Oldhouse Warren and Center Parcs update

, 20 December 2021
Oldhouse Warren and Center Parcs update
Firecrest © David Tipling/2020VISION

By Jess Price

Conservation Officer

A big thank you to everyone who contacted Center Parcs and the various local decision-makers (MPs and Councillors) to highlight that Oldhouse Warren is the wrong place to build a new holiday village. We know many of you have made contact and we have seen some of the replies you have been receiving. You have all done a fantastic job of raising awareness of this issue, which has also gained some excellent press coverage.

Center Parcs haven’t responded to us directly, but they did produce a statement in reply to requests from journalists – and it is disappointing. The statement said that Center Parcs are conducting ecological surveys to inform their designs and that they take their responsibility to the environment very seriously. It also said that they have more than 30 years’ experience of sensitively managing the woodlands within their villages.

The frustrating thing is that we know what the ecological surveys will say – that Oldhouse Warren is ancient woodland, is adjacent to a SSSI and sits in the High Weald AONB. Such a sensitive site is not suitable for development of any kind, and a holiday village is a substantial development. It may be possible to build a wooden cabin or two sensitively, but what about 900 of them? What about the car parks and internal roads, the concrete paths and village centres with restaurants and shops? Not to mention the huge amount of soil excavation needed to build one of Center Parcs’ famous tidal swimming pools, along with all the gas, electricity and water cables and pipes running across the site? And then all the cars driving onto it with holiday-goers?

A development of this scale is simply incompatible with ancient woodland, especially when you consider the impact it would have on the site’s all-important soil. This is what really makes ancient woodlands irreplaceable: soil is the foundation of an ancient woodland, the base from which all else grows and thrives. These soils have taken centuries or millennia to form, and their relative lack of disturbance over hundreds of years means they are especially complex and diverse, and rich in carbon. Even though some of the native trees have been replaced with conifers at Oldhouse Warren, the site still retains much of its historic soil communities, networks and ecological interactions that would have been lost if the land had been anything else but wooded for hundreds of years. This should be protected and restored – but a sprawling holiday village would do just the opposite.

The Sussex Wildlife Trust and our partners in the campaign will continue to raise awareness of this issue with politicians and the public. We will continue to lobby Center Parcs to choose an alternative location. And if a planning application is submitted for Oldhouse Warren, we will let everyone know and help you all object in as simple and effective a way as possible.

Visit our webpage for more information on the proposal, including our list of Frequently Asked Questions.

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Comments

  • Stephen Leary:

    Hi Jess, thanks for the update. I don’t know whether it was an oversite, but you forgot to mention that outdoor water pools and streams plus a lake of at least 2 acres are also features of Centre Parc sites which means sacrificing even more of the ancient woodland

    20 Dec 2021 16:35:00

  • Clare Baker:

    Please let’s crowdfund to buy this land. It’s the only way to secure it for the global commons. Is that an option right now?

    Reply

    We understand why people would like us to buy the land, but at this time it is not up for sale. Even if it was, the average cost of woodland in this part of the country is about £10,000 per acre, so at 550 acres, we would estimate Oldhouse Warren costing about £5.5 million! As charities we have to think carefully about any acquisitions, not least because of the long-term costs of managing sites for wildlife and people. We also think it is a sad indictment of planning controls if charities have to buy land to protect it from unsuitable development, when the planning legislation and policy is meant to be there to ensure only sustainable development occurs. Ancient Woodland and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty are very highly protected under national policy. This should be enough for Center Parcs and the landowners to realise that this is the wrong place for their development, without a charity having to step in.

    21 Dec 2021 17:20:00

  • Colin Upton:

    Thanks for the update, this is one battle that we must win. Please do all you can to keep this in the public eye. Sadly there are many people that will support this sort of development.

    25 Dec 2021 18:44:00