Advanced Notice – The Coldwaltham Meadow Development Brief is upon us!

Dear Meadow Campaigner
 
We have just learnt that the revised Development Brief for Coldwaltham Meadow is now being checked by the Chair of the South Downs National Park Authority’s Planning Committee before being issued for public consultation. It is likely to be available for public comment, starting from either the week beginning 12 March, or the week beginning 19 March. We were told that there will be a three-week period for comments to be made, which means that the closing date for comments will presumably be either 30 March or 6 April.  Please can you comment on this Development Brief; it is very important to let the National Park know that we are not giving up! It will send a clear message to the Inspector who will be examining the Local Plan that we all care for our meadow.  We are being victimised, this is the only residential Development Brief for the whole of the National Park. You might wonder why this is the case; we think this is because 1) our Parish Council didn’t object to houses on the meadow in 2015 and still do not objected to development in the Meadow, they have simply asked for fewer houses; 2) We do not have a Neighbourhood Development Plan, and our Parish Council has so far refused to produce one; and 3) The landowner is on the Board of the National Park Authority.We think that the National Park is trying to influence the Inspector by producing a detailed Development Brief for Coldwaltham Meadow, to try and justify the destruction of such an important site for wildlife, landscape and cultural heritage. We have to counteract this by stating that it is inappropriate to develop the meadow; development can take place elsewhere within the village, with far less impact.
 
An awkward time
The consultation time is not very convenient: it will cut across the Easter Holiday period for many of us, and we wonder if this is intended by the National Park, in the hope that people will be too busy to comment. At this stage, we do not know precisely what the Development Brief looks like, or how much has been changed from the earlier draft, and it is most unsatisfactory to be given such a vague start date. We do know however, that whatever the Development Brief contains, it is totally inappropriate to build any houses on the meadow, so we have prepared a statement which we are going to send to the National Park Planning Department in any case, which appears at the end of this email. Please feel free to use it, or bits of it, with your own comments. Thanks! If you want to know what our comments on the earlier draft were, see our websitecoldwalthammeadow.org.uk  but be warned, the new Brief might be different! 
 
Please help 
1. Could you contact the Parish Council, to find out if the Development Brief is available for comment and how to get hold of it? We are concerned that the Parish Council may not wish to comment at all, which is very disappointing, so they need to know that residents are concerned and want them to represent the community.  The Chair of the PC at the last PC meeting said he thought they had spent too much time on housing consultation and that he didn’t want the PC to continue to be proactive in this matter. We therefore suggest that if you want them to comment, you ask them to do so, and why! Perhaps the best way to contact the Parish Council is to email the Clerk, Dona Sherlock-Fuidge, on coldwalthampc@btinternet.com or telephone 01798 873747. Thanks!
 
2. Could you contact the South Downs National Park’s Planning Department and ask them the same questions: when will the Development Brief for Coldwaltham Meadow be available for comment, and how can comments be made?  Chris Paterson is the Communities Lead for the National Park, and he can be contacted by phone on 01730 819286/07872 410447 or emailed on planning policy@southdowns.gov.uk We have been told that there will be no need to fill in a complicated form, so please feel free to email your thoughts on the Development Brief for the Meadow. Thanks!
 
One more thing
3. We read in the Parish Council Notes in the Link magazine that there will be a public meeting held by the South Downs National Park Authority on Thursday 22 March, starting at 2:00pm, to present a progress report on the South Downs Local Plan. Unfortunately, we will not be able to attend that meeting, much as we would wish to, so it would be so useful if some of you could attend, to represent the Group, and to let us know what is going on. Clearly, the Parish Council know more than we do, for the Agenda has not yet been released. If you can attend on our behalf, please let us know by email ASAP. The meeting will be at the South Downs Centre, North Street, Midhurst, West Sussex GU29 9DH. We will let you have the details about the Agenda as soon as they emerge. Thanks again! We feel that we should say here that we do not recognise the account of the November Public Meeting referred to in the Link report; we were there (and so were a lot of you!) and we observed that no attempt was made by the Parish Council to ascertain whether there was a consensus about anything. We had offered to distribute a preference survey to all who attended, but this was refused by the Parish Council. We also find it galling that John, in the report in the Link, appears to accept that building on the meadow is inevitable. We don’t!
 
