David Johnson, Chair, Sussex Campaign to Protect Rural England.[Back to list]
Thank you for inviting CPRE Sussex to respond to the South Down Project’s outline ideas for the development of the Lower Beeding Cement Works, or the “Chalk Pit”.
While this outline is not yet a firm proposal but rather an expression of ideas and approaches, and has some way to go before more formal consideration, I am happy to make some general comments on any potential develop- ment of the site on behalf of CPRE Sussex.
This huge site, the Chalk Pit, must constitute the largest brownfield site remaining within the boundaries of the South Downs National Park or the two local authorities to which it relates, Adur and Worthing District Council and Horsham District Council. This 150 year old former industrial site now requires an innovative response to realise its potential for future generations. To cleanse it of its industrial detritus will indeed be costly and to merely restore it to countryside from a huge former quarry may be both unrealistic and wasteful of a sustainable development opportunity. If we cannot realistically expect restoration to countryside or scenic mitigation of the scarification, we must expect that society as a whole, rather than just the developer, benefits from what happens to this area. The site will need to harmonise its unusual biodiversity with the surrounding Sussex landscape and realise a major project that will augment the future economic and social needs of its local population, even becoming a site of national significance.
CPRE Sussex has carried a responsibility to protect the Sussex countryside for almost ninety years and we now look to contribute to the future of the Sussex countryside and to encourage future sustainable development and design and innovation that contributes to a unique sense of place. With the opportunities afforded by recent advances in technology, from communication to building design, and in the context both of global warming and demographic changes, the potential offered by this ‘brownfield’ for development is hugely significant for the South Downs National Park and local and regional economies.
Recent planning legislation seeks to balance the need for development, particularly for housing, to the interests of local people. The balance has yet to be effectively calibrated since there is a presumption of a need for housing at whatever price, and a handsome profit for developers is privileged. CPRE Sussex supports a mutuality of interests between developers and the wider community, fair return for investment for all.
In such circumstances, the development of the Chalk Pit site becomes doubly important; how to ensure the best outcome for the countryside, the unique biodiversity and scenery of the Downs, recognition of the crucial value of nature as “nature gain” to the everyday lives of both urban and rural dwellers, to the needs of the South Downs National Park in its key role as a unique park for the nation, to the local economy and finally, but not exhaustively, to the development of social and affordable housing supported by appropriate services and infrastructure.
CPRE Sussex recognises that we have a responsibility for a landscape whose geology and geography have been formed over tens of thousands of years, and the impact of man, while over a much shorter period, has done much to change the face and fortunes of Sussex in recent centuries, particularly in those modern times best delineated by the arrival of the railways. We believe that man is truly part of nature, rather than somehow it’s master; nature, the Sussex countryside is something unique we hold in trust for future generations. As such it is more than a mere resource to be plundered for short term gain or current commercial, social, or political interest.
The Chalk Pit at Lower Beeding requires a response in terms of imagination and design quality that, while appealing to current inter- ests, will stand the test of time for future generations. Now, we look back with pride at both vernacular architecture and grand de- signs in the countryside that were built many centuries ago. We at CPRE Sussex believe that this important brownfield site requires a solution of which we would be proud 200 years hence.
While not being able to formerly endorse your project or any other outline proposal at this time, the outline provided by the South Down Project to CPRE Sussex begins to take us towards an imaginative series of initiatives that may manage the trade-off between town and country through sustainable development.
Sussex Campaign to Protect Rural England