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growing food in a changing climate: an allotment view

Pevensey Bay is a low-lying coastal community in East Sussex, next-door to the large resort town of Eastbourne. The shingle bank along Pevensey Bay’s seafront provides protection from the strong storm surges that often come its way, especially in winter. But the village also experiences flooding inland, as several drainage channels run through it, helping to drain the large water catchment area known as the Pevensey Levels, a freshwater wetland renowned for its wildlife. Because the village is more or less at the level of the high-water mark, the water in the drainage channels can sometimes only be released out to sea when the ebb tide falls below the level of the water in those channels, which can be very full in periods of intense rainfall, periods which will become ever more frequent and intense as anthropogenic climate change accelerates. This can lead to the channels overflowing their banks at times.

flooding in winter of 2023-24

To explore this phenomenon further, following on from my previous investigation on climate change impacts on local food growing, in collaboration with the Eastbourne Food Partnership, I paid a visit in June 2024 to some allotments at Pevensey Bay owned by Pevensey Parish Council, situated off Waverley Gardens. These allotments are next to the Salt Haven, one of the main drainage channels running through the village, and therefore had a history of flooding incidents. From my conversations with some of the allotment holders on site, it was clear that many of the allotments there are flooded at least once every year, but that the winter of 2023-24 was the worst in living memory for flooding, as there were about 4 or 5 very severe flooding incidents. Not all the site gets flooded, as about half the allotments are on higher ground as much of the site slopes gently upwards from the Salt Haven. But all those allotments that back directly onto the haven do flood every year.

fruit trees next to Salt Haven

The main impact of the flooding is that growing vegetables is pretty much impossible in winter on the areas that do flood, but it was noticeable that there were many large, mature fruit trees and bushes on the areas that experienced flooding every year, and that they seemed to be flourishing, with plenty of fruit developing on them, which seemed to indicate a high degree of tolerance to the flooding than if vegetables were planted, perhaps indicating how the allotment holders had adapted to such flooding by earmarking those areas just for fruit growing. Certainly the allotment holders I spoke to were phlegmatic about the flooding situation, accepted that only fruit trees were capable of surviving the flooding and just planned most of their vegetable growing higher up on the slope above the flooding level. But they reported that because there had been so much rain over the previous winter, the whole site was so waterlogged that most vegetable planting had to be significantly delayed until May, shortening the growing season quite considerably. The difficulties for growers on the site is reflected in the fact that the rental charges for the allotments are much lower than on other allotments in the area, especially in Eastbourne. However, it was clear from my site visit that, once planting had finally got under way, the productivity of the site appeared to be high, with most allotment plots demonstrating a healthy abundance and growth of crops.

pipe outlet that exacerbates allotment flooding

One allotment holder was keen to show me a drainage pipe outlet that was below the haven bank as it apparently aids the flooding of the site by allowing the water to flow easily onto the site well before the haven breaks it banks, leading to a much more rapid and more frequent flooding of the site than perhaps should be the case. It appears that there is no tide flap (or the tide flap is damaged or malfunctioning) on the haven side of the pipe to shut off the flow when the water level in the haven rises above the level of the pipe. I heard that there are probably several other similar pipes on site within the bank undergrowth with the same or similar issues, which has been raised by some allotment holders with the local Environment Agency staff to no avail apparently.

view of Salt Haven from allotments bank
view of Salt Haven from allotments bank

It does raise the possibility of whether a survey could be done at some point (perhaps by the Blue Heart Project  or an organisation funded by it?) to investigate what kind of pipe drainage does actually exist along the Salt Haven and how it affects water levels both within the haven and beyond its banks. Such a survey would presumably involve extensive clearing of the undergrowth along the bank to check where the pipes are and what condition they are in. But it would perhaps generate valuable data about how the haven actually functions in a critical stretch of it before it reaches the sea, and also create more accurate data about how fluvial flooding impacts Pevensey Bay generally, as many of the gardens elsewhere in the village also experience flooding from the drainage channels.

growing food in a changing climate: a forest garden view

The impacts of climate change are becoming ever clearer and more damaging as the years go by. One of the most significant impacts is on the way we grow food. As climate scientists predicted, UK winters are becoming warmer and wetter, and last winter was no exception, resulting in significant crop losses for UK farmers. It also resulted in greater difficulties for local growers in the Eastbourne area, such as smallholders, allotment holders, community gardens, etc, especially as intense rainfall events led to flooding issues on many growing spaces, followed by weeks of very sodden ground that made any work very challenging. The need for growers to adapt to a rapidly changing climate is becoming ever more acute.

in response, the Eastbourne Eco Action Network has begun a collaboration with the Eastbourne Food Partnership, supported by the Blue Heart project, to survey the ways in which local growers are responding to the challenges of growing food despite the impacts of climate change and investigate how such growers can be better supported in their climate adaptation efforts.

One such local growing project is the Pevensey & Westham Community Forest Garden, which has been running for the last 8 years, planting many fruit and nut trees and bushes on land that had fallen out of active management for many years, becoming an unkempt and overgrown scrub and woodland in the process. The volunteers that run the forest garden report that they have not experienced any significant drop in fruit and nut production even during intense heatwaves or periods of intense rainfall, primarily because:

  • the site is very well-drained, being in the Pevensey Levels where the extensive network of deep and wide drainage channels is carefully monitored to ensure water levels in the channels are kept at stable levels with no flooding onto adjacent land (the Langney Sewer runs alongside the forest garden but has never flooded onto it).
  • the site is protected by shading from an extensive tree canopy that keeps the forest garden cool enough during heatwaves, reduces water evaporation from the soil and ground cover, and protects young plants against strong winds during winter storms.
community orchard site next to Pevensey Castle

The forest garden volunteers point out that, by contrast, a community orchard they have been developing in the last few years on an exposed site next to Pevensey Castle, a short distance away from the forest garden, did suffer a big drop in fruit production in 2022 during the intense summer heatwave that resulted in the UK reaching a temperature of 40 degrees C for the first time ever. The relative lack of tree cover for the orchard, compared to the forest garden, meant that the young fruit trees did not have enough shade, putting them under great stress.

rainwater butts at side of forest garden tool shed

However, the main issue for the forest garden is the lack of any mains water on site, which means that in intense heatwaves and periods of prolonged drought there is no supply of water readily available for any watering needs. This has necessitated the volunteers setting up many water butts and rainwater cisterns on site to capture and store as much rainwater as possible. Rainwater conservation is sure to become ever more important for all growers and gardeners as time goes by, especially as fresh water is generally becoming an ever more scare, and more costly, resource in the water-stressed south-east of England.

