The chalk coast along Cuckmere Haven and the Seven Sisters is of international environmental significance. The chalk reef, which can be seen at low tide, is considered to be the best example in south-east England and thousands of people enjoy its unusual wild beauty every year. The reef is teeming with life, including crabs, mussels and oysters and it is home to a beautiful and rare seahorse.
This chalk reef has very high levels of environmental legal protection. It is both within a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and a Marine Conservation Zone (MCZ). These designations are only given to the UK’s very finest examples of natural places and they provide significant legal protection to the habitats within them. Such places are the crown jewels of our natural heritage.
The proposal to develop new sea defences included covering this irreplaceable chalk habitat with concrete, and driving steel sheet piling down into the chalk. This would cause irreparable and permanent damage to as much as 200 square metres of this rare Sussex habitat.
Sussex Wildlife Trust, with guidance from the Environmental Law Foundation, applied for a Judicial Review of the Planning Authority’s decision in February to approve the proposals. In response to our legal action South Downs National Park Authority and the Cuckmere Haven SOS organisation have agreed that there was a failure to carry out an Environmental Impact Assessment, which is a required part of this type of decision-making process.
We will work with partners and the South Downs National Park Authority to try to find an alternative solution, which will preserve the chalk reef for generations to come.