Fresh bid to halt plans to build £350 million Center Parcs near Crawley

A fresh appeal is being made to halt plans to build a new Center Parcs holiday village near Crawley.

Center Parcs announced last year that it was proposing to build a £350 million village with lodges, restaurants and a swimming complex on a 553-acre ancient woodland site at Oldhouse Warren in Worth.

Now conservation groups throughout Sussex - who have already said the holiday village would ‘tear the heart out’ of the ancient woodland - have banded together in a new attempt to persuade Center Parcs to find an alternative site.

They say the holiday village would cause ‘irreversible harm’ and destroy the ecosystem.

Goshawk. Photo: Paul Marten, Sussex Wildlife Trust

Sussex Wildlife Trust alongside the Woodland Trust, RSPB, CPRE and Sussex Ornithological Society have sent an open letter to Center Parcs asking them again to reconsider the location which is home to a number of rare birds including Goshawk, Lesser Spotted Woodpecker and Firecrest - one of Britain’s tiniest birds.

Sussex Wildlife Trust conservation officer Jess Price said: “Ancient woodland is an irreplaceable habitat that is highly protected, so we are extremely concerned about these proposals.”

Oldhouse Warren and the surrounding landscape forms part of Worth Forest, a once medieval hunting forest within the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

It is part of the wider ancient Worth Forest, which links habitats across Horsham and Mid Sussex districts.

Jess Price, conservation officer with Sussex Wildlife Trust. Photo: Miles Davies, Sussex Wildlife Trust

In their letter, the conservation groups - banded together under the name Sussex Planning for Nature Group - say: “This ancient woodland site is a habitat rich with nationally rare archaeological and ecological features, including veteran trees, and also neighbours an area of a Site of Special Scientific Interest ancient ghyll woodland.

“It is for this reason that we are asking Center Parcs to reconsider developing here.”

They add: “Ancient woodland is irreplaceable; it takes centuries, more often millennia, for ancient woodland soils to accumulate and the rich connections between soils, plants, animals, and other organisms to develop and evolve.

“Where new development is introduced to ancient woodland such as lodges, leisure facilities and associated infrastructure, the important biological relationships and variety of ecological niches within the ecosystem are irreversibly harmed and destroyed.”

Sussex Planning for Nature Group is now urging members of the public to lodge objections with Center Parcs and to write to local councillors and MPs in a bid to persuade Center Parcs to find an alternative location.

Center Parcs has been contacted for comment.