My summer with Swifts, Swallows and Martins

Ferring Conservation Group were delighted to once again welcome Paul Stevens into their midst, this time in a new role as an Ecological Consultant after leaving his post as manager at the WWT Arundel.

Paul has a passion for Swifts, Swallows and Martins and began by explaining the distinctive differences between these beautiful little birds. The Swallow has a forked tail with long tapered feathers and a black head with a red chin strap. Swifts have shorter, forked, tails but confusingly they look quite similar to Martins. However, they are dark brown all over while House Martins have white bellies and rumps. Swifts are the high-fliers and spend their lives in the air sleeping, mating and drinking on the wing and avoid coming anywhere near the ground. Swifts enter their nests via little slots leading into cavities within roofs, buildings or cliffs. These noisy birds can be seen swooping or gliding at high altitude and they are particularly noisy and active around nesting colonies.

Swallows dart and glide, often low to the ground and tweet and chirp from perches. They are fond of barns and other outbuildings. They look for a ledge or a beam among roof timbers and they then build a cup-shaped nest of mud that’s difficult for predators to spot. They can be spotted flying low to the ground over lowland fields and meadows but especially near lakes and rivers where there are lots of insects – they also make good use of wet mud for nest building.

House Martins have shorter wings than Swallows or Swifts and are more active in the mornings and evenings usually in flocks, fluttering in and out of house eaves, chirruping softly. Like Swallows they collect mud to build cup-shaped nests but mostly go for outside eaves rather than inside beams. Wetlands and lakeshores are popular with House Martins who like to prey on flying insects such as midges, mayflies, damselflies and dragonflies.

To support his enthusiasm for these fascinating birds Paul has crafted artificial nests which he has secured to false eaves on his house near Bury, West Sussex – these nests are available for the public to buy and can be purchased directly from Paul to encourage these important migrants.

Paul showed several videos of chicks in the nest all taken from cameras sited at his house including a stunning photograph of a Swallow at sunset.

After a break for tea Ed Miller took to the floor and a short AGM took place with all existing committee members re-elected unopposed, with the exception of Tricia Hall who sadly had to resign due to ill health.

The Nature Notes slot was taken by Graham Tuppen who gave news of local bird sightings such as Wheatears, White Throats, Willow and Reed Warblers. A Great Skewer, White-tailed Eagle and White Stork had all been spotted in the vicinity as well as eight or so ducklings on the Rife. Two seals had been seen at Goring and David Bettiss had discovered a hedgehog in his garden. Sadly a Smoothhound Shark member had been washed up on Ferring Beach. A walk to view the Bluebells in Patching Woods was led by Graham earlier in the week and had proved a great success, with masses of Bluebells evident as well as Wood Anemones and Early Purple Orchids.

Ed Miller concluded the meeting with the alarming news that a possible five new housing estates had plans either already submitted or in the throes of being so – Chatsmore Farm (which had gone forward for a Judicial Review), Roundstone Farm (gone to appeal) and Rustington Golf Centre (new plan reduced to 126 properties). There were applications expected imminently for Highdown Vineyard (112 houses) and for Lansdowne Nursery (72 houses).

 

 

A Walk to see the Bluebells in Patching Woods

A group of enthusiastic members from Ferring Conservation Group enjoyed a recent walk through Patching woods, principally to see the bluebells, which were wonderful. The wood anemones were slightly past their best, but still good, and there was a very good show of early purple orchids. Patches of wild garlic and yellow archangel, plus native primroses, lesser celandine and greater stitchwort were in flower, and also garlic mustard, perhaps better known as ‘jack by the hedge’.

The butterflies were apparently grounded by the lack of sun, but plenty of birds were seen and heard, including a raven, red kite, buzzard, sparrow hawk, kestrel, greater spotted woodpecker, tree creeper, blackcap, chiffchaff, skylarks and a swallow.

 

Report by Graham Tuppen, and photos by Peter Dale

Evening Visit to RSPB Pulborough Brooks

We’ve arranged an evening visit to RSPB Pulborough Brooks to take place on Weds 18 May, meeting in the car park there at 6pm. The visit will be led by our member and bird expert, Clive Hope. This is outside the normal opening hours of the reserve, so there will be no admission fee, although please bear in mind the facilities, including the toilets, won’t be open.

