west sussex gazette

Landfill site "could destroy unique project" 

by Alex Jenkins


A LANDOWNER has warned that if landfill proposals at Thakeham go ahead it will destroy a unique rewilding project. 

Charlie Burrell, 47, owns the Knepp Castle Estate at Shipley, which is at the centre of a ground-breaking ecological project to return 1,000 hectares of lowland Sussex Weald into natural wildland grazing.

The Knepp Wildland Project, which lies to the east of the proposed landfill site, is the first of its kind and has excited interest from governments and environmental bodies across Europe.

Mr Burrell has argued the landfill proposal by Cory Environmental at Laybrook Brickworks at Thakeham not only threatens the project's survival but flies in the face of current thinking on the environment and public health.

His comments come as the County Times continues its 'End this Landfill Lunacy' campaign and as the battle against the dump gathers momentum.

Mr Burrell said: "Here we are, being supported by Government to try and tackle some of the most serious problems facing the country, like sustainability, soil degradation, loss of habitat and species extinction, and yet we're still having to deal with out of date, environmentally hazardous, polluting landfill."

"There's a real risk to the health of everyone living in the area of the landfill, as well as to the survival of wildlife.

"What will be the point of the Knepp Wildland Project when it's overrun by seagulls and rats?"

He added: "We always thought we would have to prepare for a battle and make sure our work was heard as part of the campaign against this proposal."

The project uses grazing animals such as longhorn cattle, Tamworth pigs, Exmoor ponies and fallow deer to manage and recreate natural habitat.

Its aim is to provide a model for a more natural system of meat production that also encourages soil recovery and biodiversity.

In the eight years since the Knepp Wildlife Project began, a number of rare and endangered species, including turtle doves, nightingales, Beckstein's and Barbastelle bats, woodlarks, water voles and purple emperor butterflies have been recorded.

"It has been staggering for us," Mr Burrell said of the new wildlife emerging. "It has been terribly gratifying."

Half of the wildlife project has been funded by the government, with backing by Natural England, the Environment Agency, Sussex Wildlife Trust, the British Trust for Ornithology, the National Trust, and the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology.

Chief executive of Sussex Wildlife Trust, Dr Tony Whitbread, has written to the county council voicing his concerns over the proposed landfill site and the affect it would have on the Knepp project.

"The proposal for a landfill site on the immediate boundary of this nationally important project is a major threat," he said.

"The proposed site is on Weald clay and fills up with water when not pumped. The risk from run-off of polluted water into surrounding water courses is extremely high.

"It is probably inevitable that run-off from the site will flow directly into the water system running through Knepp it already does so polluting a rich wetland, undermining future plans and would effectively negate one of the key features of the whole rewilding project.

"The Knepp Estate is in the process of developing a major, and nationally leading, nature conservation initiative.

"The potential benefits from the project in terms of biodiversity could be large."

The site has stirred interest across the globe and in May Mr Burrell attended the European Wilderness Conference in Prague as a guest speaker.

"Every year we meet the most extraordinary people," Mr Burrell said. "Sussex has become the place to come and look at the process and see what happens."

The Lay Brook itself runs through Knepp Castle Estate, feeding into the Hammer Pond and subsequently into the River Adur.

Charlie Burrell with one of the longhorn cattle.

Charlie Burrell with one of the longhorn cattle.