VOTE: Residents furious over 'stealth' being used by council on sandpit bid

Villagers in West Lavington are campaigning against a new sandpit proposal on their doorstep which they claim has been added 'almost by stealth' to West Sussex County Council's mineral extraction plans.

Objectors have also been spreading the word by posters and leaflet drops and villagers are being urged to send their objections to the county council before the extended deadline of February 26.

The campaign has been mounted by West Lavington parish councillors and villagers who only learned about the threat after reading a report in the Observer at the end of last month.

On their new website they claim: "Almost by stealth over Christmas the Hawkhurst Farm site was added to a list of proposed locations for mineral extraction. Contrary to a previous agreement West Lavington parish councillors were not consulted."

One of the leading campaigners, Mark Coppen, said: "We have been given obscenely short notice to object and anyone wishing to oppose it has only days left before the closing date for comments."

Campaigners are objecting on the grounds that the 22-hectare site would be a huge scar in the countryside almost at the heart of the new South Downs National Park and the effects of noise and dust would be felt over a large area.

They say half the site is under the protection of Natural England and the impact on wildlife would extend well beyond its boundaries. Also the large number of heavy lorries needed to remove three million tonnes of sand would be dangerous and inappropriate on the small road.

In addition they are concerned the new sandpit would cause more flooding and land slippage problems and a well used public footpath would be obliterated.

"It seems crass to give us a national park one minute," said Mr Coppen "and sneak through this proposal on a gigantic site – at the last minute before it is established – to dig a whacking great hole in the middle of it.

"This site was rejected a few years ago because it has a 360-degree visual impact – it can be seen from the South Downs Way and the Chichester Road and nothing has changed."

Chairman of West Lavington Parish Council Mike Thomas said there was a growing 'anti' feeling in the village. "I have already seen about 25 letters of objection and there are more coming. The Ramblers are objecting and both Cocking and Heyshott parish councillors are against it."

The county council is also consulting, in its emerging minerals and waste plan, on five other 'preferred option' sites for sand quarries at Duncton, Harting, Minsted near Stedham and Fittleworth.

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