Thousands sign petition against plans for water sports park on Eastbourne lake

Alex Richards and Mike Fairclough at West Langney Marsh near West Rise School
Alex Richards and Mike Fairclough at West Langney Marsh near West Rise School

More than 2,000 people have signed a petition against plans to build a water sports park at “Eastbourne’s last wilderness” .

It argues it would be a “disaster” for the wildlife and landscape at West Langney Marsh if plans to create a wakeboarding park go ahead.

Alex Richards and Mike Fairclough at West Langney Marsh near West Rise School

Alex Richards and Mike Fairclough at West Langney Marsh near West Rise School

But the local man behind the idea says his business plan will not harm the environment, but enhance it.

Paul Gosling said, “Based on the way the petition is presented, I would sign it myself. But it is not correct. I have no desire to turn anything into a concrete jungle. This is an environmentally led project.”

He said he hopes to give free access to the sport, which involves a rider standing on a board towed by a silent electric winch system, to local schools.

“My ambition is to put Langney on the map. Everyone always claims kids are on social media, let’s get them out there.”

Mr Gosling, an NHS nurse, says an independent ecologist found the landscape would not be harmed by the plans, which would cover nine hectares of the around 48 hectares of marshland.

He says the sport would produce around 40 decibels of noise and equipment would be put in place to deflect the wake and protect birds from the electric cables.

But Mike Fairclough, head teacher at West Rise school, which leases the land from Eastbourne council, said, “Initially I thought it sounds quite an interesting idea and was supportive.

“But I spoke to various local biologists who look after the land as well as RSPB and environmental experts and they told me it would categorically be a disaster for anything to happen on that scale. It would have a detrimental impact on the environment.”

He said there is a “plethora of rare fauna and flora” on the marshes, including species of spider and beetle which have been there since prehistoric times and vulnerable species of migrating birds. There is also a herd of water buffalo which call the marsh their home, and dykes on the land itself date back to medieval and even prehistoric times.

“When you have the last wilderness in Eastbourne you have to protect it. Wakeboarding could reduce the biodiversity of the lake. The last thing we want to do is put an activity on a vulnerable space.”

Alex Richards, the groundsman who started the Change.org petition, said, “I think something like that would be very good for Eastbourne but it needs to be in the appropriate place.”