Rampion draft Environmental Statement disappoints

The South Downs Network has responded to the consultation, which ended yesterday, on the draft Environmental Statement for the proposed Rampion offshore wind farm to express its disappointment and concern at the lack of good quality information within in.  The lack of data was a frustration with the first consultation earlier in the year and reassurances were received that this would be resolved with the publication of the draft Environmental Statement.

However, this has not been the case and detailed information on alternative cable routes is still missing and the quality and number of the photomontages and other data inadequate to properly assess the visual impact on the South Downs National Park.  The Network is particularly concerned that the effect on the Heritage Coast appears to have been downplayed and that mitigation of, and compensation for, any visual impact is not even discussed.

There are also issues around how the cable route goes through the South Downs Way and the importation and disposal of materials for the haul road, amongst many other concerns that have been raised.  In all, this has led the Network to the conclusion that E.ON has not fulfilled its legal duty, under Section 62(2) of the 1995 Environment Act, to have regard to National Park purposes.

The Network hopes that E.ON will take stock and work with local communities and organisations to improve the draft Environmental Statement, which should include discussion of possible mitigation and compensation measures.  This may require it to hold back from formally submitting its application in October but if that leads to a better outcome all round then that can only be of benefit.

Public urged to back South Downs farmer

The South Downs Network is urging the public to get behind Peter Knight, Estate Manager for the Norfolk Estate in Arundel who recently was selected as South East regional winner in the RSPB Telegraph Nature of Farming Awards.  He has now made it through to the final four in the national competition, from an initial 350 entrants.  Judges were not only impressed by the way that Peter manages the farm to the benefit to wildlife but also the way that he promotes the benefits of farming this way to others.

Who wins the national competition is decided by a public vote which is open from now until September 5.  You can vote by visiting www.rspb.org.uk/farmvote, calling the RSPB on 01767 693680 to request a FREEPOST postal voting form, online via The Telegraph, or at country shows throughout the summer.  Everyone who votes in this year’s competition will be entered into a prize draw to win a luxury break for two people at Ragdale Hall worth over £500.

The South Downs Network is urging the public to get behind Peter and the Norfolk Estate in recognition for the all the work he has done to promote and accomodate wildlife on the 1240ha arable and sheep farm in West Sussex.  It has been under Peter’s management for the past 24 years, during which he has supervised the change from a fully production based system to a commercially managed estate that has conservation at its heart.

The Estate manages over 1000ha of arable farmland, which benefits skylarks, fieldfares, corn buntings, grey partridge, redwings, harvest mice, brown hares, short-tailed voles and a variety of insects, all of which have increased in significant numbers with the implementation of Natural England’s agri-environmental schemes.

Lapwings, barn owls and buzzards are flourishing across the whole Estate and the woodland is home to two rare species of butterfly – the Duke of Burgundy and the Pearl-bordered Fritillary.

For more information about the competition see the RSPB’s website, but don’t forget to vote!

Secret woodland history could be revealed

The South Downs National Park Authority has successfully passed the first hurdle in its bid for Heritage Lottery Funding (HLF) for its ‘In the High Wood’ project.  It has been awarded £46,300 to develop the project in preparation for a full funding bid in Spring 2013.

‘In the High Wood’ aims to uncover the secret history of the densely wooded part of the South Downs between the River Adur and the A3, covering some 304 square kilometres, nearly 20% of the National Park.  This is an area, much of which lies under ancient forest, and of which very little is known about its past.  The plan is to use aerial survey techniques to uncover features which are impossible to see on the ground.  Then by working with local communities, the Park Authority hopes to be able to build a more complete picture as to what our ancestors have been doing here over the past 4,000 years.

The £1 million project is being led by the South Downs National Park Authority, in partnership with Chichester District Council and with the support of West Sussex and Hampshire County Councils.  The Park Authority is likely to contribute £130,000 towards the overall costs.  Its success in securing this early HLF funding should mean that it has a very good chance of succeeding with its final bid application next year and therefore of this exciting project going ahead.

Transport funding success

East Sussex County Council (ESCC) and Hampshire County Council (HCC) have both been successful in securing funding from the Local Sustainable Transport Fund with their joint bids with

the South Downs National Park Authority.  ESCC has been awarded £1.571 million over the next 3 years for its travel choices for Lewes, while HCC has been awarded £3.81 million for sustainable transport in England’s newest national parks, the New Forest and South Downs.

