Ideas, challenges and plans: how can we make life in Forest Row even better?

26 April 2018

Forest Row Quality of Life Event April 2018

On Saturday 7 April, we held an open meeting in Forest Row to talk about traffic speed, reducing waste, recycling, better and healthier transport options, planning and housing. We had four expert speakers and a lot of lively discussion - so much so that we ran out of time.

We'll be thinking hard about what to do with all the information and ideas we generated. Villagers who joined us had lots of suggestions and we hope that together we'll make some good things happen soon. If you missed the meeting, but want to talk to us about any ideas you have, do get in touch.

Here's a short summary of what the speakers said.

Could we slow traffic to 20 mph in Forest Row?

Adrian Berendt of 20's Plenty talked about their nationwide campaign to reduce traffic speed to 20 miles an hour on most roads: not only does reducing traffic speed save lives in road traffic accidents, but it also brings communities back together where roads divide them, reduces air pollution and noise, and encourages people to walk and cycle more.

In the UK as a whole, two-thirds of journeys are less than five miles, and many could be made on foot or by bicycle: we talked about the health benefits of travelling this way, and heard about the changes being made in other places - in Tunbridge Wells, for example, whole residential areas are moving to 20 mph limits. 

The key to success is to work with county councils to achieve behavioural change: the current emphasis on targetting speed blackspots doesn't work. A persuasive approach is the reduction in deaths and illness from a slower traffic speed policy: all councils have public health policies with funding.

Everwhere in Wealden is vulnerable to speculative housing developments - even protected areas

David Connoley from CPRE Sussex works with local action groups across Wealden to protect the countryside against speculative and inappropriate housing devemopment, and to encourage house building that meets the needs of local people.

He revealed that in Wealden, speculative developers are successfully getting permission to build in areas where no housing is planned for, including in Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. This is because the government has set housing targets, but Wealden hasn't allocated land for housing, so developers can demand permission in order that Wealden hit its housing target.

Once developers have permission to build they can say that they won't make enough profit if they include 'affordable' housing in the scheme, and cut it out. This is why we see so little housing that meets the needs of people in Wealden.

We all need to be aware of this. Forest Row, even though it hasn't been allocated any new housing by Wealden DC, is as vulnerable as anywhere to developers. 

We could be a lot better at reducing and recycling our waste

Alan Potter of Beyond Waste explained exactly what happens to the waste we create in Forest Row. There are no landfill sites in East or West Sussex - the nearest is in Surrey, and 5% of our waste goes there. 52% of our waste goes to the Energy from Waste site (it is burnt to power  homes in Newhaven). 22% is dry recycling. 17% is composted. And only 4% is reused - some of it via the shop at the Recycling Centre in Forest Row. This isn't great - East Sussex is at the bottom of the recycling league table, although Wealden is best in the county. We're set back by not being able to collect food waste.

This goes to show that the most important thing any of us can do is to reduce the amount we consume in the first place - buy less, reuse more. We also need to seek out products with less packaging, and ensure that the packaging we do consume is recyclable - and we need to sort it and wash it so that it doesn't contaminate the waste around it and prevent it from being recycled. 

Top tips for your waste

Don't put teabags in your compost! They contain microplastics.

Keep your glass separate - if your bin lorry doesn't keep glass separate from other waste, take it to the local recycling bins.

Read labels to see what's recyclable.

Tetrapaks can be recycled, but there's a lot of wastage because of the layers of different materials - so maybe buy your products in glass, or even in plastic.

Don't demonise plastic - it can be reused or recycled more easily than many other products.

There's a new Zero Waste project in Forest Row

Robin Walden of The Seasons spoke about the new Zero Waste project that's just getting off the ground in Forest Row. It's early days, but they're hoping to find ways for local businesses to reduce the waste they create.

At The Seasons, they'll be selling products in bulk - for example customers can bring their own bottles to refill with shampoos and handwashes. 

They're looking at selling dried goods such as grains and rice from large dispensers - customers buy exactly the quantity they want, possibly in reusable containers.

Bars of shampoo, soap nuts, bamboo products, recycled tin foil all involve less waste in their production, packaging and disposal. Some products, such as salads, will still have plastic packaging in order to keep it fresh.