Reducing unsustainable housing quotas for West Sussex is the only way for Boris Johnson to make good his Conservative Party Conference pledge to stop building on our green fields.
We cannot wait until the Prime Minister’s promises are written into legislation. But even if that happens, it will be too late.
As West Sussex councils struggle to prepare plans for unrealistic housing numbers, applications to concrete over more and more of our countryside are multiplying, threatening our environment and our economy.
Worse still, few of these new homes will be affordable for local people.
West Sussex is blessed with being in Britain’s fifth largest national park, preventing large-scale housing on much of our high ground.
But this means our precious, low-lying coastal plain is now being inundated with housing applications.
The Prime Minister need only look at a map to understand the threat.
The West Sussex coastal plain contains some of the UK’s highest quality farmland – Grade I and II – and there is very little of that left in the South East of England. Just as we are being urged to buy more British food we are losing our most productive farmland.
Our coastal plain is also home to several internationally designated wetlands. Indeed, Sussex’s Medmerry wetland is being showcased at the upcoming COP26 conference as an example of how wetlands can help increase our resilience to climate change.
Wetland is our planet’s –and country’s – most effective ecosystem for absorbing CO2 but also the fastest disappearing.
Sussex’s important wetlands need room to expand and connect to one another if the species which depend on them are to survive sea level rise.
The stunning countryside of the coastal plain is also crucial for our local economy. Green tourism is one of the world’s fastest growing tourism sectors.
Tourism has always been a key industry for coastal Sussex and the potential for our county to become one of the UK’s premier green tourism destinations is huge – but not if we lose the natural environment people stay here for.
There is also another looming crisis that impacts all of us every day. Our infrastructure cannot accommodate the scale of housing now overwhelming West Sussex.
Many homeowners are dealing with deplorable drainage and sewage problems and our coastal waters are being so badly polluted with storm discharges that beaches across the South East are being regularly closed. Climate change will increase flooding and drainage issues.
Growing congestion on the A27, the only east/west arterial road in the southeast of England, is causing dangerous rat-running through our towns, villages, coastal countryside and the South Downs National Park.
More traffic through residential areas pollutes the air we breathe and makes it increasingly difficult for us to walk or cycle in our own communities.
While we could write about all these issues in detail, and we will in future issues, we have one important message for our Prime Minister on the eve of COP26 – our environment is at a tipping point and we urge you to act – not just talk - before it is too late.
From next week, the West Sussex Gazette’s campaign to hold Boris Johnson to his pledge not to build on our green fields will focus on some of the county’s under-threat green spaces. Write to us at [email protected] – and via the postal address on page 8.
For more information about SOSCA and its work to date, visit its website at www.westsussextoday.co.uk