From the Ashdown Forest to the Pevensey Levels, government cuts to Natural England put our SSSIs in danger

4 April 2019

Ashdown Forest

From the Ashdown Forest to the Pevensey Levels, Wealden has an incredible 32 SSSIs - Sites of Special Scientific Interest - places where the habitat, wildlife and plantlife are so exceptional that they are given special protection.

We are incredibly lucky, but we're going to need to fight to keep our SSSIs safe. The national organisation that oversees SSSIs and other protected areas is Natural England. We've learned that government cuts are ripping into its ability to look after our most precious places.

A new report, The State of Natural England, is stark:

  • Natural England is in the fourth successive year of budget cuts, and expects more.
  • Since 2010 it has lost more than 1000 staff - around 40%.
  • Natural England's staff are in the eighth year of a 1% pay cap.
  • A House of Lords Select Committee Report stated that "Natural England has been subjected to severe budget cuts, leading to concerns regarding its ongoing ability to perform core regulatory functions."

Note, the House of Lords report says that Natural England is now so impoverished that it may not even be able to carry out its most essential work, protecting our most precious natural habitats.

As Caroline Lucas said at the launch of The State of Natural England, this is a vital time for our environment: we need to be investing more in its protection, not taking resources away.

Caroline Lucas with Natural England

In Wealden, some of our SSSIs are under direct threat from major road and housing plans. Our members are concerned about major housing developments planned around Hailsham - how will they affect the Pevensey Levels? Unpopular plans for the A27 are being pushed through, despite opposition from locals and conservation groups.

The Ashdown Forest already has a problem with Nitrogen and its effect on the protected heathland habitats. With the closure of the recycling site in Forest Row, residents are told by Wealden District Council to drive across the Forest to the next nearest site - adding to the traffic in this vulnerable area.

What can we do?

Write to Nus Ghani. Tell her that Natural England's work is vital, and must be properly funded. Tell her why you care about the places you love.

Write to Michael Gove and tell him the same.

Keep an eye on your local SSSI. Many are in private hands, but all should be properly managed to protect the habitat and its wildlife and plantlife. Some cover huge areas, some are tiny. Some places contain several SSSIs. We've listed them below. Check yours out!

Tell us if you see a problem, or hear of a development that might threaten your local SSSI.

SSSIs in Wealden

Ashdown Forest, Penn's Rocks, Weir Wood Reservoir, St Dunstan's Farm Meadows, Folkington Reservoir, Hastingford Cutting, Eridge Park, Pevensey Levels, Wilmington Downs, Seaford to Beachy Head, Arlington Reservoir, Rock Wood, Waldron Cutting, Bingletts Wood, Heathfield Park, Stockland Farm Meadows, Lullington Heath, Herstmonceux Park, Plashett Park Wood, Milton Gate Marsh, High Rocks, Willingdon Down, Lower Dicker, Paines Cross Meadow, Park Corner Heath, Buxted Park, Firle Escarpment, Bream Wood, High Woods, Sapperton Meadows, Burgh Hill Farm Meadow. Eridge Green.