Forest gardening is therefore one way in which food growing can be adapted to changing climate conditions. But other local food growing enterprises and communities will be visited over the course of the next few months to discover how they try and  cope with the challenges of climate change and what kinds of help they may need to cope better.

Reporting Potholes

Introduction

The number one current issue for politicians, councils and much of the public is potholes. They are an important issue for drivers but also pedestrians and cyclists. They damage vehicles, cause accidents, and lead to expensive repairs . We must work towards creating safer roads and one solution is for residents to contribute to an online database.

Bespoke and Eco Action Eastbourne are experimenting with ‘Stan the App’. It is easy to use and utilises ‘cutting-edge computer vision technology’ to identify road defects, such as potholes, with remarkable accuracy. Just by driving  you help to build a comprehensive database of road defects, enabling the prioritisation of repairs more effectively.

Damage

National Pothole Day revealed 21% of UK cyclists had accidents caused by potholes. This was evident when Bespoke Cycle Group, for their Kidical Mass ride, had to change the route to avoid the worst potholes in town. Many of the faults had been reported to https://live.eastsussexhighways.com/report  but there is no way of knowing when the issue will be resolved and sometimes unclear if someone else has already reported it. Or you could use https://www.fillthathole.org.uk where you can report a range of other issues on roads and cyclepaths. The system will then pass on your report to the relevant council.

With Stan, every pothole ‘reported’  adds to a more detailed picture. The system uses all the reports to show how big the problem is. It empowers residents to become highway surveyors and holds authorities accountable for road repairs.

In neighbouring West Sussex there was a focus on four towns. The worst of them was Worthing, where the comprehensive road map is still shown heavily in ‘red’.

The easiest way to get involved, is simply download the app to your phone and then record a video of your journey. The app will only upload when you use your wifi. A short time later the system , through AI, has worked out the road defects and added them to the UK map. There is an other option of taking photos and this may be more relevant for cyclists. The system knows where you are and once again you just upload when it is convenient.

There are other apps out there, but it will be more effective if everybody uses the same one and Stan is the RAC’s official pothole reporting partner. You can download the application from both App store and Google Play.

Future Action

In a few months time, the idea would be to write a report for councils and politicians to give them the information they need to get crucial repairs done. It may be that East Sussex Highways would then use it as a source of information

If you are interested in getting involved and want further information, videos and case histories go to http://www.stantheapp.com.

Notes

This article was submitted to Eastbourne Herald but here is some further content. If your internet connection is slow uploading content can take time. However with reasonable bandwidth unless you have recorded a long trip it should be okay. Generally video the routes you have not recorded before. Still experimenting if H.264 or H.265 is best for the video.

In photo mode try to include something that would give the pothole a scale . So perhaps a car wheel, kerb or road marking. Otherwise hard for the system to assess the pothole size.

West Sussex

Here is an example from Worthing of what is possible when residents are involved – Red is a serious problem and Green is okay.

Eastbourne

Here is the starting point with only a few people using the app. Note how around the Golf Course is poor and incomplete. However after a few days it  seems to have filled in the whole route so be patient.

Cycling notes

Trying to record video while cycling, even on an MTB with suspension, may have poorer results. It will not record if going too slow and may struggle with media content that shakes. The system also appears to reject many photos even where there are serious potholes. Overall the effectiveness of uploading data from driving seems higher

Paul Humphreys – EEAN Transport, Bespoke Cycle Group, Cycle East Sussex

supercharging carbon neutrality through symposia

 

The recent Carbon Neutrality Symposium organised by the Eastbourne Eco Action Network CIC (EEAN CIC) held at Eastbourne Town Hall on Saturday 20th April 2024 is hopefully the start of a regular series of annual symposia to review and reinvigorate the drive towards a carbon neutral Eastbourne by 2030, as mandated by Eastbourne Borough Council’s Climate Emergency Declaration of July 2019.

The Eastbourne Borough Council (EBC) Climate Lead, Councillor James Murray, opened the proceedings and made the point that EBC’s performance on its Climate Emergency Strategy could be usefully compared with other similar councils through the Climate Emergency UK scorecards.

These scorecards, completed for every single UK council, is a mine of useful, granular data about how councils are doing on climate action and a very useful source for EBC to use for its proposed review and refresh of its Climate Emergency Strategy, which will be updated by the end of 2024.

Kate Richardson, Sustainability Lead Officer for EBC, gave a short presentation on where Eastbourne as a borough currently is with regards to carbon neutrality and what the challenges are for the town in reaching that target by 2030. The main challenge is to speed up the borough-wide carbon emissions reduction from its present 6% or 7% reduction per year to more than 12% per year if Eastbourne is to meet its fair share of keeping global carbon reductions to no more than 1.5 degrees Centigrade as mandated by the UN IPCC COP21 Paris Agreement of 2015.

The keynote speaker for the day was Richard Garland from Gradient Consultants, an Eastbourne-based business. His inspirational speech and slideshow  presentation demonstrated the kind of example on sustainability, climate action, and Net Zero that all Eastbourne businesses could follow, and will need to follow eventually in any case, as more Net Zero legislation is applied to a wider range of businesses in the next few years in order to help meet the UK’s legally binding commitment under the Climate Change Act to achieve Net Zero by 2050. As Richard said, “As a business we are de-risking the need to meet current and future compliance requirements within our industry, and we are acknowledging the opportunities of the low carbon transition- the green economy”.

The results of the Carbon Neutral survey by the EEAN CIC were presented by Jill Shacklock, one of the directors of the EEAN CIC. The survey was very much a pilot study that will help inform a subsequent revised and enlarged survey later on. But the initial data reveals how some early wins can be made in advancing carbon neutrality in Eastbourne right now. For example, many people don’t know what the current Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) rating on their property is or how to find out what it is. The government has a website that gives the EPC rating for all UK properties that have one, and each rating includes info about what measures could be taken to improve the EPC rating.

