VOTE: Battle hots up to defeat sand plans

A landowner's plans to bulldoze a woodland on his estate for sand has brought the wrath of people in five parishes down on his head.

Sir Sebastian Anstruther, owner of the Barlavington Estate, sat on the sidelines through four public meetings and was left in no doubt that his neighbours in Fittleworth, Bury, Sutton, Barlavington and Bignor are fiercely opposed to his proposals for the site at Horncroft.

He also attended the annual parish meeting at Coldwaltham where the scheme, in Bury parish but close to Fittleworth, received another chilly reception because of the amount of lorry traffic it threatened to put on local roads and lanes.

At Fittleworth on Friday, more than 120 people flocked to the village hall to hear Sir Sebastian's planning agents' arguments for the sandpit.

Ashley Spanner and Richard Greenwood said the government had set a target for how much sand West Sussex should produce and all of its sand belt was within the new South Downs National Park.

The Horncroft site would be accessed from a new road constructed off the B2138. The design of the access road would mean HGV drivers could only get in from the south and would have to leave that way, joining the A29 and avoiding the village.

But doubts were expressed that highway or planning conditions would be strictly enforced.

One resident called for the application to be deferred until the South Downs National Park Authority took over minerals planning from the county in April next year.

It was a tenant of the Barlavington Estate who summed up the mood of the meeting, winning loud applause.

Sarah Gulland said: "A lot of people here will have an uncomfortable feeling this is a stitch-up. West Sussex County Council is not judging this on the criteria it should but the landowner's willingness to extract sand from this site."

She warned: "This is a test case, the first case of its kind since the formation of the national park. Should Horncroft be approved, no area in the national park will be safe. The line will have been crossed."

Following a poll at the meeting, results from a ballot box at the village shop and emailed votes, parish council chairman Tony Poole said there were 208 objections to the plan, with only five in support.

"The village has given the parish council a pretty decisive mandate to oppose the application," Dr Poole said.

Bury Parish Council and Sutton and Barlavington Parish Council are also opposed.

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