Letter: Risks from development

WITH reference to the article in the County Times of January 19 ‘Anthrax concerns raised at meeting’, I felt the public ought to be aware of the exact position in relation to the anthrax risk if Berkeley’s are granted outline planning permission to develop Great House Farm land to the west of Worthing Road in Southwater.

We know beyond all doubt that there was an outbreak of anthrax on the farm in the 1960s and that, as was normal practice at a time when this disease was quite widespread, the animals were buried on site. No detailed records exist to say exactly where they were buried.

Dr Tim Brooks, of the National Health Protection Agency, who is responsible for ‘Emergency Preparedness and Response for Novel and Dangerous Pathogens’ (please note the inclusion of anthrax within his remit if doubt of its seriousness remains) agrees that there is a risk in developing this land; but statistically he considers the risk to be low.

The actual ‘risk’ involved is either that someone contracts anthrax – mortality rate still very significant today – or that active spores are found when development work is under way.

In this latter event the development of the site and its immediate surround would be stopped and the whole area covered with a good layer of concrete to cap it and make it permanently unavailable for any other use.

I accept it will be safe BUT I question the legacy of a concreted area of 15 to 20 acres in perpetuity in the middle of the village of Southwater! Is what is right in this circumstance just a question of regulation, or the isolated statistical assessment of risk? How do you assess the significance of a ‘slight’ risk of a very serious event?

Horsham District Council has a ‘duty of care’ to the population it represents. There are circumstances when this duty of care, with a liberal helping of common sense, should form the basis of sensible and reasonable decisions.

If there was an imperative reason why, in the interests of all residents, development of this particular area HAD to happen, then everyone, fully informed residents and council alike, would accept the small risk.

Here there is no imperative. Commercial expediency cannot be considered such.

Here there is an element of risk, albeit small. Here there is an alternative. For all our sakes I ask Horsham District Council not to allow this land to be disturbed.

For more information on the anthrax issue consult the Keep Southwater Green website at www.keepsouthwatergreen.co.uk

Dr IAN THWAITES

Marlhurst, Southwater