Andrew Durling, a director of the EEAN CIC, gave a very brief introduction to two digital tools that can help local residents and organisations to both discover their carbon footprints and ways to reduce them significantly through simple, practical actions that can be taken right now. The first was Giki Zero and the second was small99. Both tools are free, and were presented as particularly user-friendly and easy to use. Giki Zero allows people to quickly find out their carbon footprint and then select actions which can help reduce it, each selection automatically recalculating the footprint to demonstrate progress towards the 2030 global average target for all citizens.

Small99 is particularly useful for small businesses and organisations of any kind that have little time and resources to devote to in-depth Net Zero action planning. Such planning will need to be demonstrated by all organisations, especially businesses (as Richard Garland’s keynote speech emphasised), over the coming years if they wish to maximise their chances of both complying with Net Zero legislation and in securing more business or funding from other organisations already in compliance with such legislation.

Breakout groups throughout the event allowed for networking and sharing of ideas about how Eastbourne’s carbon neutrality strategy could be improved.

Carbon offsetting is an important aspect of carbon neutrality, and one of Eastbourne’s major carbon offsetting and carbon sequestration schemes was developed by the Eastbourne United Nations Association, which had an information stall during the Symposium. This scheme is entirely administered by volunteers and many local organisations have made donations to it, including EBC.

A full overview of all the actions and initiative currently being undertaken or planned in Eastbourne to further the town’s carbon neutrality strategy can be seen on the One Planet Eastbourne community ecosystem platform developed by the EEAN CIC in collaboration with OnePlanet.

Interestingly, the recent local elections held on May 4th can be seen as a triumph for those candidates that campaigned for cleaner air, better active travel/public transport, and faster climate action. As Chris Skidmore, the UK government’s former Net Zero tsar, said, “These elections have shown pro-environment parties and mayors who made net zero central to their campaigns made significant gains”. The Eastbourne Carbon Neutrality 2030 campaign is unanimously supported by all borough councillors, and has popular support amongst the town’s residents, as the recent well-attended Carbon Neutrality Symposium, and the many other events mounted, or supported by, the Eastbourne Eco Action Network indicates.

Making business a force for good

At our recent Carbon Neutrality Symposium held at Eastbourne Town hall on 20th April, our keynote speaker, Richard Garland, a prominent local business owner, gave an inspirational talk about how local businesses can make a very significant contribution towards Eastbourne becoming a truly Carbon Neutral town by 2030. Below is an abridged version of his speech:

 Good afternoon, everyone. I am Richard Garland, and amongst other things I am co-founder of Gradient Consultants. We are chartered surveyors, project managers and compliance consultants, based here in town since 2004. Some of our projects you may be familiar with include the Fishing Quay development on Sovereign Harbour, Costa Drive-thru on Hampden Retail Park and the affordable rental flats in Southfields Road. In 2020 we certified as a B-Corp, the first independent company in Eastbourne and one of the first UK built environment professional firms to do so. B-Corp is a global movement transforming the economy to benefit ALL – people, communities and the planet. We still have to make a profit but the way we go about it isn’t about making profit at any cost – everyone has to benefit along the way. 

Our purpose is our commitment to making a positive impact on the world. As a certified B-Corp, our values are deeply rooted in sustainability, social responsibility, and ethical business practices. We believe what we do in the next 7 years leading up to 2030 really matters and now is the time to act, with our industry being responsible for over 40% of the UK’s carbon emissions. We consider ourselves carbon neutral through our support of Ecologi. Ecologi®  have achieved the Verified Carbon Standard (VCS) and have been our offsetting partner for a number of years. We currently offset the business and personal emissions for all our people . We support tree planting and ecological schemes across the world. In the last 3 years we have offset 138 tonnes of carbon, planting over 2000 trees, and supported global sustainable projects. Our goal is to retain this off- setting, regardless of emissions reduction , but bring it closer to home, which we have already started to do by supporting planting on the Eastbourne escarpment. But we want to go further…

In 2022 we decided to set our ambitions on Net-Zero by 2030. We recognised that at some point in the not too distant future Net Zero will be the new carbon neutrality, so we wanted to be ahead of that journey. We started looking at data collection. I cannot begin to tell you how many articles on how to measure, what to measure, and when to measure from, we read – and at one point we got analysis paralysis – just stuck! And it took a friend to simply say stop thinking and just do something, anything – even if it is simply to walk to work and then make that your first action! This was a bit of a light bulb moment and as long as we could evidence a robust source of data it was worth doing something positive, rather than worrying over the how! We looked and celebrated what we were already doing, which included recycling pretty much everything, making sure our unwanted IT equipment and furniture goes into the circular economy, and pushing our clients to install bee bricks, swift boxes and fruit trees onto their development sites. 

Calculating our Scope 1 and 2 emissions was relatively straightforward for us as a professional services business so I won’t dwell too much on it- the biggest change is the utility companies will help you with this so it is much easier to deal with. In conjunction with our landlord we now have an office that has solar panels, LED lighting, infra-red heating panels, additional roof insulation and film on the windows to reduce solar gain. As for the dreaded Scope 3 emissions, for a firm such as ours this is where the majority of our emissions lurk and a challenging area for organisations in terms of data collection and carbon reduction initiatives. From travel to water to the things we buy, the list was long but eventually we agreed a more manageable list of priority measures, assisted by Small99. Our Pathway to Net Zero covers short and longer term planned activities to reduce our business ‘and personal’ GHG emissions, as well as push for a greater reduction in the emissions of the projects and services we advise on and can influence. At the last count there were 50 + ideas and actions. The priority ones get a champion, an estimated date for achievement and the emission saving impact. As a result we now use local suppliers as a priority. Local sourcing helps us reduce our carbon footprint and supports our community and local economy. We specify nature based materials, including hemp, lime and we now specify Graphenstone paint for all our projects. This paint absorbs CO2, removes pollutants to purify the air and as a mineral based paint it contains no microplastics. We hold our business event at venues close to a train station to encourage guests to make sustainable travel choices.