The hope is to hear and possibly see Nightingales singing, as well as seeing Avocets, amongst other species, who are currently nesting there. We expect the visit to last a maximum of 2 hours.

A few days later on Sat 21 May, we will have our first Beach Clean of the year, meeting at the east end of the Bluebird Cafe car park at 11am. As usual, the necessary equipment will be provided.

Come and Support our Work and Help to Keep Ferring Beautiful!

We welcome new members so please join us and help in our campaigns to conserve the open spaces in and around Ferring, hear interesting talks on local and regional wild life as well as joining us on our regular nature walks. Take part in practical conservation work – planting trees and wild flowers, and keeping the beach and the banks of the Rife free of litter.

Come along to one of our monthly Group meetings:

As well as excellent speakers and the ever popular and delightful Nature Notes presentations, updates on planning issues affecting Ferring and surrounding areas are delivered and discussed.

The meetings are held on the last Friday of the month in Ferring Village Hall commencing at 2.30pm (or 7.30pm in May. June and July)

Admission is £2 for members or £3 for visitors and includes tea and biscuits.

Please note our annual subscription is just £1 and includes a copy of our popular magazine

The Planning Process

Planning Applications – who does what?

Ferring Conservation Group spends a lot of time monitoring the applications for new housing, commercial development and large extensions or rebuilding where they impinge unfairly on neighbours, the streetscape or countryside. We often ask our members to submit individual objections but we rarely explain how the system works.  Typically which Councils are involved, or what happens when there is an appeal – it is all rather complicated:

The starting point is the law:

Under the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 (as amended), planning permission is required for any development of land.  Local Planning Authorities (LPAs) – certain local councils and other bodies – are responsible for examining applications for planning permission and deciding whether to approve or refuse them.

In our case the LPA is Arun District Council. They are required to draw up a Local Plan which must be submitted and endorsed by HM Planning Inspectorate (part of national government). The Local Plan and Neighbourhood Development Plan (NDP), where there is one, must be consistent with the Government’s National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF).

Applications have to be decided as to whether they are consistent with, or a departure from, the Development Plan, unless there are material considerations that indicate otherwise.

The LPAs are obliged to consult the body responsible for Highways (in our case West Sussex County Council) for their view as to the implications of any development that affects traffic, parking or road safety.

If West Sussex County Council considers that the application would have a severe detrimental effect on the local highway network, that is usually the end of the matter and the application is refused (they rarely do this – usually they just give advice on parking and access).

The LPA must enable the Parish Council to produce a Neighbourhood Development Plan, as we have in Ferring, but this NDP must be consistent with the Local Plan (as above). Arun District Council is obliged to consult Ferring Parish Council on every planning application in the parish area. Unfortunately not all Councils give full consideration to Parish Council views.

This is very much a top-down planning system not the ‘Localism’ that we were promised a few years ago. The Government sets the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) and Arun DC has to produce a Local Plan that is consistent with it. Also the Parish Council has to produce a Neighbourhood Development Plan (NDP) which is consistent with the Local Plan. The system has become even more restrictive in recent years because the Government now sets housing-site delivery requirements for each LPA and a rule that each LPA must have a five-year supply of housing land.

The other way that LPAs are weakened is that when the Council have decided to refuse an application, for good and proper reasons, the developer can appeal to the Secretary of State (HM Planning Inspectorate) against that decision. The Government then appoints a Planning Inspector to decide the appeal – and his/her decision is final – it can only be challenged in the High Court (please note that the appeal system allows only the applicant to appeal, not the objectors!).

Where do local residents come in all this?

Well, we elect the Councillors and the whole country elects the Government. We can send Arun DC our objections against the applications we consider unsuitable then the Council ‘takes them into consideration’. Ferring Conservation Group sends in many objections to the applications we feel are unsuitable – we win some and we lose some. The Council may support local objections and refuse authority to develop but then the applicant can appeal to HM Planning Inspectorate who has the final say.

The Council wins some and loses some!

It is a very unsatisfactory system which fails to take into account local democracy.

Ed Miller

 

The White Stork Project

We welcomed Lucy Groves, a conservation biologist with a special interest in movement ecology to our March meeting. Lucy is currently employed by the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust as the project officer for the White Stork Project, and is based at the Knepp Castle Estate.

