wildlife habitat at Sites SA12 & SA13.

Will developers really be able to prove that they can create a net gain in biodiversity by destroying the habitat of protected species such as nightingales, great crested newts anddormice?

As Natural England state in their consultation response:

‘Maximise the biodiversity units gained’ is welcome but should also ensure that appropriate habitat is created or enhanced based on the local context of the site.”

Planting a few trees among the houses, retaining a pond or promising some vague environmental project elsewhere won’t be good enough – how can it possibly match the rich and varied local context? The only way to ensure biodiversity is to retain the existing rewilded nature haven as it is.

The South Downs National Park Authority aren’t happy either. The protection for the setting of the National Park has been strengthened a bit by saying development at SA13 has to “respond to” rather than just “respect” it. But the SDNPA echo our worry that the changes to Landscape Considerations don’t go nearly far enough, saying that they only go “some way” to addressing these concerns. They suggest that MSDC should go further by ensuring that the Landscape & Visual Impact Assessment (LVIA) must pay “particular attention to the increasing sensitivity moving through the site, towards the south, especially in terms of historic field patterns, ecological value and perceptual qualities”

Crucially they state that any development must “take account of and respond to the findings of the LVIA” meaning that the LVIA must be undertaken BEFORE any decision can be made on how many, if any, houses the site can take – ie before policy SA13 and the Site Allocations DPD itself can be finalised.

This is the point we made in the SOFLAG response to the consultation and we hope that the Inspector agrees – if MSDC try to press on without the LVIA, they would be at risk of legal challenge.

How to sign the petition – a quick guide

If you haven’t signed yet because you’re not quite sure how these online petitions work, here’s all you need to know.

When you go to the petition page on change.org the bit where you sign is on the right hand side (the page is at www.change.org/SaveMidSussexNatureHaven )

This is what you do (it will only take a minute):

  1. Fill in your name, address and email address
  2. Choose whether you want to receive updates from change.org by ticking a box
  3. Choose whether you want us to know your name and email address by ticking a box (you can be anonymous if you like)
  4. Click the red Sign This Petition box

Here’s an image to show these steps:

5. When you click the red box, you’ll receive an email to make sure it’s really you. You must click the confirmation in that email otherwise your signature won’t count. The email will look like this:

That’s it – then you’re signature will be added to the petition.

Thank you for your support. Every signature helps the campaign so please share the petition as widely as possible…

MSDC Greenwash – do as they say, not as they do…

Mid Sussex District Council proudly proclaimed their “mission to fight climate change” when they joined the BLUE CAMPAIGN last year.

One of its key aims is to “promote the rewilding of public and private green spaces” yet MSDC are set to destroy an amazing rewilded green space with their Site Allocations DPD.

Left without human interference for many years, Site SA13 is full of young native and mature trees and undisturbed vegetation, and forms the perfect habitat for wildlife with many protected species of bird, mammal and reptile reported there.It’s a perfect example of a “private green space”, rewilded already and forming a vital carbon sink and biodiversity resource.

Is this how MSDC fight climate change and promote biodiversity net gain? Destroying SA13 for houses that are not needed to meet housing current targets is the exact opposite.

It’s easy to talk the talk when it comes to green issues. Actions shout louder.

But it’s not too late. MSDC could show a true commitment to the blue campaign, rewilding and the critical fight to save our environment by removing this site from the Site Allocations DPD right now.

Let’s show them how strongly local people feel about this issue – please sign the petition, and share it far and wide…

www.change.org/SaveMidSussexNatureHaven

SIGN THE PETITION

Tell Mid Sussex District Council to meet their pledges to support rewilding and tackle climate change by stopping the destruction of the rewilded nature heaven that’s on their doorstep.

SIGN THE PETITION HERE

Mid Sussex District Council pledge to support rewilding, while at the same time their actions could soon destroy a beautiful rewilded space that already exists in the district, nestled between Burgess Hill and the South Downs National Park.

Despite repeated pleas from the local community, Burgess Hill Town Council, and our local MPs, the Council are still moving forward with their plans to invite developers to bulldoze Sites SA12 & SA13. Even the South Downs National Park Authority itself has repeatedly expressed concerns that the proposed development could ruin the unique landscape character of the area and the setting of the National Park.

They can save this wildlife corridor and carbon sink by removing it from the Site Allocations DPD.

Please sign and share the petition far and wide – let’s put the pressure on…

SIGN THE PETITION HERE

Film goes live as campaign steps up

We have made a short film showing just what will be lost if this nature haven is concreted over – please take just a couple of minutes to have a look:

This is a wonderful biodiversity resource, a wildlife habitat and carbon sink, right here in Mid Sussex. We cannot understand why MSDC are so desperate to destroy it, particularly as they have recently signed up to the Blue Campaign promoting rewilding. They have a perfect example of rewilding already here, yet they still insist on destroying it.

MSDC Leader Jonathan Ash Edwards admitted this month that the housing targets for Mid Sussex are unrealistic and he is going to challenge them. This would be a great place to start – SA12 and SA13 are not needed to hit the current targets, let alone if they are revised downwards. So much will be gone forever if these sites are lost…

PLEASE ACT NOW – consultation closes Monday 24 January

Thank you to everyone who has already responded to the MSDC consultation on the “Main Modifications” to the DPD.
If you haven’t yet, please take a few minutes to respond online or send an email – every response helps.
You can respond online using the Eform on this webpage: https://www.midsussex.gov.uk/…/development-plan-documents/
If you use the online form, fill in your details then you get to the “comments” pages. Complete the first comments page like this:
Then on the second page, you can put something like this in the two boxes:
Box 1 “Please outline why you either support or object to the Main Modification?”
I object to MM4 because in its present form it does not do enough to make policy SA13 sound. I agree that SA13 must “respond” to the setting of the South Downs National Park, and that to do this a Landcape and Visual Impact Assessment is required. However it does not clarify when the LVIA should be carried out, and until it is completed SA13 remains unsound.
Box 2 “Please set out what change(s) you consider necessary to make the Site Allocations DPD legally compliant or sound, having regard to the reason you have identified at question 5 above where this relates to soundness”
The LVIA must be undertaken BEFORE the layout of the site – including how many (if any) houses it can accommodate – is decided by policy SA13.
Therefore the LVIA should be undertaken now, before the adoption of the DPD, and MM4 should be amended to include this requirement.
Alternatively you can send an email to policyconsultation@midsussex.gov.uk including the same key points, and adding anything else you feel is important about the landscape and damaging impact of the development.
Thank you for your support.