And we waved goodbye to our computer server in October last year, which was no longer needed since moving to the cloud as one of our reduction actions. The server had been running continuously for 6 years and by retiring the server we are saving 118 kgCO2e per year. The biggest impact on the list we are currently addressing is banking and pensions. Moving these financial instruments has the potential to have the greatest impact of all – a sustainable pension is 21 times more powerful than giving up flying, becoming vegetarian and switching to renewable energy.  Our goal is to make a 10% CO2e reduction year on year from 2024 to 2030. This will have reduced our overall emissions by 70% by 2030. With the Scope 1 and 2 emissions reduction prior to 2023 we believe we can achieve the necessary reduction in emissions to at least try and hit Net Zero by 2030.

So why do this, what and who benefits? B-Corp gave us ‘a legal high, we started to see ourselves as activists and ethical leaders. For us it is a climate justice choice . As a business we are de-risking the need to meet current and future compliance requirements within our industry , and we are acknowledging the opportunities of the low carbon transition – the green economy. For example, retrofitting the UK’s existing building stocks, measuring the Whole Life Carbon costs on construction projects, and the impact of Net Zero building standards, are all opportunities for sustainable growth and meeting future Department for Energy Security and Net Zero targets. Clients need us to have taken action because their funders (banks, pension funds, government) will be demanding it of them. We are influencing our supply chain to take action before they require it of us and we are offering to assist them with that change – openness, sharing ideas and transparency will make the journey go quicker! And to close, my advice to anyone at the beginning or on this journey is: do not over-strategise and get stuck in the data. Imagine if we did nothing and just talked about it? Look at what you have done so far, celebrate it and then take another step on your journey – be a force for good whatever you do!

We are grateful to Richard for kindly making available a full transcript of his speech, as well as the slideshow to accompany it.

Commenting on Wealden Local Plan

Introduction

Whether you live in Wealden or on the borders of Eastbourne, Lewes or Rother additional housing growth, in the Wealden area, will affect you. So you should comment on the Draft Local Plan.

“Wealden District Council is preparing a new Local Plan. [it] will be the key planning document for Wealden District. Once adopted, the Local Plan will form part of the Development Plan for the District, replacing all existing local plan policies and will be used to assess and make decisions on planning applications.” There will be 16,000 new houses of which around 8,000 have already been planned for .

It is a challenge to go through all the background documentation. The consultation itself is over 200 pages. So this blog has had to be selective. To begin with here are the top 8 areas in terms of new housing

Most of this will be in South Wealden and especially on the borders of Eastbourne. From this table you can see that much of the local area is already ‘confirmed’. In Willingdon for example all the space is already committed apart from some ‘windfall’. So you may feel it is too late. This is not the case. Within the plan are some policies that have some merit and these should be supported.

Here are some links you will need . The Wealden Local Plan itself including a short video . Then the Consultation Portal – Where you create an account and add comments

Background

The lack of a local plan has made Wealden vulnerable to developers who were likely to win, if they appealed, when their planning submission was rejected. With a plan the council has more control of where housing can go. Without a plan the growth of housing could be higher. If there is a proposed housing development ,that you do not agree with, then you can highlight this in your submission, ideally linking it to the relevant policy.

One of the key concerns is the transport infrastructure. Before reading the rest of the blog you may wish to read this blog, on how over optimistic future predictions , are used by councils and developers to the detriment of residents.

Discussions with relevant district officers, councillors and directors suggest there may be residents who do not support a greener and more active travel agenda . Therefore it is important to support these policies and schemes.

Below are a number of the key chapters in the consultation that are worth commenting on. :-

Chapter 3 is Vision and Objectives

Suggest you strongly support “Sustainable and active travel’ but make points as to how this is not being addressed.

There has been no evidence of any increase in public transport, wheeling, cycling and walking. Many County, District and Borough plans refer to a planned shift away from cars . This has never been delivered. In fact East Sussex CC has not achieved any change in the mix of transport and total vehicle trips have simply increased

Suggest the need for high level plans across multiple sites. There are many examples where each site has its own access road and no attempt made to have public or active travel routes through these developments . For example at Horsebridge there is an area with over 5 different adjacent estates with no co-ordination of the access across them. A house that you want to visit, maybe only a few hundred meters away, but the car may need to exit one estate and then enter another one. On top of this the connections to the Cuckoo Trail, tell cyclists to dismount and push over 200m on sandy narrow tracks to get to the estates. Discriminatory especially to those who use mobility scooters, elderly or with heavy e-bikes

There needs to be a clear strategy to deal with the effect of all this housing growth on the current residents, where the existing streets might have more ‘permeability’ and could then be used as ‘rat runs’.

Plus stress more emphasis needed on actively supporting greater biodiversity, perhaps in adjacent areas, to counteract the consequences of this extra urban housing. Perhaps though Section 106 agreements.

There does not seem to be enough on encouraging reaching net zero through the design of housing in terms of their location and the wider community. This would strongly support higher insulation, solar panels, EV charging and heat pumps

Chapter 4 – Spatial Strategy

Suggest you strongly support “4.18 The benefits of a 20-minute neighbourhood concept are extensive, providing health, social, environmental and economic benefits to people and communities. Additionally, the concept would seek to tackle many of the issues that we need to address through our plan such as reducing carbon emissions, helping people to become more active, reducing mental health issues and loneliness, improving our town and village centres, making our settlements great places to live as well as improving access to affordable healthy food.

Support the statement in “4.26 East Sussex County Council’s Local Transport Plan 4 Consultation(12) supports the 20-minute neighbourhood or the ‘complete, compact and connected neighbourhood’ approach by providing a shift towards supporting healthy lifestyles by walking, wheeling or cycling and more active travel, as well as through the design of public places and healthy places through integrated neighbourhoods.

