Downs under threat
Concerns have arisen over the impact that new development schemes will have on the South Downs. The SDC (South Downs Campaign), a network of over 150 organisations, is voicing fears that the South East Plan, a document that sets out changes needed to improve the quality of life in the South East England Region over the next 20 years will negatively impact on the designated Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty comprised of East Hampshire and the Sussex Downs.
The SDC has criticizing the Sustainability Appraisal, a body meant to assess the environmental viability of such schemes as the South East Plan, for failing to fully assess the potential damage that the SEC may inflict on protected landscapes such as the South Downs. While, they claim, the Sustainability Appraisal has recognised that the SEP may impose more pressure on greenfield sites, (areas of land not subject to non-agricultural development and often in protected green belt areas) they have failed to fully comprehend the impact that the SEP will have on the landscape. For example, they have not recognized that the new proposed housing schemes will necessitate infrastructures to support them. This, they argue, will exact a heavy environmental toll upon the region. Infrastructural improvements such as new roads, wind energy developments, new power lines and reservoirs will be more devastating to local protected areas such as the South Downs than the loss of the green field sites themselves.
Robin Crane, Chairman of the South Downs Campaign has declared that ‘The South East Plan is a recipe for environmental destruction’, urging the Government to commit truly to ‘properly safeguarding the region’s high quality environment’ by making the South Downs a National Park, which would give it a greater measure of protection. The SDC has predicted that pressure on green field sites for housing and employment will increase later on in the South East Plan, which will run until 2026.
This is not the first time that objections have been voiced over threats to the South Downs. The construction of a new 23,000 seater football stadium for Brighton and Hove Albion FC in Falmer has met with much unpopularity. Various conservation groups such as the Campaign to Protect Rural England argued before planning approval was given in July 2007 that a new stadium would ‘damage the very landscape that should be protected’.
The geographical location of Sussex University Campus means that it enjoys the benefits of both an urban and pastoral setting, with easy access to Brighton and Hove and even closer proximity to the sweeping beauty of the Sussex Downs, with much of the student accommodation backing out onto countryside.
Formal consultations on proposed changes by the Secretary of State to the South East Plan must be submitted by 5pm Friday 31st October, either via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or in writing to: Regional Spatial Strategy Team, GOSE, Bridge House, 1 Walnut Tree Close, Guildford, GUI 4GA