Concerns about Northern Arc’s potential impact on ancient woodland in Burgess Hill

The former chairman of the Friends of Burgess Hill Green Circle Network is concerned about the Northern Arc development’s potential impact on ancient woodland in the area.

Tuesday, 25th May 2021, 6:02 pm

Roy Ticehurst, 79, said he thought Homes England, the master developer of the 3,500-home site, was doing ‘wonderful work’ overall.

But he said he was worried about what looked like plans to put a road, cycle track and footpath through ancient woodland to the West of Bridgehall Farm and Burgess Hill Golf Centre.

“They refer to it as two ancient woodlands and I don’t,” said Roy, adding that an ordinance survey map from 1897 depicted it as one wood with no gap in between.

Roy Ticehurst, the former chairman of the Friends of Burgess Hill Green Circle Network. Picture: Steve Robards, SR2105132

“I am zoning in on this particular point because I think all the other things they are doing sound great,” he said.

Roy said Homes England had consulted carefully with councils and organisations like the Sussex Wildlife Trust, as well as other environmental groups.

He also said they had increased the size of Bedelands Nature Reserve and that they were helping to complete the Burgess Hill Green Circle, which provides easier access to green spaces.

But Roy, who lived in Burgess Hill for 43 years before moving to Hassocks, said the thinking behind modern wildlife conservation is to connect individual nature reserves.

These ‘wildlife corridors’, he said, reduce the risk of some species dying out.

Roy believes that the Northern Arc development offers an opportunity to ‘connect up’ various plots of land, particularly the ‘precious’ ancient woodlands.

He feels that Homes England has overlooked this and he would prefer that any ancient woodland was not divided by a road or even a cycle track.

Roy said his response was triggered by people voicing concerns about oak trees being felled along Isaacs Lane last year.

He wants to point out that wildlife conservation is not just about individual trees.

“I fully understand the company’s reasons for doing what they have to do,” he said, adding that Homes England was trying to replace what has been damaged.

But Roy said ancient woodland takes about 400 years to recover and cannot be replaced by planting new trees.

Homes England responded to say that ancient woodland would be protected.

A spokesperson said: “Homes England is committed to delivering the Northern Arc through an approach that has a long-term positive impact on local biodiversity and wildlife.

“Homes England have carried out extensive surveys of the habitats on the site and there will be no development within ancient woodland, which will be protected with buffer zones of at least 15m.”

Homes England also said ‘a significant amount’ of new planting has been proposed to help deliver a net increase in woodland habitats.

The spokesperson added: “We continue to work with our partners to ensure that all of the infrastructure that is required to support the delivery of new homes at the Northern Arc, is designed to reduce environmental impact.”

The Northern Arc project, which will provide 3,500 new homes, was given outline planning permission by Mid Sussex District Council in 2019.

The building work is expected to take 15 years and will include £41 million of infrastructure work.

The final phase is scheduled to start in 2031/32 and residents are expected to move in to the last 451 homes by March 2034.

More than 30 per cent of the new homes will be classed as affordable and the development will include extra care housing, gypsy and traveller pitches, community, sports and healthcare facilities.