So from the above, mention your support for higher density dwellings in the centres which should have access to a mix of leisure, shopping and business all nearby and accessible by bus or active travel. You could also add support for 20 mph and school streets

Support – “Policy SS9: Health, Wellbeing and Quality of Life”that creates improved connectivity and supports healthier and more active lifestyles

Chapter 5 – ‘Climate Change’

Generally strongly support

CC1 Net Zero Development Standards – New Build. Support Policy but would prefer a clearer steer around residential standards of insulation, solar, batteries and heat pumps. There are no examples locally which could be seen as evidence of the ideal higher standards

CC4 Carbon sequestration, Support Policy but make the point, large areas of land are being urbanised and it is unlikely that sequestration could be achieved in or around the new housing estates

Policy CC5: Renewable and Low Carbon Energy. Agree with the principle of “Support will be given to community led energy schemes where evidence of community support can be demonstrated”

Policy CC6 Water Efficiency . Support the principles though make the point it is partly the cumulative effect of all these new houses which will determine how both water and waste (Southern and South East Water) cope. Some of the pumping stations, pipes and sewage works are already under strain

Policy CC7 Managing Flood Risk. Support the principle though areas such as between Polegate and Willingdon have always been susceptible to flooding. Concreting over will add to the problem across all the low lying estates. Make reference to the work the Environment Agency are undertaking around flooding and rising sea level.

Policy CC8 Sustainable Drainage. Support the principle such as in CC7 but perhaps question whether previous experience shows if this been dealt with in the past

Chapter 9 Infrastructure

Policy INF1 Infrastructure provision, delivery, and funding. “The provision of infrastructure facilities such as those relating to healthcare and education should be provided” Stress there needs to be guarantees of them being built and that you have concerns based on recent sites that the delivery of schools and health centres may not happen. This is due to the higher build costs and the funds that health and education may have. Plus a need to adhere to DfT’s “Guidance on Land Use/Transport Interaction Models”

Policy INF2 Sustainable transport and active travel– Support this policy. However the local housing developments simply fail on the criteria listed. No attempt appears to have new been made to create viable routes through multiple estates . Routes identified in the LCWIP, that are supposed to be on these sites ,have not been taken into consideration. Good examples would be alongside the railway from Hampden Park to Polegate (such as routes 312 and 225). Recent experience shows that proposed bus and cycle lanes are very vulnerable to being dropped through pressure from those who do not support them. They must be installed.

Policy INF5 Safeguarding of Infrastructure– Support the concept but as already mentioned there are many potential active travel routes in LCWIP that have been ignored through planning.

Policy INF8 Open space, sports and recreation provision– Suggest make the point – There are large areas of open land that have been lost and this cannot be rectified by a few small parks

Chapter 10 Design

Policy DE1 Achieving well-designed and high-quality places. Support the aim however challenge most of the new developments. These are car centric, low traffic neighbourhoods that do not allow through traffic. Most of the current developments have similar housing and add very few community buildings. The road layouts are meandering and do not support more direct routes for active travel . They also do not support bus routes and this will mean when funding runs out residents without a car will struggle. Perhaps building housing for elderly people should be closer to amenities and bus routes on main roads. In ‘Manual for Streets’ it explains the consequences of building ‘car-centric’ estates that make active travel within the estate and to other destinations problematic

Closing comments.

Please read any other chapters and additional documents, if you want to look into this plan in more detail. You have until Friday 10th May 2024 to submit your comments

Meeting to discuss Local Transport Plan 4

When: Monday February 12th, 1pm to 4.30pm

Where: in Eastbourne Town Hall

 

The latest Local Transport Plan for East Sussex   (LTP4:  2024-2050) is currently out for consultation, with a closing date of 25 February 2024. The local plan is important as it drives policies and spending priorities. 

Come and join us in this open meeting to discuss LTP4 and help shape a response from our network, or plan your own response.

The meeting will take the form of parallel workshops and short presentations. We have invited transport experts, providers and activists, as well as councillors and community stakeholders from East Sussex to participate. The recent Sustainable Transport & Active Travel summit demonstrated how much expertise we have in our community.  We also saw the willingness to share that expertise and collaborate in order to make progress. Let’s not waste this opportunity!

To let us know you are coming, complete the registration form here. Note that you don’t need to be an expert to join in – your views are important.

Draft agenda

  • Welcome and introductions: Councillor Jim Murray
  • What is a local transport plan and what can it achieve?: Chris Todd, Transport Action Network
  • Review of LTP4, What do we like, what’s missing? Open discussion with Paul Humphreys and Derrick Coffee
  • Breakout into parallel workshops looking at LTP4 objectives and exploring the following:
    How can we achieve these objectives? What would success look like in our local area? How can we measure progress? What are our targets?
  • Refreshment break
  • Feedback from workshops
  • Open discussion of proposals and practical exercise to rank proposals and update on the One Planet platform
  • Summary and concluding remarks

Useful info

You should find the following information helpful to look at before you come:

Local Transport Plan 4– Guidance Notes

Introduction

Note- Following comments and feedback new sections have been added, at the end, in indigo – 28/01/24

If you are looking to comment on the East Sussex Local Transport Plan (LTP4), you may find this blog helpful. Hopefully it provides some general guidance. Please remember a short blog cannot address all the issues.

Overall the consultation asks you to score a number of nebulous and intangible statements. For most it is hard to disagree with them. You are asked to provide an overall score on categories that are open to interpretation. These might be  for example – strongly agree, agree …..disagree.

However the questions may cover areas where your response might be more nuanced.

As background you may find this blog on the shortcomings of the consultation process of some relevance.

Governance and Reporting

Most project methodologies such as Prince2 have monitoring, interim targets, reports and exception reporting. Most of these are found in the Council’s Carbon Plan .

Section 9. Governance “ Provide oversight of the delivery of the action plan .. Annual reporting to Cabinet and full County on progress “

For transport an equivalent could be modal share. (The split between cars, walking, cycling ,bus and rail). This could be either around private transport (70%) or perhaps for active travel (walking, wheeling, cycling and buses) (20%). Other metrics such as the share of EVs or carbon footprints are perhaps down to national policy.

There were predicted modal share changes, in LTP3,  but there appears to be no review undertaken. It is also normal for plans and projects to have a ‘lesson learnt’ process at the end. So for LTP4 , following the approach elsewhere , there should be:-

•  5 year interim targets. With perhaps one or two clear definable metrics.
•  Review every 2 years
• Description of the new projects for the following 2 years.