Lucy began by sharing her enthusiasm for the Stork Project which is a pioneering partnership working together to restore a population of breeding White Storks in Southern England after an absence of several centuries. A number of private landowners, namely Knepp, Wadhurst and Wintershall, located in West Sussex, East Sussex and Surrey respectively are helping to establish a breeding population of free-living White Stocks in Britain once again.

This project is being carried out in partnership with the Roy Dennis Wildlife Foundation, Cotswold Wildlife Park, Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust and overseas at Warsaw Zoo. The named estates have constructed purpose built predator-proof pens covering about six acres each. A total of 166 rehabilitated wild-fledged White Storks from Poland, as well as a number form Northern France, have been released into these pens over the course of the last three years, in order to establish local breeding populations.

Lucy was keen to update the Group with the progress so far at Knepp and was delighted to announce that in early April 2020 five eggs were confirmed in a nest built high up in an oak tree with the eggs hatching in early May.

The project has fitted GPS trackers to a proportion of their released birds and these devices collect data to help determine home ranges, habitat choice, foraging strategies, distance moved per day etc.

White storks are particularly associated with the county of Sussex. For instance the Saxon name for the village of Storrington was originally ‘Estorchestone’; meaning ‘the village of storks’. A pair of white storks still features on the village emblem.

After a break for refreshments David Bettiss delivered Trisha Hall’s Nature Notes session and it was encouraging to hear that several species of butterfly had been seen locally; Commas, Tortoiseshell, Brimstone, Red Admiral, Small Whites, Orange Tips and Holly Blue. The Red Kites were thriving and as many as eleven had been spotted high above Beachy Head and it is thought that they have new breeding territories. Many waders had already returned to their breeding grounds in Europe. Chiff Chaffs are the first migrant birds to be seen here when five were sighted in the vicinity of the Rife, along with Green Finches. To the delight of local birdwatchers a rare Desert Wheatear had been reported on the Goring Gap and plenty of frog spawn and tadpoles were evident in the lagoons by the Rife – David also has a newt in his garden pond. Pretty yellow Celandines were plentiful throughout the village especially in Clover Lane, and magnificent Magnolia trees in full bloom were gracing many gardens. The Blackthorn was in bloom locally and Arun DC have confirmed wildflower beds were to be seeded in the public green spaces throughout the village.

Ed Miller concluded the meeting with the devastating news that Persimmon Homes had won their appeal to HM Planning Inspectorate and had now been given the go ahead to build 475 homes on the Chatsmore Farmland at the Northern Goring Gap – although this may be challenged by Worthing BC in the High Court. It was likely however that other large scale planning applications may be revived in view of this decision. The Highdown Vineyard planning application has already surfaced again and a Public Consultation had been planned in the Village Hall on 30th March. There has been a back-garden development proposed for a property on the corner of Sea Lane Gardens and Greenways Crescent, and a property already undergoing renovation has submitted a planning application for a 4-bed house in its back garden.

 

 

 

The Vultures are Circling

Much as we expected, the decision on the Chatsmore Farm appeal has encouraged the developers to bring out plans for more, many more, houses on the green fields around Ferring.

Redrow Homes have put in their plans for a 76-house estate at Roundstone Farm, just west of ASDA, another developer has revived their plans for a 167-house estate on Rustington Golf Centre. Rego properties are about to ‘consult us’ on their 120-house estate for Highdown Vineyard. The Landsdowne Nursery’s landowner has told us of his plans for a 120-house estate there. All these applicants will quote the Inspector’s decision on the Chatsmore Farm case and insist that Arun DC has no alternative but to give them planning permission.

We must do all we can to support Arun’s Local Plan, which rules out houses on all these sites. If they refuse the applications each of the applicants are likely to appeal, and as matters stand they could win. If so, it’s goodbye to the Gaps and hello to the Worthing-Littlehampton conurbation.

We can fight back and we will. More demonstrations and more petitions. More letters to the local papers and above all more and more objection letters and emails to Arun DC. All this helps to brace Arun DC against the pressure of Government policy – which is to set Councils impossible housing-site targets and then apply the ’tilted balance’ as they shamelessly call it, setting housing site delivery above all other considerations of environment and infrastructure.

