Recent heavy rain brought sudden and surprising change to the valleys’ wide and intimate landscapes: the main rivers – Combe Haven, Watermill Stream, Powdermill Stream and Decoy Pond Stream all swollen and gushing and gurgling into the main valley created lakes. It happens every year – but never ceases to thrill those who observe and enjoy uninterrupted natural forces and the explosion of spring into summer.
The effect of humanity on those natural processes and landscapes was the subject of three plays presented by Feral Theatre at this May’s Brighton Festival Fringe. The production, Triptych, focussed on extinction, habitat destruction, ignorance of our dependence on a high quality natural environment, and the tragic consequences that follow its incremental destruction. The Hastings Alliance were invited to mount a small exhibition describing Combe Haven and its unique amphitheatre of wonderful places. Many members of the audience signed up to hear more of our campaign.
The plays were staged in St Peters’s church, Preston Park and featured four actors and a simple set with very effective lighting, and choreographed shadow puppets depicting courtship of arctic curlews, music, mime, acrobatics and narrative. We very much appreciated this opportunity.
As for the backdrop to our continuing campaign, we are still digesting the realities of the decision of the Department for Transport to part fund the scheme. Remember, there’s a shortfall to be made up by local council tax payers of a minimum of £33m, and the final sum is likely to be much higher, with no private sector money available and little or no developer interest. It must be remembered that in terms of ‘value for money’, this BHLR scheme was rated as bottom in the original list of 24 schemes in England chasing government funds. It still can’t be far off bottom in the expanded list of schemes receiving government money.
We continue to challenge the scheme and to gather information because, whatever the final result, the full story needs telling and will be told. It’s an awful scheme with a very shaky evidence base.
More soon: please visit the valley while tranquillity prevails.
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*In the long view (without horse) you can see Adams Farm, a grade 2* listed farmhouse with barn to the right. The barn is a bat roost and lies in the path of the proposed BHLR. This barn will be dismantled and rebuilt on another site. Bats have a European level of protection and the success of their relocation, close to a new road carrying 30,000 vehicles a day, remains a matter for speculation. We’d prefer they were left alone.