Last month we reported that the decision on the funding for these projects had been delayed.  Now it seems the Department for Transport has satisfied itself that the schemes are sound and deserve funding.  However, neither project received the total amount that was bid for.

Both projects are very welcome and should help promote travel by means other than the car, while reducing carbon emissions and supporting the local economy.  However, whether ultimately they will be successful is very much open to question with rail fares rising above inflation, fuel duty rebate for public transport operators being cut in August (in sharp contrast to fuel duty not now increasing in August) and West Sussex County Council cutting back on bus services including the no 62 to Midhurst.

New Park Authority member appointed

Earlier this month Diana Kershaw was appointed by the Secretary of State for the Environment as a new Member of the South Downs National Park Authority (SDNPA).  She is one of the 7 national members on the SDNPA and replaces Susan Warren who stood down at the end of 2011.

Diana Kershaw has worked as a local authority transport and town planner, primarily in East London and was Head of Planning for Newham Council where she led the Stratford development initiatives. Following ten years as Director of Planning Transport and Development at Bristol City Council she worked for a business-led initiative looking at the future of the Bristol/Bath region. She has been a member of boards of the South West Regional Development Agency, business link, a primary care trust, a theatre company, the SW National Trust region, and was a member of Exmoor National Park Authority for seven years.

The Network wishes her all the best and hopes that with her experience she will make a useful contribution to the South Downs National Park, particularly as the Park Authority looks to develop its Core Strategy over the next few years.

Rampion offshore windfarm consultation extended

The second round of public consultation on E.ON’s proposals for the Rampion offhsore windfarm started on Wednesday, 13 June.  After much lobbying, E.ON has conceded some ground in extending the consultation from 6 to 8 weeks, but not to 12 weeks as good practice would dictate and as called for by the South Downs Network.  This means the new consultation will now end on 8 August.

E.ON has also published its draft Environmental Statement, which is split into 32 sections.  This can be downloaded from E.ON’s website or is publicly accessible at the district council offices of Adur, Horsham, Mid-Sussex and Worthing and at Brighton & Hove City Council offices in Hove and at East Sussex County Council offices in Newhaven.  This means that people will now have a chance to properly examine the proposals and see on what basis decisions have been taken.

The South Downs Network will be closely looking at this evidence to ensure that E.ON has had proper regard to National Park purposes, both in regard to the cable route and the impact on the Heritage Coast.

Park transport bids left in limbo

The South Downs National Park Authority’s (SDNPA) bids for funding under the Local Sustainable Transport Fund have been left in limbo following an announcement on 24 May about 30 projects which will receive funding.  Up to 18 out of the 53 bids received will find out ‘shortly’ whether they have been successful or not.  No reasons have been given for the delay by the Department for Transport.

The SDNPA has joined forces with the New Forest National Park Authority and Hampshire County Council to submit a bid around changing travel behaviour for people accessing the Parks for recreational purposes to boost the local economy while cutting carbon emissions.

In its other bid it is working with East Sussex County Council around improving walking, cycling and public transport for people going about their daily lives, living and working in Lewes.  The aim is to boost the local economy while reducing the impact of this activity on the National Park.  This second bid is quite different from the joint bid with the New Forest in that it is not specifically aimed at tourists and recreational travel.

Road traffic already has a big impact on the special qualities of the South Downs.  Given the Government’s seeming determination to increase bus and rail fares, the former through cuts in the fuel duty rebate that bus operators receive, this is likely to get worse.  This is exacerbated by local authorities cutting funding for rural bus services as their budgets are squeezed.  That is why it is essential that the two bids for the National Park are successful.

Biosphere bid to launch

On Tuesday, 22 May, (International Day for Biodiversity) the Brighton & Hove and Lewes Downs Biosphere Partnership will launch its bid for the South Downs between the River Adur and River Ouse plus the urban area of Brighton & Hove, to become a Biosphere reserve.

A Biosphere reserve is a UNESCO designation of excellence which if agreed would give international recognition to this local environment and its management.  Read Tony Whitbread’s (Chief Exec of Sussex Wildlife Trust) blog on the Biosphere for more detailed information, plus find out about the launch on our Events page.

The Biosphere partnership is made up of local authorities and a number of members from the South Downs Network.  Also involved are the South Downs National Park Authority, Sussex Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority, Dorothy Stringer High School, University of Brighton, Natural England and the Environment Agency.  For more information or to become a Friend of the Biosphere, view the Biosphere website.