Wednesday 29 August 2018

A Message from Crowlink!

Following on from my recollections of my childhood school holiday in Crowlink, in the South Downs, I have received the following message from a local who is campaigning against a planning application which looks like it would have a severely detrimental impact on the amenity of this beautiful and historical site. I reproduce it in full below - please feel free to lend your support by adding your name to the list or filing an objection if you feel inspired so to do. It's quite lengthy, so please bear with it:

"I hope you do not mind me writing to you but I know you have a particular love for Crowlink and as a result wanted to alert you to a planning application that has been made to the South Downs National Park to allow a two-wheel access track to be built across a field in Crowlink in order to serve a property that is being marketed online as an 'Events venue for hire.


"Many of us feel it is wrong that the private interests of an individual's expanding commercial business should be prioritised over the unique qualities of this landscape. Thousands of people come every year to experience the peace and tranquility of breathtakingly uninterrupted views. As you know, it is an iconic part of the country and should be kept as a jewel in the crown of the South Downs National Park.

"Crowlink was bought in 1926 by a group of visionary people who could see developments starting to swamp Sussex's coast. (You can read their inspiring story here: The land was then gifted to the National Trust by the Society of Sussex Downsmen, with three protective covenants: that the property accessed across the field should not be used for business; that there should be no excavation of the field; and that no nuisance should be caused to the users of the field.

"The first covenant has been violated by the current owner over a period of several years. But if permission is given, both the second and the third would be broken too. Not only would it involve excavation of the field to lay the materials, but the additional traffic it would attract in the long run, travelling at increased speeds, would endanger livestock (the field is a calving one), wildlife, as well as of course the general public.

"The visual impact of a formalised hard surface would be enormous. The application's own Land Visual Assessment admits there would be a negative effect. Even if local materials were used, it would alter the landscape permanently. No similar tracks exist in Crowlink and this is one of the things that makes it so special.


"The full ecological impact of this track has not been properly investigated, including the potential presence in the area of threatened species. Chalk downlands are surprisingly rare ( and provide an incredibly rich habitat. The application's request to remove an ash tree is significant because it is not a diseased tree, and in accordance with current conservation advice it is important that these trees remain in situ to protect the future of this important British species. There is also a recommendation to fell six other trees, but no suggestion of any contribution to balance the damage done with further restoration or creation of habitats.

"For anyone who does not wish to register on the South Downs National Park comment site, they can simply email a comment to stating the application number SDNP/18/03970/FUL and name and address. This should then get out up online automatically. For many people that is an easier way of doing it."

"Most importantly of all, the application is misleading in that it fails to mention the commercial aspect to the property that this track would serve. The applicant states that this is a residential private dwelling. Rather than react to this claim myself, you can see a series of images posted by me on the SDNP site on August 20th that will allow you to draw your own conclusions. Though much of the evidence of the business aspect of Crowlink Corner, also called Crowlink Retreat, has been removed from the internet since objections relating to it were made to the planning committee, plenty of images remain showing advertising for corporate events, as well as the venue's availability for weddings, retreats, cooking classes, and other workshops. I do not know whether the contract with WDC for Commercial Waste collection still exists or indeed what is the current status of a Food Hygiene Rating that seems to have been applied for after the planning application was lodged.

"Obviously you will want to look at the details yourself and make up your own mind on the issue. In the spirit of trying to save you some time though, I would direct you to the following objections that I believe lay the arguments out especially well:

  • East Dean Residents' Association (August 17th)
  • East Dean and Friston Parish Council (Katrina Larkin August 24th)
  • South Downs Society (August 20th)
  • Charles Peck (August 22nd and August 13th)
  • Ann Price (August 20th)
  • Cynthia Cousens (August 24th)
  • Christopher Wells (August 24th)
  • Jonathan Vernon-Hunt (August 23rd)
  • Mark Wigglesworth (August 9th)


    "None of us in the hamlet want this to become personal (I have never actually met the applicant) and I believe the many objections have made it very clear that the campaign is based on a love for Crowlink, what it means to so many people, and what it stands for in both Britain's past and its future. We hope that the South Downs National Park can be reminded that its self-stated goals are to 'conserve and enhance the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage of the area'; that development proposals will be permitted only where they 'conserve and enhance the landscape'; and that conservation will be prioritised 'over economic development when these are in conflict'. On that basis it would have to reject this proposal.

    "The East Dean and Friston Parish Council unanimously voted not to support this application, and as you can see objections have also been made by the South Downs Society and the East Dean Residents' Association. But there are many who feel so strongly about this that we are reluctant to just keep our fingers crossed that the SDNP have the time to investigate all the facts. If you had the time to make a comment on the SDNP site that would be fantastic."

    Monday 27 August 2018

    The Best Year Of Our Lives: The Characters - Tina Wilson

    It is probably not a question that would spring immediately to the mind of the casual reader, but one of the biggest challenges I had to face when creating and developing the dynamic of the gang of eight was to what extent it functioned as a net and not as a spider's web.

    Let me put that another way. With Paul as the focal character, at the centre of everything that takes place, the story is inevitably structured in such a way that without him there would a gaping hole at the centre, and nothing would make very much sense. Like a spider's web, in which every strand leads inevitably to the spider in the middle and the whole thing is constructed around it with the spider being the only rationale for the web's existence.


    A piece of netting, on tbe other hand, comprises a series of interlocking strands with none conspicuously more important than any other. Cut a strand or two away and a net becomes a damaged net, but remains a net all the same. With a stitch or two it can be repaired, and can continue to do its work as it did before.

    If this all sounds a bit hypothetical, consider the relationships between the various members of the gang – for the early part of the book at least. Choose any member of the gang and he or she is connected more closely to certain other members than to others, whether by blood or by affection. Jim is Debbie's boyfriend, Paul's best friend and Colin's brother. Colin's girlfriend is Beverley, whose brother is Steve, while Debbie's closest friend is Alison. Only when we get to Tina do we depart from this general rule.


    Unlike the others Tina is introduced into The Best Year Of Our Lives as Paul's enemy, and by association Jim's too. With no peacemaker to heal the rift, one is left to assume that its duration had been considerable. Only with the break-up between Paul and his erstwhile pal Alan Webb is the ground laid for a reconciliation with Tina.

    With no sibling in the gang, no best friend and no partner Tina is ostensibly the outsider, but as her relationship with Paul becomes tentatively closer that fact is not always obvious. The reader is invited to anticipate the day when Tina and Paul will draw inexorably nearer but fate can be unkind, and the cult of self certainly no less so.

    Tina was a difficult character for me to get entirely right. I'm not sure I managed to do so. But far from being the outsider she for me was actually much closer to being the spider than a mere link in the net. She was ever there in Paul's thoughts; in his calculations and his aspirations, in his ideas and his dreams. None of it would have happened without her.