On-line petition:

There will be a number of petitions we can sign. Here is the one against building on green fields anywhere in Sussex. Please find the link to follow and highlight then righthand click ‘Go to link’

https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/611113

This is an all-party movement to resist impossible demands for development. It has been good to see our Member of Parliament, Beccy Cooper, Labour’s leader on Worthing Council, Worthing’s deputy mayor and people from other political groups at our demonstrations. We are all united in this stand against Government policy that favours developers over local democracy and the people they represent.

We managed to get some coverage on BBC TV South Today on Sunday.

Whether Worthing wins its case in the High Court or not, there is still a great deal to fight for. Our Group is working closely with all the other amenity and residents groups, and with various Parish Councils – and Sir Peter Bottomley – to plan and coordinate our response. Please look out for further bulletins.

Ed Miller

Say No! – to the proposed Housing Estate on Highdown Vineyard

Residents may have had a leaflet through their letterbox in the last few days from a public relations company advertising a public consultation on proposals to build a housing estate on Highdown Vineyard, to be held in the Village Hall between 1pm –  7pm on Wednesday 30 March. The developers had pre-application discussions with Arun DC planning officers last year about a 121-house development. After much huffing and puffing, the officers advised that such a proposal would be unlikely to be approved by the Planning Committee.

We do not know yet exactly what is being proposed this time but it will probably be something similar, and the developers would be hoping that even if Arun DC refused the application, their decision will be overturned on appeal – like the Chatsmore Farm decision.

Ferring Conservation Group will do everything in its power to ensure that the developers are told that an application for a housing estate is against Arun’s Local Plan, against the Ferring Neighbourhood Plan and against the opposition of the overwhelming majority of Ferring residents. We must all make our views very clear at this ‘Consultation’ on 30 March – and before that, by e mail to: info@ferringnewhomes.co.uk

Ed Miller

FCG visit to Pagham Harbour

A dozen Ferring Conservation Group members recently made their way to Pagham Harbour for their annual Spring birdwatching visit. The party, which included a couple of members making their first such visit to the harbour, was led by one of the Group’s bird experts, Clive Hope.

Weather wise, on what was forecast to be a windy day, it turned out to be pretty good, especially when there was shelter from the elements and the sun decided to shine. On the bird count, a total of 38 different species were recorded, which was thought to be quite impressive.

The highlight was probably the sheer number of Brent Geese seen, with a good estimate of approximately 1000 in total, and many of these were probably preparing to make their migratory trip back to their breeding grounds in Europe. They made a spectacular sight, especially when some of them took to the air, probably spooked by an unseen raptor.

Some of the other birds seen included Great Crested Grebe, about 20 Pintail, Ringed Plover, Grey Plover, Knot, Black-tailed Godwit, Curlew, Redshank and even a Green Woodpecker.

A couple of enjoyable hours was considered a suitable time period, before the party repaired to the local café for a spot of lunch before returning home to Ferring. This really is a worthwhile and informative way to get out into the Sussex countryside in good company and with expert guides to learn more about our local wildlife. If you haven’t been out for a trip with the Group before, then it’s definitely worth considering in the future.

The Goring Gap – our Member of Parliament speaks out:

Sir Peter Bottomley has made the following statement on his Facebook page:At  the recent Public Inquiry, the Council made a very clear case against the development, Ferring Conservation Group made a very clear case against the development. I would like to think that I, too, made a very clear case against the development.However, in spite of the clear case against the unwanted development, the Inspectorate has now ruled that the appeal should be allowed and granted outline planning permission to concrete over the north Goring Gap.I am wildly angry, to put it politely.If West Sussex Council wants Goring Gap to be a green space, if Worthing Borough Council wants Goring Gap to be a green space, if Arun District Council wants Goring Gap to be a green space and if the entire community is united in wanting Goring Gap to be a green space, surely Goring Gap should be a protected green space.I do not believe a planning inspector should be able to overturn the decision with three vague paragraphs.I will seek to speak immediately with the Chief Whip, the Secretary of State and the Prime Minister.The decision has to be called in for review by the present Secretary of State. It must be overruled.If any Inspector can trample on the democratic responsibility of the planning authority in this way, what is the point of Worthing Borough Council and what is the point of the member of parliament?The fight to protect Goring Gap goes on, the battle is not lost.We are grateful for his consistent and full-hearted support. – Ed