We are determined to fight to the end to save Coldwaltham Meadow from Development; this is a major opportunity to make our voices heard and we are so grateful for any support and help you can give with this.
 
All the best, and grateful thanks,
 
Jim Glover & Committee
 
Coldwaltham Meadow Conservation Group
 
Coldwaltham Meadow Conservation Group’s response to the South Downs National Park Authority’s Development Brief for Coldwaltham Meadow
1. We all assumed that the formation of the South Downs National Park Authority would protect our countryside from inappropriate Development, for your first main purpose is to “Conserve and enhance natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage”.  What better single example of all these attributes could you find than our flower rich hay meadow, the only one in the Arun Valley?
2. Your draft Local Plan refers to a Vision, two Main Purposes, seven Special Qualities and ten General Policies. It also provides nine Local Plan Objectives and ten Core Policies. All these documents define what you should stand for and what you should do; every one of them gives a clear indication of why you should withdraw the Development Brief for Coldwaltham Meadow and protect this site.
3. You may have been unaware of the special quality of Coldwaltham’s flower-rich hay meadow because the Planning Department failed to consider that sites in receipt of government funding to enhance wild flowers might be of conservation importance. There is no excuse for ignorance now; The Sussex Wildlife Trust, The RSPB, our Group and Natural England have all informed the Planning Department that this Meadow is important for wildlife. You know that the adjacent Wildbrooks is the most important and sensitive wildlife site in the National Park, for no other area within the National Park has a comparable combination of national and international designations. And yet there are statements in this Development Brief that building houses and landscaping must enhance biodiversity. There is only one way to enhance a flower rich hay meadow and that is to continue the management which has created it. Building houses, planting trees and encouraging public access will simply destroy it.
4. Environment Secretary Michael Gove recently announced that it will be a government priority to reward farmers who create flower meadows; why are you rewarding a landowner (who should know better, as a Board Member of the South Downs National Park Authority) who wishes to destroy one? The only conclusion we can draw from this untimely presentation of such a seriously flawed document is that the you are absolutely determined to develop the meadow and will make up any nonsense to justify your plans.
5. The Planning Inspector has yet to see the draft Local Plan; to submit this Development Brief for limited consultation so far in advance of the Local Plan’s ratification means that your planning decisions are being made outside of the Local Plan process. This is not consistent with national policy guidelines on plan-making and community consultation, specifically paragraphs 17, 150, 155, 196 & 216.
6. One of the key principles of sustainable development is “ensuring a strong, healthy and just society”.  Yet you expect us to give up our views of the countryside, and accept the loss of a beautiful meadow, with increased disturbance to the Wildbrooks, for a shop that probably won’t be built and almost certainly won’t last, for houses that we have shown could be built elsewhere in the village. This is neither just or fair; the “Call for Sites” from the SDNPA was so muted that we were unable to find any other landowner in the village that was aware of it.
7. We cannot live within environmental limits if a major development is built in this village, which has few work opportunities, very limited facilities and no public transport worth the name, for the part-time bus service is unsuitable for commuting and the railway station is over 2.5 miles away. This Development Brief will generate significant increased car use on the busy A29 and around the village, particularly if the proposed shop is commercially viable enough to be built.
8. The Development Brief for Coldwaltham Meadow is stated in terms that are impossible to achieve and should therefore be withdrawn. In asking local residents to comment on the Development Brief, we are being invited to suggest how best to destroy an irreplaceable and cherished biodiverse cultural heritage asset. Instead, you should be considering the alternative sites our group has identified in the village, which are far less damaging to wildlife and the landscape.