'˜Hard line' fears on the ruling out of sand pits in the South Downs National Park

As the next stage of consultation approaches on the joint West Sussex County Council and South Downs National Park Minerals Plan, concerns have been voiced about its '˜hard line'.

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Influential champion of West Sussex countryside The Wiggonholt Association (WA), has questioned the plan’s almost complete ruling out of sand extraction in the national park.

In March the threat of sand quarries which had been hanging over the Midhurst and Petworth area and the whole park was lifted. One soft sand site was allocated at Ham Farm near Steyning. The draft plan ruled out mining in the park ‘unless there are exceptional circumstances or it is in the public interest.’

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The park is a rich source of soft sand, for which a slight decrease in demand is currently forecast. But it is in shorter supply than sharp sand and gravel. Wharves and ports of the South Coast enable marine-dredged sand and gravel to be landed from coastal waters.

Urging caution Janet Aidin of the WA said: “Although the WA is not an advocate of sand extraction it is still concerned about the effect of taking this ‘hard line’.

“One unintended consequence could be new or unknown sites may go straight for planning permission without being comprehensively considered first under the Plan. Minerals planning in West Sussex may consequently become far less strategic than the Mineral Planning Authority (MPA) anticipates, with some unwelcome surprises.”

District councils wanted to develop ports while the MPA wanted to safeguard them: “So there is tension. The WA thinks not enough is being done to safeguard these important pieces of infrastructure: increased landings would ultimately reduce land-won extraction.”

The draft policy was being challenged she said: “Silica sand is found throughout the park and is regarded as a national (not a local) resource. This complicated area suggests there will be a future battle over Horncroft Sandpit near Fittleworth. The Wickford Bridge (silica) site at Pulborough has not been brought forward at this stage.”

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