This is described in Theme A Section 4.3 “potentially suitable KPIs [ Key Performance Indicators] …. We will establish appropriate governance to oversee the development, delivery and benefits realisation arising from schemes and policies included in this strategy.”

Action – Request that the governance, reporting and targets are more clearly stated

Modal Shares

In the plan there are a number of scenarios provided. All of them are compared to a 2050 ‘Business as Usual’ scenario . This one below is one of the more ‘optimistic’ of them. All have, to some extent, fewer cars trips and more active travel

You may want to consider, as stated in LTP4, that cycle journeys are recently down. Bus journeys are still not at pre-pandemic levels and the plans for bus lanes have been severely scaled back. There has never been any evidence, of a long term reduction, in the modal share and total trips for cars. This is excluding systemic changes resulting from Covid.

The blog on the dangers of unverifiable modelling may be of interest

Action. Ask for more information how the ‘numbers’ behind the scenarios can be validated

Change of Approach by the Council

Campaigners have seen no evidence, of a change in mindset, as suggested by the LTP4 vision. This month the local bus lane plans have been severely reduced, 20 mph schemes are not considered for wide areas, cycle schemes remain very low, but a priority around cars and large road schemes remains in place

Here is an example from Transport Scotland for a clear direction to reduce national car kilometres by 20%.

The route map does not aim to eliminate all car use. We recognise that would not be realistic or fair, especially for journeys undertaken by disabled people or in rural areas where sustainable travel options may not always be available or practical. Rather, the route map encourages all of us to reduce our over reliance on cars wherever possible and identifies four key behaviours that we want everyone in Scotland to consider each time we plan a journey:

• make use of sustainable online options to reduce your need to travel;
• choose local destinations to reduce the distance you travel;
• switch to walking, wheeling, cycling or public transport where possible;
• combine a trip or share a journey to reduce the number of individual car trips you make, if the car remains the only feasible option.

Action – Ask how the council officers and councillors intend to change their approach to transport to support the scenarios they outline in the Plan.

Pollution and Decarbonisation

There are those who think that the issue of carbon can be addressed by a shift to Electric Vehicles (EVs).  Instead of the LTP’s ‘People and Places’ the alternative of ‘Avoid Shift Improve’ is much more focussed on active travel, de-carbonisation and alternatives to the private car, even if electric.

For parking perhaps propose charges based on either CO2 or else around the size of the vehicle. You may also wish to comment on the extra journeys generated through the proposed large road schemes, such as the ‘duelled’ A27.

One aspiration, featured in this and the previous LTP, was linking ‘Land Use Planning’ and Transport. There is very little evidence for recent housing developments that this is being take seriously.

Action – If you want to encourage less polluting vehicles then ask how they will be encouraged ( E-bikes, e-scooters, and smaller greener cars)

Action – Ask for ESCC to be more positive in planning applications in supporting active travel and buses in the large car-centric housing developments especially in South Wealden.

Cycling and Walking

The Plan has many references to more walking, wheeling and cycling. However consider from data provided by ESCC, only £165k has been spent, on cycle infrastructure in the last 4 years.

Contrast this with 6.61 “Reviewing and delivering the Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plan – which includes a robust pipeline of deliverable active travel schemes for networks and places – ensuring a balance of schemes to support walking, wheeling and cycling.

Whatever is written in the LCWIP and in the Council’s budget book, the actual spend on cycling is negligible. The plan ’admits’ that those cycling once a month, in the county, have dropped, in 5 years, from 15% to 10% and is now well below the England average

In terms of walking there has been progress . However  schemes that might help active travel such as 20 mph, Low Traffic Neighbourhoods , modal filters and School Streets require a change in approach from officers and councillors.

Action 1) Ask for evidence of investment, not from the Budget Book, but of actual schemes they will build.

Action 2) In the Health Impact Assessment how the general health of the population will be prioritised . This is around reducing obesity, lack of exercise and multiple chronic conditions

Scenarios

The problem of predicting future levels of traffic, is that even with no interventions, the  so called ‘Business as Usual’ (BAU) in 2050, is different to now. Here is an example from Transport for South East ( TfSE). This is

from their BAU of 2050.  Then the various others scenarios are on top of this. In other words how much the trip balance will change, from BAU, with various interventions. (Note the icon with a cycle is for walking as well)

So the BAU is likely to be similar for East Sussex.  Here are various scenarios from LTP4. Unless one of them is chosen then there is no effective track on progress. This may suit the Council as no real accountability exists. Plus  the option of having 5 year reviews is then less valid. 

Targets

Once an agreed scenario, as above, is agreed there has to be a clear plan to get there. This is called ‘backcasting’ and is the opposite of forecasting. (How do we get there v what might happen). In the image below it shows how it should be broken down into smaller time periods. Perhaps every 5 years.

So in LTP4 there are many schemes and policies but there is no guidance, for readers, as to what would deliver the most change. During the initial workshops there were requests, to provide details as to how the algorithms generated the various scenarios . Otherwise it is a ‘black box’ with outputs that the public have to take on trust. Change would partly be achieved  by the schemes and projects listed in LTP4. (Of course some change will also be through National Government). Otherwise you may mention, in your consultation reply,   certain schemes that sound good to you, but actually  deliver less, in terms of overall change,  than another good alternative. 

The targets could include :-

  • modal shares
  • pollution NOx PMx
  • road traffic incidents
  • children specific  – such as trips to school
  • transport poverty of each council , (that shows Eastbourne to be nearly the worst in the South of England.)

Ideally ones that are already recorded and for which there are comparisons across the UK. 

Cars

If the most important consideration is reducing carbon then moving from the ‘Internal Combustion’ to Electric Vehicles will do this. Especially within the county where the manufacture and disposal is elsewhere as is most of the  electricity production. 

However cars are getting bigger and heavier each year. ( 0.5 cm wider p.a) . They no longer fit in car parking places.  Brakes and tyres create PM2.5 pollution. When in the road they make passing harder and this increases congestion and road damage. Smaller, lighter cars need to be encouraged. Currently an EV charged at home is cheap per mile and this may encourage even more road miles.  If you think road charging might reduce congestion look at this reportAs mentioned earlier ‘Avoid Shift Improve’ would encourage alternatives such as more micro-mobility. 

