LETTER: Backdoor botany at bypass

I READ Tex Crampin's letter (Observer letters, January 7) with immense interest, having lived in Strettington for the past 35 years.

I agree with his ‘personal thoughts’ completely but no mention of the environmental impact. Why? Is it irrelevant?

In 1994, I worked as the botanical consultant on the proposed widening of the M25, both sides of the carriageway, between Junctions 10 and 15. An emotive subject, necessarily so.

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The environmental statement by experts in all natural history and other disciplines eventually published by the government of the day at immense cost to the taxpayer. In the event, the widening did not go ahead at that time.

The operative word here is ‘expert.’

I am going to discuss ‘backdoor botany’ as dependant on where the bypass begins, Tangmere roundabout, or Temple Bar flyover, it will to a certain extent effect myself and my neighbours.

Passing between three or one arable field respectively how arable fields can be of any environmental concern?

It is these three fields only of Tex Crampin’s proposed northern route I will discuss.

It will give a sense of the environmental perspective for the entire route.

Reluctantly but necessarily, to give context I must define how ‘expert’ I am in botanical disciplines.

Unique in Britain and possibly Europe, I study all botanical disciplines with the exception of marine algae.

Since retirement in 2005, I have been a research bryologist (mosses and liverworts) at the Natural History Museum.

I am a specialist in sub-Saharan and western Patagonian bryophytes.

My expertise also includes lichenology (symbiosis between algae and fungi), mycology (mushrooms, toadstools, Fungi Imperfecti and myxomycetes (slime moulds)), phycology (freshwater algae).

I have found species new to science, new to Britain and Europe within a two-mile circumference of my home at Strettington.

How is this, extraordinary as it sounds, relevant to the three arable fields mentioned above and to the proposed northern bypass?

Because I am an expert in these mainly microscopic disciplines and because an expert can find the rare and unusual in the most mundane of habitats. During the winters of 2012, 2013 and spring of 2014 Strettington suffered severe flooding.

The bomb crater that is just west of Tangmere roundabout and a few yards north of the northern carriageway had a freshwater alga new to Europe and another new to England.

The field south of Stane Street contained floodwater from winter to harvest and this temporary habitat contained the first confirmed algal record for Britain and two further algal species not seen since the first decade of the 20th century, another alga not seen in Sussex since 1853!

Ephemeral? Yes, of course, but given the right conditions would return. Not on Tarmac!

As a consultant on, in the main, road ‘improvements’, I quickly came to realise that some you win, some you lose.

In this instance the northern bypass is in my view a ‘necessary evil’ and should be given priority over the southern bypass improvements.

A blot on the landscape? So is the silhouetted Grandstand on the south down skyline at Goodwood racecourse, but we live with it, and now an irreplaceable part of local heritage.

In time, we all come to love the northern bypass!

Due to an eye impediment I no longer drive. Most of those, I am sure, who complain about road improvements do drive, so be careful what you complain about.

Remember the precious environment. Irreplaceable. Keep it in perspective. Some you win, some you lose.

Howard Matcham FLS

Temple Bar,