SDNP status could stop sandpit plans near Fittleworth

Success in the campaign to prevent virgin woodland near Fittleworth being dug up for sand could benefit other South Downs National Park villages facing the prospect of new quarries, it has been claimed.

Scott Greenhalgh, a businessman who lives at Bignor, says planning consent for a sandpit at Horncroft would breach government policy on national parks – no matter which authority was to deal with the application.

The Barlavington Estate's application has been lodged with West Sussex County Council, which remains the minerals authority until the National Park Authority becomes fully operational next April.

The park itself came into being on March 31 this year.

Mr Greenhalgh, who has been researching the issues involved, declared: "The absolutely key point is UK government policy on national parks which states that only in exceptional circumstances, and if it is in the public interest, should new sites be allowed inside national parks.

"I have spoken to Defra (the government department for the environment) and they confirmed it does not matter who the planning authority is, the policy applies once the park exists.

"If you have a national park, you should respect the integrity of it. My argument is not just about Horncroft – it applies just as well to West Lavington and anywhere else."

Mr Greenhalgh said he had been looking at the approach taken by other national parks and it seemed clear they had set the bar high.

"It is clear they have given precedence to the environment and sustainability of the park.

"If you take the New Forest, no new quarries have been allowed since the park came into existence. The planning authority has said we cannot meet our seven-year landbank quota if we do not quarry in the national park, but we are not going to do that."

The deadline for West Sussex County Council to receive objections to the planning application is today (Friday, May 14).

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