Group hoping to save Burgess Hill ‘nature haven’ writes open letter to Mid Sussex District Council leader

A group campaigning to save a rewilded ‘nature haven’ in Burgess Hill has written an open letter to the leader of Mid Sussex District Council Jonathan Ash-Edwards.

South of Folders Lane Action Group (SOFLAG) want to save Site SA13 in the Site Allocations Development Plan Document from 300 new homes.

In the letter Amanda Green and Michelle Parlett said this land between Burgess Hill and the South Downs National Park has ecological value and that building on it will cause ‘devastating and irreversible damage’.

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They said: “SA13 is not simply a barren field devoid of natural resources.

“It is a thriving biosphere, a safe haven for many red list birds, reptiles and mammals and a ready-made carbon sink helping to protect against climate change.”

SOFLAG also want to save nearby SA12 from 40 homes.

The representatives asked Mr Ash-Edwards to explain his reasoning, saying the council can exceed the housing target without having these sites in the DPD.

“We cannot understand why you are pressing ahead with your plans to destroy this unique nature haven,” they said, adding that the soil has not been disturbed for decades and has ‘locked tonnes of carbon dioxide into the earth’.

A close up of the vegetation on the rewilded green habitat. Picture: SOFLAG.

“By developing this area you will be releasing more carbon into the atmosphere,” they said. “How can you square this with MSDC’s claims to be working towards net zero?”

They added: “How can a 300-house estate ever improve on the decades of natural rewilding, juvenile oak woodlands, ponds teaming with great crested newts, fertile soils and dense scrubland providing valued habitat for threatened wildlife?”

Amanda and Michelle also asked why a greenfield site was being considered when the government supports a ‘brownfield first’ policy.

MSDC leader Jonathan Ash-Edwards said: “Brownfield sites are always given priority for development but the truth is that, in a rural area like Mid Sussex, there simply aren’t enough brownfield sites to meet housing need.

“All the sites selected in the Site Allocations Development Plan Document have been chosen because they are the best available locations based on the evidence.

“Sites SA12 and SA13 are both sustainably located and within close proximity of Burgess Hill railway station, schools and the town centre.

“The Site Allocations Development Plan Document is now with the Independent Planning Inspector who has the final decision on which sites are included following which Councillors will have to decide whether or not to adopt it. The law does not allow Councillors to pick and choose sites following independent examination.

“Failure to adopt a plan that has been approved by the Planning Inspector would put the five year land supply at immediate risk. This would result in developers pursuing speculative planning applications across the whole district, with an increased chance of them succeeding, which would not be in the interests of our community.”

Earlier this year SOFLAG started a Change.org petition and said they were campaigning with Burgess Hill Town Council to save Site SA13.

More than 2100 people have now signed the petition and SOFLAG also created a short film about the area.

SOFLAG said they have recently posted a recording on YouTube of nightingales singing at the site.

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