NPP held the long awaited public exhibition on its plans for Newhaven Harbour on October 14.
There are some observations that I would make having studied the documents and plans on offer at the exhibition.
The first observation is around the viability of the plan. Newhaven used to have larger cargo ships coming into the port to discharge cargo but that stopped many years ago and it must at least 10 years since the ‘nodding donkey’ cargo crane was dismantled on the East Quay.
The question needs to be asked as to why that cargo trade stopped and Newhaven fell into decline. The answer is that the port did not have then and still doesn’t have now, the road and rail links to make large scale cargo operations viable.
This leads to the wider question of would we even want to see improved ‘motorway style’ roads carved out through the South Downs to link Newhaven to the rest of the UK motorway network. I would hope that the answer is no.
So the very viability of this port expansion scheme is a flawed concept from the outset.
The next observation is around the cost to our local environment of this port expansion plan. There are three strands to this issue.
The first issue is the actual port expansion itself. This will take up a large area of Tide Mills, a much valued local amenity and wildlife resource. The area adjacent to the East Pier will become a ‘concrete jungle’ of new warehouse’s and offices, lorry and car parks and a quay side with huge cranes.
The second issue I have with the published proposal is that it also takes in the only accessible sandy beach left to local people and visitors alike, namely the area in the corner of Tide Mills next to the East Pier. So, having excluded local people and visitors from the sandy West Beach, NPP now propose to take the other sandy beach away as well.
If NPP had any real commitment to the town of Newhaven and to local people and visitors it would repair the sea wall and re open the West Beach.
The third issue is around the displacement of the wild life that call Tide Mills home. NPP do feature a ‘token’ nature reserve into these plans but that is hardly the answer for destroying a much loved and valued beauty spot and a valued habitat for both flora and fauna.
Then not directly linked to the harbour expansion plans but a key feature in the destruction of Tide Mills is the proposed Port Access Road. The proposed site for the roundabout at the harbour end of this proposed Port Access Road is on Tide Mills adjacent to the corner were the tyre reclamation works are. This proposed Access Road and roundabout will take up an area of Tide Mills as large as the proposed area for the port expansion itself further destroying this valued beauty spot and habitat for the flora and fauna that call Tide Mills home. It will ruin the much valued amenity land for local people and visitors alike.
In short, between the two proposals, the port expansion and the port access road, about half of what we currently know and enjoy as Tide Mills will be destroyed and, along with it, the flora and fauna that inhabit it.
And all this is ‘for what’?
I am all for progress and sustainable growth both in the local economy and in local jobs but this must be tempered with a concern for our local environment, as once destroyed; it will be gone for ever.
Exponents of these proposals would say that with the proposed offshore wind farm and associated shore based activity that these plans for Newhaven Harbour are justified. However, there is an ever growing debate that would suggest that wind farms are not the ‘all encompassing’ solution to our energy needs and that without huge government subsidies, and that’s tax payer’s money, ie our money, these wind farms can never be economic in their own right.
There are also the environmental and ecological issues around destroying so much of Tide Mills.
The last time such a large area of Tide Mills was under threat was back in 2010 when it was proposed that the outfall pipe for the new Peacehaven Water Treatment Works be constructed on Tide Mills. At that time East Sussex County Council imposed so many environmental and ecological constraints on the proposals that the company concerned abandoned any plans to use Tide Mills for the construction operation.
If those many and varied environmental and ecological constraints were valid in 2010 then they are equally valid today.
Progress and growth are very laudable ambitions but not at the expense of our much valued local environment. Tide Mills needs protecting, not destroying!!!