Observer: Wealden needs more support to protect Ashdown Forest

Our independent columnist Observer says protecting the Ashdown Forest is a real quandary.

We can, I hope, all agree that the Ashdown Forest is a fabulous area of open land on Uckfield’s doorstep which is well worth protecting and preserving.

We hear much about the ‘poor condition’ but is that across the whole forest, along certain roads, or in just specific areas that are hotspots for visitors?

That’s a detail, which is important. However, the  real arguments start once you put forward suggestions to protect and preserve this wonderful landscape.

Let’s just consider some of the issues:

  • It is a home area for many people;
  • There are many businesses;
  • Parts are farmed;
  • The Conservators have a legal interest;
  • The owners, The Ashdown Forest, are clearly interested;
  • Roads not only connect forest communities but are key links for those of us living to the south who wish to connect with the M25, Croydon and beyond, Gatwick and Crawley;
  • It’s a great area to go walking;
  • Even more so, it is a wonderful place to take the dogs for a run;
  • And, you cannot get away from the fact that the Ashdown Forest is a tourist attraction.

Closing car parks, preventing roadside parking – I see that even tolls have been considered and rightly rejected – might keep much of the traffic away but at what cost to the established businesses relying for much of their trade on day visitors.

What about more public transport? That’s hardly going to work for dog walkers and the Saturday bus to link Uckfield with the forest was hardly a runaway success.

Park and ride? Great idea but the same problem arises for dog walkers and I can’t see Maresfield being chuffed if a huge car park is established on its doorstep.

Speed limits? Much of the forest is 40mph but the main drag to and from East Grinstead has some 50mph stretches and even 60mph, although adherence to the limits is patchy.

Ban diesel cars? I won’t be voting for that.

Wealden District Council is establishing large country parks on the outskirts of Uckfield, at Little Horsted, and Crowborough to help mitigate the effect of major new housebuilding in the towns. The hope is dog walkers will divert, at least on some occasions.

I wait to see how good they are but given a choice, I think I would rather walk the dog on the Ashdown Forest, rather than a new park.

Housebuilding

[I might add, housebuilding will eventually pay for the parks but the council is paying upfront to get them established].

At the same time, Wealden has been using planning policy to regulate the building of houses in surrounding areas to try and ease the pressures on the Ashdown Forest.

Just using planning policy is like a boxer going into a title fight with one hand tied behind his back.

Joined up thinking

What are all the other agencies with an interest in the Ashdown Forest doing? We hear little or nothing.

This is just not a Wealden District Council issue. Let’s have some joined up thinking . .  . now there’s a phrase from the past

To the point

 

• A few weeks ago, I thought train operator Southern was on the up. Think again. It has been back to its bad old ways in recent days. More trouble with those “new” carriages imported from Scotland is the best guess of those drinking in the Dog and Duck.

• Delighted to see the former Wealden District Council chairman Barby Dashwood-Morris has left the council – booted off for not attending a meeting for six months. She should have gone the moment she knew she would plead guilty in court to breaches of planning law.

The right thing to have done would be to have resigned and apologised. Has she no shame?

See also:

Massive Lewes blaze: Uckfield firefighters help

Nutley school success

Events in Uckfield this bank holiday weekend

Manor teaching assistant celebrates publication of second book

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