Paul Humphreys EEAN -Transport Group

Suncoast Solar Farm Planning Application (ref.230800): setting the context

 

This guest blog is from Miles Berkley, who was one of the co-founders of the Eastbourne ECO Action Network CIC, and is a Director of TechResort CIC which works from its base in Devonshire Ward helping to tackle digital exclusion, here and across East Sussex. He’s also a member of the multi-agency Lewes District Cost of Living Partners Action Group, and is a subscribing member of Friends of the Earth.

aerial view of proposed solar farm in Eastbourne Park

Setting The Context:

Friends of the Earth notes the need to increase at a minimum the amount of locally generated renewable energy in Eastbourne from  about 4.8 GWh currently to 28GWh i.e. 5.8 times present levels (UK Climate Change Committee). In fact, Friends of the Earth recommends we go further to reach 56.1 GWh. For more details, look here:  https://groups.friendsoftheearth.uk/near-you/local-authority/eastbourne#energy

The Eastbourne Borough Council Carbon Neutral Annual Report (Dec 2023) reveals that the town’s emissions in 2021 rose 6% from 2020 levels to 277.4 ktCO2e, the main source of which is domestic buildings, closely followed by transport. Eastbourne Borough Council has pledged to achieve a carbon neutral town by 2030, which the Tyndall Centre at the University of Manchester states that it requires an overall reduction of emissions by 12.3% per year – which is not being achieved.

We are experiencing the destabilising effects of accelerating global warming with more extreme weather events: storms, flooding, heatwaves, wildfires – all devastating the habitats of every species. We need to rapidly scale up action to decarbonise our energy sources, moving away from fossil fuels, as well as improving the UK’s national energy security.

Biodiversity Net Gain – improvements needed.

The present proposal presents a Biodiversity Net Gain (BNG) of between 24-29% based on the creation of new habitats and water courses, plus the addition of 11.51 new hedgerow units.

In comparison, another similar sized local development of 17MW (compared to 20MW for Suncoast) achieved a 243% net gain in habitat areas, and 104% in hedgerows. This, the Ouse Valley Solar Farm, is supported by Greenpeace.

The Cleve Hill Solar Farm (373MW) development on the North Kent Coast achieves a 65% BNG and is supported by Swale Friends of the Earth Group. The latter development achieved this by reducing the overall area covered by solar panels to 45.5% of the developable area, leaving the remaining arable land to be managed for biodiversity benefits.

The Berwick Solar Farm in Wealden has, for example, installed a Swift Tower, orchards, and thermosolar beehives.

The developers need engage the professional opinion, and support of, local ecologists to conduct further studies, to obtain detailed expertise regarding the site, and to help oversee the delivery of a far-reaching and rigorous biodiversity net gain management programme. Preferably, they could work with Sussex Wildlife Trust which advised the Berwick Solar Farm, and possibly Buglife, who also provide specialist advice to realising the biodiversity of solar developments.

This proposal should seek to improve the BNG target, either through reducing the density of solar panels on the existing developable area and/or including other areas within the proximity for biodiversity investment, as done at Cleve Hill.

Local Community Benefits – needs a clear, significant, and defined local gain.

The proposal indicates that a Community Benefit Fund may be created but falls short of specifying the financial contribution envisaged, or the process for managing this, and does not set out transparently the financial gains to the developer, or landowner (Chatsworth Estate/Duke of Devonshire).  

Suncoast state that the 20MW capacity can supply c6.400 homes. They use a metric of 2,900 kWh per home (slightly higher than the Ofgem average of 2,700 kWh consumption of electricity). The Energy Stats portal, which monitors the wholesale market price of energy, indicates the average price is currently around 10p per kWh – which if achieved would result in a minimum annual income to Suncoast of £1,856,000 annually, though market prices fluctuate e.g. prices have been twice or three times this level during the past 12 months, this could result in a turnover of c£4-6 million per annum. 

From this the developer would need to repay the capital costs, say £424,000 per annum (£16 million capital investment at 6% interest depreciated over the 40 years expected lifespan) less other costs such as network connection fees, business rates, maintenance and rent to the landowner. If the development achieved an average net margin of say c20% of turnover, this could result in a net profit somewhere between £360,000 -1,080,000 each year (depending on market prices)

This speculation goes to the heart of the difference of this type of commercial development compared to a community energy scheme where the financial profile is more transparent, and the community benefit better defined. It would be beneficial for Suncoast to share its financial forecasts.

Level Up our deprived parts of town in a targeted and direct way

This proposal needs to recognise the financial wealth historically extracted from Eastbourne by the Chatsworth Estate (valued at some £905 million) together with opportunity to “level up” those parts of the town which are most deprived, from the latest LSOA data i.e. these are Hampden Park, Langney, the northeast of town centre, Roselands, and Devonshire Ward.

Given the historical perspective, and depth of the local need I suggest that a minimum fund of £5,000-10,000 per MW annually is provided by Suncoast i.e. £100,000 -200,000 each year. With the fund to be administered by a board of local constituted third sector grassroots organisations directing the funds to tackle deprivation in all its manifestations (energy and food poverty, homelessness, digital exclusion, and other aspects of deprivation) in these areas. This would augment and better target the now much reduced Eastbourne Borough Council Devolved Ward Budget Scheme.

 

Review of 2023: a personal perspective from our Executive Director

Another year has gone by, so time for a review of what the Eastbourne Eco Action Network (EEAN) has been up to in  2023, following on from the reviews of our activities in 2021 and 2022.

