By Jess Price
Center Parcs want to build a new holiday village at Oldhouse Warren near Crawley, West Sussex. We think this would be a disaster for the environment, and so do the Woodland Trust, the RSPB, CPRE Sussex and the Sussex Ornithological Society. Today, we have we have released a joint statement explaining why.
Oldhouse Warren is an ancient woodland, part of the wider medieval hunting forest of Worth Forest sitting within the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). Whilst we have nothing against a new leisure facility in the South East, this is clearly the wrong location. This is irreplaceable habitat with a unique ecosystem of soil organisms, fungi, invertebrates, birds and mammals that have evolved together over centuries, even millennia. It must be protected and ideally restored to its full potential.
Everything in local and national policy and guidance says this site should not get planning permission: both ancient woodland and AONBs are highly protected under the National Planning Policy Framework and the Mid Sussex District Plan. Just two weeks ago, the Government pledged at COP26 to end deforestation by 2030. They also finally enacted the new Environment Bill, which sets a target to halt the UK decline in species abundance by 2030. This is not to mention the huge amounts of carbon that would be released if the ancient soils at Oldhouse Warren are dug up for development - such destruction would be irreconcilable with our legally binding commitments to achieve Net Zero greenhouse gas emissions and to plant far more trees to absorb carbon and boost biodiversity.
By all rights, the Center Parcs proposal should not get planning permission - but we have seen terrible decisions for wildlife that went against policy in the past, and there is a risk that this will happen again. So we want to put a stop to this proposal now, before a planning application is even submitted, and convince Center Parcs to think again.
Please help us by contacting Center Parcs asking them to look for a better, more sustainable, location. There are so many reasons not to develop on this site, and some of the issues you could mention are:
- The proposed site at Oldhouse Warren is entirely ancient woodland, an irreplaceable habitat that has been around for centuries and potentially millennia. It must be protected, not destroyed.
- Development in ancient woodland is prohibited unless there are “wholly exceptional reasons.” Building on ancient woodland goes directly against national planning policy and all the relevant local plans and policies in Sussex
- Building here would damage a protected AONB landscape. Oldhouse Warren forms part of the historic Worth Forest, an ancient woodland landscape within the High Weald AONB. The government’s own definition of an AONB is a “fine landscape…whose distinctive character and natural beauty are so outstanding that it is in the nation’s interest to safeguard them.”
- The development would harm the neighbouring SSSI ancient ghyll woodland, a sensitive site that is currently undisturbed
- Building here goes directly against the Prime Minister’s commitment to protect 30% of the UK’s land by 2030. This promise is based on the flawed assumption that 26% of land in England is already “protected” by AONBs, National Parks and other designations. Oldhouse Warren sits within the High Weald AONB and will be destroyed by the Center Parcs proposal, not protected.
- Development here is a barrier to nature's recovery and the creation of a functioning Nature Recovery Network. Oldhouse Warren is located within a Biodiversity Opportunity Area – an area identified as presenting the best opportunity for enhancing biodiversity - and is part of the wider ancient Worth Forest, which links habitats across Horsham and Mid Sussex districts.
- Development here will cause a huge amount of greenhouse gas emissions, releasing the carbon stored in ancient, undisturbed soils and felling trees that currently absorb carbon dioxide. This is clearly not compatible with our legally binding Net Zero targets or the government’s pledges in the recently-published England Trees Action Plan.
How you can help
1. Please help us by contacting Center Parcs and asking them to look for an alternative location.
You can use the email contact form on the Center Parcs website [N.B. when filling in the contact form you will need to select a ‘Type of Enquiry’ but none of the options are really relevant, so just select any.]
2. Contact the local MPs and the leader of Mid Sussex District Council
We are asking Center Parcs to reconsider and look for another, less sensitive location - but if they pursue their current plans, development of Oldhouse Warren must be opposed and rejected by the relevant authorities.
Please contact the Leader of Mid Sussex District Council – Jonathan Ash-Edwards and the relevant MPs for the area – Jeremy Quinn, Mims Davies and Henry Smith
If you live in Mid Sussex, you can also contact your local councillors.
Please help us to save this precious site. You can read more information about our concerns here