On 12 July Center Parcs announced they had acquired an option to purchase a 553 acre site of woodland off Balcombe Road in Worth, Sussex and that they planned to develop their 6th Centre Parcs in the UK there. The site is bordered by the M23 to the north and by Worth Forest SSSI to the south west. Almost the whole site is plantation ancient woodland (that is an area that has been planted with trees for hundreds of years). As such it is enjoys the conservation protection afforded to all ancient woodland. The site is also wholly in the High Weald AONB. Planning policy states that development should not occur in AONB’s or on Ancient Woodland except in the most exceptional circumstances, and it is not apparent to us that there is any exceptional reason why a large holiday park should be built on such a protected site.
Most of the eastern side of the M23 between junctions 10 and 11 is at present undeveloped, although it is under development threat from the overflow of Crawley. The SOS believes that this development would be wholly at odds with the legal requirements that both the High Weald AONB and ancient woodlands should be protected from inappropriate or excessive development. Further, the site forms part of a large connected area of woodland mixed with farmland which is rich in birdlife, including Red and Amber-listed species of Conservation Concern and Schedule 1 species. We expect to see this whole area remain intact, for the continued benefit of wildlife including birds.
In the coming weeks SOS will be working with partner organisations to see how best we can ensure that this proposal is rejected.