Logo for Sustainable Transport and active travel summit 2023. Includes green circle with Eastbourne Carbon Neutral 2030 and a white cloud with C)2 and an arrow to indicate CO2 levels decreasing

The highlight of our year was undoubtedly our widely acclaimed Sustainable Transport & Active Travel Summit in November, which opened with a keynote speech from Chris Ralls, a member of the EcoTransport Group.  This summit brought together all the main players in the local transport sector to investigate ways of deepening collaboration on plans and actions to tackle Eastbourne’s notoriously chronic traffic congestion and pollution, as well as its over-dependence upon cars for travelling across town. Transport accounts for over 25% of the town’s carbon emissions, a proportion which has so far stubbornly refused to decline. The quality of presentations and workshops was very high, and together with the extensive networking evident during the summit, there is perhaps a good chance that the barriers to progress on local transport will finally be overcome, leading to more, better, safer walking and cycling infrastructure as well as more reliable bus services operating on dedicated bus lanes supported by more bus priority measures. The first opportunity to see such progress will come if the new Local Transport Plan 4 prepared by East Sussex County Council gets final approval and adequate funding for its implementation. You can comment on it now that it is open to public consultation until February 2024.

The One Planet Eastbourne online community ecosystem platform for mapping and tracking progress towards a more sustainable town was developed by the EEAN this year using the innovative OnePlanet app, designed to facilitate deeper collaboration between local organisations on climate actions and environmental initiatives. Extra grant funding has now been secured to significantly extend work on this platform and to help other local local groups to use the OnePlanet app.

The EEAN organised an Eastbourne Carbon Neutral 2030 Gathering at the Town Hall in May, bringing together many of the local groups involved in helping to make the town Carbon Neutral by 2030. It was an excellent opportunity for those groups to give updates on their progress and to network with other local groups. Hopefully another such gathering can be organised in 2024.

The EEAN partnered up with Energise Sussex Coast to train up local volunteers to become Energy Champions, equipping them to run local energy projects such as giving basic energy advice to local residents and supporting local energy efficiency or clean energy initiatives of various kinds. The first event organised by the Eastbourne Energy Champions was a Business Community Energy Day in July at East Sussex College’s Green Training Hub in Hampden Park  The first cohort of Energy Champions have now completed their training, and more cohorts will be trained up in 2024.

Eastbourne Borough Council decided this year to fund a scheme for offsetting the carbon emissions of Airbourne 2023, by far the town’s biggest festival of the year. The council approached us for advice on which scheme to fund, and we advised that the best scheme would be one developed locally by the Eastbourne United Nations Association. This scheme, which has been running successfully for many years, channels donations from local organisations into supplying free tree saplings to local communities in Uganda, proving these communities with much needed biodiversity improvements as well as nutritious fruit and natural medicines. The amount of carbon sequestered by the scheme is much greater than any similarly-sized tree planting scheme in the UK because of the special nature of the trees planted and the very favourable climate of that part of equatorial Uganda where the tree are planted.

In October, Eastbourne Borough Council submitted plans to the South Downs National Park Authority for its proposed Black Robin Farm redevelopment, part of its government-funded Levelling Up project. If approved, this would trigger a significant investment in the Eastbourne Downland Estate, the biggest since the downland was saved by popular opposition from being sold off by the council in 2017. Comments on the plan can be made via the SDNPA planning portal. Much rides on how well the plans would protect and enhance the downland biodiversity as well as addressing how transport by visitors to the site by bus, walking and cycling can best be supported and encouraged. I and my fellow directors have submitted comments to the SDNPA about the plans.

In December, plans for a big solar farm in Eastbourne, the first ever, was submitted to Eastbourne Borough Council by a commercial developer. If approved, it will be sited in Eastbourne Park and will supposedly generate 20MW of electricity, equivalent to producing enough clean energy to power 6,400 homes per year. If approved, the solar farm would represent the single biggest increase in solar power within the town, adding to the solar power generated by the solar canopy installed this year by Eastbourne DGH over one of its car parks. Solar power is a key part of the clean energy transition and a key element in the national strategy of weaning the UK off its traditional reliance on fossil fuels for power generation. However, much rides on the quality of the solar farm’s proposals on protecting local biodiversity, and how much the local community would benefit from the project. I and my fellow directors gave advice to the developers on how that might best be achieved.

2023 was the hottest year in human history and 2024 looks set to be even  hotter when the current El Nino reaches its climax. No wonder 2023 was full of natural disasters worldwide such as severe floods, droughts and storms. Given that we may be entering the early stages of climate breakdown, there is a need for much more rapid progress not only towards a zero carbon Eastbourne, but also towards building a strong climate adaptation plan to prepare for the inevitable and damaging impacts of climate change upon Eastbourne, a low-lying coastal community that is very much in the front line of climate change, facing the rising seas and stronger storm surges of a rapidly warming world. Indeed, a key part of adapting to climate change is managing and improving our local sea defences. Which is why, in November, the Environment Agency released its list of options for maintaining and  improving the local sea defences from 2027 to 2037 and started a public consultation on them. The EEAN is represented on the agency’s Coastal Community Forum for Eastbourne and attended all of its meetings so far, giving feedback about what our network perceives as the key issues that need addressing.

Key to developing the effective climate adaptation plan we need is the development of a strong and resilient local food system that supports local food growing initiatives and provides equitable access to healthy, locally grown or locally sourced food. Fortunately, the  good folks at the Eastbourne Food Partnership, one of our partners, are doing lots of work on this and have this year won the Bronze Award from Sustainable Food Places for that work. They deserve congratulations on achieving this significant milestone and look forward to deepening our collaboration with them in 2024, especially through working with them on researching ways in which local food growing can adapt to our changing climate.

But there is so much more to do, especially as Eastbourne Borough Council’s latest update to its Climate Emergency Strategy states: “The Tyndall Centre and the University of Manchester have carried out analysis that recommends a minimum of a 12.3% per year reduction to deliver a Paris aligned carbon budget. The borough as a whole is a long way off meeting this year-on-year reduction”. The effectiveness of the council’s climate action plan was comprehensively assessed this year by Climate Emergency UK, which published a detailed scorecard of progress achieved in Eastbourne so far. Yet, as the strategy update also says,  “We must not be put off by the challenge but must rally together and work together to improve the environment of our town for our residents, children, businesses and visitors now and in the future in order to mitigate global climate change”.

I wish to thank all the members and supporters of EEAN for all their hard work. The EEAN is entirely run by volunteers on a very small budget but consistently punches way above its weight, making significant contributions towards the ECN2030 campaign. May you all have a very restful and peaceful Christmas holiday period followed by a very Happy New Year.

Andrew Durling, Executive Director, Eastbourne Eco Action Network CIC