Our meeting opened with Ed Miller informing us that David Bettiss and Tricia Hall presented a cheque for £600 to Caroline Roberts-Quigley, head of fund-raising at Chestnut Tree House Children’s Hospice. This money was raised from the sale of Christmas cards, calendars and painted pebbles designed and painted by Tricia. Ed went on to say that the Community Orchard trees were doing well at the Glebelands recreation ground and that a tree planting session was planned on Tuesday 15th March for the banks of the river Rife for a 10am start, meeting at the footbridge. The Woodland Trust have donated 100 small trees for this project. Also our annual Rife Clean is planned for Saturday 19th March, meeting at 11am at the Bluebird Café car park. Refreshments at the Country Centre will follow both events. Ed asked if members could e-mail any articles or photographs they may have for our annual magazine to Tricia Hall by the end of February.
To follow, Tricia Hall advised us that a red kite and 7 buzzards had been spotted over Ferring and then showed us a buoy with goose barnacles attached to it that was found at the Winter Beach Clean on 7th February. These barnacles start life like small shrimps and are filter-feeding crustaceans that live attached to hard surfaces but can occasionally be found on debris that has been dislodged from the seabed and washed up on the shore.
Ed Miller commenced his planning update with the news that the Arun Local Plan is to be redrafted to meet the Planning Inspector’s requirement of 845 homes per year for the next 15 years. It will be autumn before the draft plan is ready and it is unlikely to be adopted before 2017. The Peugeot car compound application has been granted on appeal and 3 further applications have now been submitted for the same site. Also an application for 23 yurts plus ancillary buildings off McIntyre’s Lane has been submitted by Hatch Homes Ltd.
After tea Matthew Thomas an ecologist gave an interesting, illustrated talk regarding the Steyning Downland Scheme (SDS). This scheme was started when it was realised by the current owners of the Wiston Estate that much of the 160 acres of chalk grassland was not being managed. A well-attended public meeting was held in 2007 with the aim of bringing together the needs of the people and wildlife. A steering group was formed of local people where aims and objectives for the scheme were developed. An area has been designated for mountain bikers; a team of local people can survey the plant life; a website has been created; children enjoy educational days on site, and the addition of suitable fencing has allowed cattle to graze there once again. This scheme has achieved charitable status since 2009 and the Wiston Estate continues to invest in many different ways. There are over 120 volunteers involved and the scheme has blossomed into a much bigger reality than was first conceived. It has also been discovered that this area is one of the top sites for the rare Brown Hairstreak butterfly. Also the rapidly declining and threatened Duke of Burgundy butterfly has been handed a lifeline with the help of the SDS, the Southdown National Park and the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Over the next 2 years, with the help of Neil Hulme, a butterfly expert, and local conservation volunteers, work to encourage the Duke of Burgundy back to the chalk grasslands of Steyning by creating the right habitat and by planting cowslips, which are their main food source, will get underway.