LETTER: The priorities of big business

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In addition to the other issues raised by your correspondents in these columns concerning proposals to build upwards of 2,500 new houses on the northern fringes of Horsham, the issue of the availability of water supplies also needs careful scrutiny.

The South East region of the UK is already ‘water-stressed’ and liable to experience future shortages. Any new housing developments instantly increase the demand for water. Before agreeing therefore to any further developments in and around Horsham there needs to be a thorough assessment of the sufficiency of water supplies to meet the extra demand.

This issue of water supply also relates to current plans to proceed with fracking in Sussex. Any fracking well would need millions of litres of water (in conjunction with ‘chemicals’) to be injected underground, so fracking companies will, if wells are established in Sussex, be in heightened competition for water with farming, domestic, and other existing industrial uses – never mind the new housing being proposed by multi-national development companies! And all this in a region of water stress.

We surely can’t have it all! Indeed these dual proposals taken together would seem mutually incompatible – that is if the well-being of all of us who live in this area is to be safeguarded for the future.

So, for example, accounts of the protests of anti-fracking groups in the Horsham district that the commercial exploration of fracking possibilities in West Sussex is all set to go ahead. Indeed our own Prime Minister has recently lent his authority to these developments nationwide and the government has announced financial inducements for local authorities who support the local exploitation of shale reserves.

The promotion of fracking relates of course to the assumption based on successful exploitation in the USA that shale oil and gas can provide a quick-fix solution to British future energy needs. What the commercial interests and their political backers fail to tell us is that the density of population in Britain is eight times that of the US.

This single statistic immediately calls into question the easy complacency with which fracking is being allowed to proceed!

In the context of current contested proposals to embark upon an extensive building programme in Horsham two things related to fracking are clear: firstly, fracking, at the present state of scientific knowledge and given the very different geology of the British Isles from that much of the USA, constitutes potentially a serious long-term threat to public health and to the preservation of our countryside as we know it; secondly, in the light of the evidence of this winter’s deluge, to pump large quantities of chemicals into ground liable to flooding – the very ground from which we draw our domestic water supplies – would be madness!

So how do we prevent this proposed despoliation of our countryside? The public protest in Wisborough Green reported recently ago certainly draws attention to the issue of fracking. However the juggernaut of powerful multi-nationals seeking to exploit the profit potential from shale energy reserves and from large-scale building developments will be hard to contain.

The most effective way to oppose any policy in a democracy is ultimately through the ballot box. In Sussex, if we’re serious about preventing or at least restricting these developments, many of us will need to change our historic voting loyalties and break the prevailing monopoly of political control by one party.

If past habits are continued we will only re-elect politicians who appear currently to endorse the priorities of big business – and these include fracking and large-scale urban development in Sussex!

JOHN IVATTS

Greenfields Way, Horsham