Row over plans to build road over protected downland

A row has broken out over proposals to build a road on protected downland.

Friday, 31st August 2018, 11:03 am
Updated Tuesday, 4th September 2018, 5:15 am
Local residents who are campaigning against a planning application to construct a road / vehicular access through a field adjacent to Crowlink Lane (Photo by Jon Rigby)
Local residents who are campaigning against a planning application to construct a road / vehicular access through a field adjacent to Crowlink Lane (Photo by Jon Rigby)

An application has been submitted to the South Downs National Park Authority (SDNPA) to build a two wheel access track across a field from Crowlink Lane to a property called Crowlink Corner.

The applicant states its aim is to make the cottage more accessible and safe.

But locals argue the track will contribute to the destruction of the natural landscape, which is owned by The National Trust and protected; it is one of the only dark sky areas in the country. They fear the tranquillity would be ruined.

(Photo by Jon Rigby)

One of around 50 objectors to the application, Mark Wigglesworth said it would be a ‘tragedy’.

“There are few places left in the country that are completely underdeveloped and that’s why a lot of people want to come here and why the land was given to the National Trust to protect,” he said. “It’s the thin end of the wedge, once you take a bit where does it stop?”

The downland was saved from development in the 1920s and gifted to the Trust by the Society of Sussex Downsmen with three protective covenants.

East Dean Parish Council recommends the application be refused, and the South Downs Society has also objected to it.

Frank Newbould's wartime print, believed to have been based on the view from Crowlink Corner

Jonathan Vernon Hunt, who takes his dog for walks across the public right of way there, said, “It would appear to be an innocuous minor useful track but actually it’s exactly how little things become big things and in this area this is exactly what we should be preventing. It’s worth fighting for.

“Feelings are strong but that doesn’t mean it’s personal, this is about the countryside.”

He drew attention to wartime artist Frank Newbould who is believed to have lived at Crowlink Corner and made a painting of its iconic view, alongside the lines ‘Britain, fight for it now’.

And nearby neighbour Robert Price described it as a ‘unique’ place and said ‘there’s nowhere else like it’.

The view of the Belle Tout from the cottage

But Mary-Jane Higgins, who owns the property, said she has had eggs thrown at her and has been jeered at over the planning application.

“They are portraying me as this woman from London that wants to tarmac the Downs,” she said, “I have lived in this area for 20 years. We would like solutions instead of attacks.

“I welcome comments because I value my neighbours and wanted everyone to voice their opinion. I called a meeting with them but they got very vitriolic.”

She says the track is needed to give access for the emergency services, which have in the past struggled to even find the property.

(Photo by Jon Rigby)

“This is the last house in this area that hasn’t got a road. Even the Belle Tout has one. All the people campaigning against me have a tarmac drive. I find it hypocritical.”

Miss Higgins said though she had previously considered it, she had no plans for a future business on the site.

The application is on the SDNPA website under SDNP/18/03970/FUL and comments can be made until September 6.

(Photo by Jon Rigby)