The second mass trespass in two years to happen in Sussex goes forward on Saturday – to guard historic woodland from a Heart Parcs growth.
This follows on from the Landscapes of Freedom mass trespass demanding entry to, and an finish to blood sports activities on Brighton and Hove Metropolis Council-owned land which attracted greater than 300 folks again in July 2021. This time it is going to be on the outskirts of south London, proper subsequent to Crawley, the place the most important forest woodland in Sussex lies.
Price and neighbouring St Leonards Forest are roughly the scale of 6,500 acres Ashdown Forest, famed for AA Milne’s Pooh Bear. Solely Price Forest is a fiercely, privately-owned, little-known gem of historic woodland, harbouring many nice, veteran oak and beech pollards.
And it’s right here at Oldhouse Warren that Heart Parcs desires to web site a 553-acres vacation city of 900 lodges, a ‘subtropical swimming paradise’, a wide range of eating places, retailers and a spa; trailed by CEO, Martin Dalby, as: “actually thrilling”.
Not so, maybe, for the native ecology, and within the phrases of Sussex Planning for Nature Group it “would tear the center out of [this] irreplaceable historic woodland”.
In keeping with this coalition of conservation teams – Sussex Wildlife Belief, the Woodland Belief, RSPB, the Council for the Safety of Rural England (CPRE) and Sussex Ornithological Society – Oldhouse Warren is house to a lot of uncommon birds together with Goshawk, Lesser Noticed Woodpecker and Firecrest – one in all Britain’s tiniest. Its floor nesting birds, like Woodcock and Nightjar, have a few of their final Sussex refuges right here.
The location can be a habitat wealthy with nationally uncommon archaeological and ecological options, together with a community of historic rabbit warrens and mound lands, in addition to a neighbouring Website of Particular Scientific Curiosity (SSSI), an historic ghyll woodland.
“It is because of this that we’re asking Heart Parcs to rethink creating right here,” the conservation teams have reiterated in an open letter to Heart Parcs.
“Historical woodland is irreplaceable; it takes centuries, extra typically millennia, for historic woodland soils to build up and the wealthy connections between soils, vegetation, animals, and different organisms to develop and evolve.”
Henri Brocklebank, is the Director of Conservation Coverage & Proof at Sussex Wildlife Belief.
She mentioned: “Right now of [ecological] disaster, it’s crucial that locations which might be recognised by way of nationwide coverage as irreplaceable, similar to historic woodlands, are protected and restored, not dug as much as make lodges and concrete swimming swimming pools, not to mention all of the related infrastructure, similar to new highway junctions and utilities that will likely be required.
“Permitting Heart Parcs to create a brand new web site right here goes towards all of the related native insurance policies and plans, not least the UK Authorities’s personal dedication to guard 30 % of UK land by 2030.”
Crawley Conservative MP Henry Smith is strongly towards the event, describing its ‘important influence’ on the world.
When plans had been first revealed final yr, he mentioned: “I’ve solely seen the overall Heart Parcs’ proposal for Oldhouse Warren, the woods are in Mid Sussex District Council’s space and the constituency MP is Jeremy Quin, however it could have a big influence on Crawley.
“This can be a delicate habitat and I consider this can be a designated Website of Particular Scientific Curiosity so the native authority will probably not grant permission.”
Oldhouse Warren has one of many largest clusters of historic bushes in Price and St Leonard’s Forests, and people forests have greater than wherever else in Sussex.
To date Horsham Conservative MP, Jeremy Quin has remained on the fence over the plans stating that the event would carry 1,500 staff and funding, however being a particularly delicate web site it could require “concentrate on whether or not the situation was applicable”.
The leaders of each Mid Sussex District Council, the Tory-controlled planning authority, and Crawley’s Labour-controlled District Council have early on expressed their assist for the challenge…citing the native economic system and a shift away from the Gatwick jobs monopoly.
Dave Bangs, main Sussex botanist and creator of, The Land of the Brighton Line (containing instructive chapters on Price Forest) advised the Ecologist: “This forest must be open and free to us all and a haven for nature, like Epping Forest and the New Forest.
“Countryside which must be ours to take pleasure in without cost will likely be misplaced, while a lot guests’ money will circulate into the homeowners’ coffers.”
He went on to clarify how the landowners are members of the Pearson household, descendants of the primary Viscount Cowdray.
The 6,000 acres plus Paddockhurst Property was break up equally amongst its remaining seven trustees on Jan 1 2018. Every trustee acquired an 800 acres plus tranche, plus home. There was a 5 yr moratorium on gross sales and growth.
By way of timescale this would slot in with the present plans that are slated to be in entrance of Mid Sussex District Council by 2023.
Heart Parcs has already purchased an possibility on Oldhouse Warren for £400,000 plus, though it does not at present personal the location. There may be nevertheless eco-survey work visibly occurring within the space pre a possible Scoping Evaluation.
This must take within the plethora of natural world that Bangs lists as: “Glow Worms nonetheless shine on midsummer nights on the Warren’s open floor. Golden Ringed Dragonflies – the most important in Britain – and the uncommon Good Emerald Damselfly…
“Attractive spreads of pink Lavatory Pimpernel and blue Ivy Leaved Bellflower, purple heathers and yellow Tormentil and Marsh Buttercup, Spearwort, survive alongside the forest rides from the traditional vegetation of the medieval forest. Even the uncommon native Lily of the Valley – totally different from our backyard selection – survives there.
“The tiny springtime candles of Lavatory Beacon fungi glow towards the black of little swamps and bogs, just like the flickering ‘will ‘o the wisp’ that led travellers astray throughout the moors. Fierce-looking Inexperienced Tiger Beetles, iridescent Dumble Dor beetles, and Sabre Wasps as large as a baby’s hand survive there. All are innocent. All are stunning.”
Jan Goodey is an environmental journalist who contributes recurrently to the Resurgence & The Ecologist.