The second mass trespass in two years to happen in Sussex goes forward on Saturday – to guard historical woodland from a Middle Parcs improvement.
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 will probably be on the outskirts of south London, proper subsequent to Crawley, the place the largest forest woodland in Sussex lies.
Value and neighbouring St Leonards Forest are roughly the scale of 6,500 acres Ashdown Forest, famed for AA Milne’s Pooh Bear. Solely Value Forest is a fiercely, privately-owned, little-known gem of historical woodland, harbouring many nice, veteran oak and beech pollards.
And it’s right here at Oldhouse Warren that Middle Parcs desires to web site a 553-acres vacation city of 900 lodges, a ‘subtropical swimming paradise’, quite a lot 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 historical woodland”.
In response to 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 dwelling 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 positioning can also be a habitat wealthy with nationally uncommon archaeological and ecological options, together with a community of historical rabbit warrens and mound lands, in addition to a neighbouring Web site of Particular Scientific Curiosity (SSSI), an historical ghyll woodland.
“It is for that reason that we’re asking Middle Parcs to rethink growing right here,” the conservation teams have reiterated in an open letter to Middle Parcs.
“Historical woodland is irreplaceable; it takes centuries, extra typically millennia, for historical 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 stated: “Presently of [ecological] disaster, it’s crucial that locations which can be recognised by way of nationwide coverage as irreplaceable, similar to historical 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 street junctions and utilities that shall be required.
“Permitting Middle Parcs to create a brand new web site right here goes in opposition to 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 in opposition to the event, describing its ‘important influence’ on the world.
When plans had been first revealed final yr, he stated: “I’ve solely seen the final Middle Parcs’ proposal for Oldhouse Warren, the woods are in Mid Sussex District Council’s space and the constituency MP is Jeremy Quin, nonetheless it might have a big influence on Crawley.
“This can be a delicate habitat and I imagine this can be a designated Web site of Particular Scientific Curiosity so the native authority will seemingly not grant permission.”
Oldhouse Warren has one of many largest clusters of historical timber in Value and St Leonard’s Forests, and people forests have greater than wherever else in Sussex.
Up to now Horsham Conservative MP, Jeremy Quin has remained on the fence over the plans stating that the event would deliver 1,500 staff and funding, however being a particularly delicate web site it might require “concentrate on whether or not the placement 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 help for the venture…citing the native financial system and a shift away from the Gatwick jobs monopoly.
Dave Bangs, main Sussex botanist and writer of, The Land of the Brighton Line (containing instructive chapters on Value Forest) instructed the Ecologist: “This forest ought to be open and free to us all and a haven for nature, like Epping Forest and the New Forest.
“Countryside which ought to be ours to take pleasure in free of charge shall be misplaced, while a lot guests’ money will move 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 cut up equally amongst its remaining seven trustees on Jan 1 2018. Every trustee obtained an 800 acres plus tranche, plus home. There was a 5 yr moratorium on gross sales and improvement.
When it comes to timescale this would slot in with the present plans that are slated to be in entrance of Mid Sussex District Council by 2023.
Middle Parcs has already purchased an choice on Oldhouse Warren for £400,000 plus, though it does not at the moment personal the location. There’s nonetheless 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 largest in Britain – and the uncommon Sensible 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 – completely different from our backyard selection – survives there.
“The tiny springtime candles of Lavatory Beacon fungi glow in opposition to 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 massive as a toddler’s hand survive there. All are innocent. All are lovely.”
Jan Goodey is an environmental journalist who contributes commonly to the Resurgence & The Ecologist.