Firstly, I endorse the sentiments of cllr Jonathan Brown regarding the utter failure of the planning system to support neighbourhood planning principles.
Of course, in this case of allowing development of 34 houses on one of Southbourne’s last ‘traditional orchards’, we see that the planning system is neither fit for purpose when it comes to protecting this unique wildlife habitat and potential community asset.
Ironically, this old orchard is on Natural England’s (NE’s) list of ‘priority habitats’ ie those identified as being most threatened and requiring conservation via biodiversty action planning.
This is another type of planning which seems to have no teeth when it comes to the crunch as NE made no objection to the original planning application.
Furthermore the Government’s own guidance [National Planning Policy Framework 2012] on protecting biodiversity was not used by the district council in its refusal notice and they were not aware that the site was a priority habitat and a stepping stone for wildlife between the two ‘SPAs’ of Chichester Harbour and the South Downs National Park.
They have not yet identified this network of important secondary habitats in the Chichester Local Plan.
Is it surprising that prominent environmentalists are tearing their hair and gnashing their teeth! “Of the 218 countries assessed for biodiversity ‘intactness’, the UK is ranked 189th” – State of Nature Report 2016 [RSPB].
Chris Packham aptly sums up this sad state of affairs in his recent ‘Manifesto for Wildlife’ – “it’s horrifying, depressing, disastrous and yet somehow we have grown to accept this as part of our lives – we’ve normalised the drastic destruction of our wildlife”.
John Auric, Breach Avenue, Southbourne
Co-ordinator, Friends of Breach Orchard