Fear of the unknown drive protesters at Steyning sand extraction
I am replying to last week's letter from Mike Kelly encouraging Steyning residents to sign the petition against the proposed sand extraction project at Hammes Farm.
A ‘kneejerk’ reaction against any major proposal of this nature is entirely predictable, but much of it will be based upon fear of the unknown and not upon firm factual information, hence the usual “Nimby” banners which festoon our town and photo-opportunities of groups of protesters posing for the media – their five-minutes of fame.
In the interests of balance I am taking the opposite view. High quality sand is a valuable resource and we may be fortunate to have 850,000 tonnes of it under some fields next to the A283 Steyning bypass, although objectors would like us to believe that the whole town will be almost fatally damaged if it is extracted. But as someone said ‘We have to get sand from somewhere!’
The important thing is to address the fears of doubters and to ensure that the project is designed in such a way as to make their concerns unfounded. Complainants have suggested, for example, that the lorry traffic will be unsupportable, but I believe the potential operator, Dudman, has considerable experience of contracts of this nature and will formulate a programme which is efficient for them and, as a result, for others road users on the A283. There can be no advantage to them to clog up the roads with slow-moving traffic. I have read that the traffic will be “dusty”. Why? Sand is not inherently dusty and is a lot more clean and stable during transportation than some of the landfill which has been carried on the bypass. The biggest problem, I think, will be at the entrance to the site because that will be where lorries have to turn onto the A283 or off it.
Opposite Hammes Farm is the vast Wiston Estate. In late May each year they hold a 2-day “Big Church” event which attracts around 25,000 people. The majority arrive in cars and camp on site but a significant number tow their own caravans to the event. This puts a serious strain on the A283. Wiston also hosts an annual Steam Fair, with thousands of visitors at this weekend attraction and many slow-moving steam-driven exhibits holding up traffic.
So why not combine the Wiston Estate events and the sand extraction project with one roundabout between the two? This should allow much safer and more efficient traffic management to and from both locations.
Finally ~ and here I agree with protestors ~ the idea of the resultant quarry being used for landfill is unacceptable. I have not read any official document from WSCC or others that this is the intention, but this rural tract of land could be put to far better use to benefit the community. I go along with the idea of a water park, with a large and well-supervised lake for boating, kayaking and sailing, a lakeside restaurant/cafe, a nature ramble, a link to the nearby Alderwoods Ponds fishing lake complex and even an area for overnight camping and ‘yurts’. I believe the South Downs National Park would support this.
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