LETTER: Concerns over important sites

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I write regarding the loss of the County Archaeology Service, reported in the County Times, on April 16.

Like volunteers from Horsham District Archaeology Group, members of Beeding and Bramber Local History Society are concerned about the withdrawal, by West Sussex County Council, of archaeological advice to the planning departments of district and borough council across the county.

The service is now fragmented with each council now obtaining advice from different providers who may not even be based in West Sussex. As a temporary measure Horsham District Council (HDC) is going to obtain advice from planning consultants White Young Green. They appear to work all over the world but although I have studied their website, I cannot see where they are based.

A further concern in the south of the district is that the South Downs National Park Authority (SDNPA) can call in planning applications for sites within the National Park and these are then decided in Winchester, with advice from Hampshire County Council.

One wonders whether planning officers at that distance can possibly have sufficient knowledge of sites of potential archaeological interest all the way from Winchester to Eastbourne.

The importance of this is shown by what has happened in Upper Beeding. Last year, the SDNPA decided to allow the building of several workshops on the edge of Upper Beeding. Although the site lay between two known sites of medieval interest, and could possibly be where the village of Beeding began in Saxon times, there was no stipulation for an archaeological examination or ‘watching brief’ of the site to be made. Building is now nearly complete and we will never know what part of our history has been lost forever.

Another concern is that not all planning applications now have to be advertised, and those that do only appear once in a newspaper. One only has to be away for one week to miss the opportunity to comment if there is no other publicity.

It is therefore quite easy for planning applications to slip through without notice until it is too late to comment.

We consider that planning applications for listed buildings and for sites within the National Park should be advertised for at least a month.

PATRICIA NIGHTINGALE (Mrs)

Hon. sec. Beeding and Bramber Local History Society, Hyde Street, Upper Beeding