Sandgate Country Park
It is a long-standing ambition of Sandgate Conservation Society, supported by Horsham District Council, that a country park will be formed out of the Sandgate Park Quarry and surrounding quarries and land. The concept of the Country Park has developed over time, in line with changes in local pressures, patterns (such as demographics) and expectations. Also the status of some of the various sites which could eventually form the Country Park has changed.
History of the area
Before 1887 the Sandgate Estate covered about four thousand acres to the north of the Storrington – Washington Road. The estate was centred on Sandgate House and its surrounding ornamental park immediately to the north of the road.
The break-up of the estate started in 1887, on the death of George Carew Gibson and was continued by W.V Felton in 1917. Much of the land forming the bulk of the estate has been developed, a great deal of it for residential purposes. Some of the land is farmed. The house and its surrounding parkland remained in private hands until soon after the end of World War 2 when it was purchased by commercial sand extraction companies. The house was soon demolished with only some stables and outbuildings initially retained for the use as offices and stores.
Location and progress
The concept for the Country Park is that it should include the areas of land that already had public access: Sandgate Park; Sullington Warren; and Warren Hill, and then to take advantage of any opportunity to join these existing sites with a footpath and where possible to increase the area of land with public access.
Recently significant progress has been made towards realising the vision of Sandgate Country Park – this is described below. Sandgate Conservation Society works to help ensure the best possible outcome for Sandgate Country Park by such activities as commenting on planning applications, getting involved in such consultations like the County Minerals Plan; neighbourhood plans; and the Horsham Strategic Plan, and raising issues with local councillors.
The map shows the approximate locations and extents of the quarry and ex-quarry sites on either side of the Hampers Lane relevant to the formation of Sandgate Country Park. Each area, and its current status in relation to the concept of the Country Park, is described below.
Sandgate Park Quarry / Sandgate Park – 90 acres approximately
This area is owned by CEMEX. There are two parts to the Sandgate Quarry site – the working quarry area and the area in the north where quarrying work has already finished.
Sandgate Park Quarry
The aspiration for the working quarry area of the site is that this should form the core of the Country Park when quarrying stops. The permit for sand-winning extended to 2042 under the 1991 Planning and Compensation Act.
In late 2018 CEMEX submitted a planning application (WSCC/044/18/SR) to amend the agreed restoration plan for the site. The restoration plan included the excavated sand pit being left as a large, deep lake with planting and a footpath around it. The amended restoration plan involved the infilling of the excavated pit with imported inert waste to create an area of shallow ponds, acid grassland and wet heath. The application stated that should it be granted the mineral extraction and restoration work at the quarry would be completed in 11 years. The Society objected to the planning application on a number of points including the volume of material that would need to be imported (1.8m tonnes) and the resulting additional local HGV traffic. However, planning permission was granted in early January 2020. It is therefore expected that the restoration of the quarry should be completed around 2031 – 2034.
The Society remains concerned that the future restoration in terms of wildlife and public amenity value should be of high quality. A poor quality restoration would not compensate for the negative impact the local community arising from the importation of material. For instance the ecology of the site should be restored as far as possible by the use indigenous soils rather than crushed imported material, and locally sourced vegetation should be used including using seeds foraged from adjacent sites and allowing some natural regeneration processes. Also, a long term management plan is needed to ensure that the the grassland, heath and ponds remain open and are not invaded by trees and shrubs, and the impacts of human access are managed.
Quarrying had ended in the northern part of the Sandgate Park Quarry it had been restored but there was no public access.
This area was designated as part of Phase 1 of Sandgate Country Park within the context of the Millford Grange development planning application, along with the old RMC quarry area (see below). To enable public access and comply with the plan submitted in the Millford Grange planning application some enabling works were required. After some delay these enabling works started in September 2018, providing connecting paths into Sandgate Park, benches, and barriers to prevent public access to the working quarry. Shortly after the area was open to the public providing fascinating views of the quarries and far reaching views to the South Downs. The Society believes that its representations to the district council helped move things along. The Society also helped resolve issues regarding access including raising funds towards providing a footbridge between this area and Sandgate Park.
This area is now also called Sandgate Park (i.e. the same as the Horsham District Council owned park that adjoins its northern edge) although it remains owned by CEMEX.
Washington Sand Pit – 17 acres approximately
This site, previously owned by Hanson, is now owned by Britaniacrest Recycling Ltd. This site has planning consent, granted 1st May 2015 (recorded by HDC as DC/13/2460), for the continuation of mineral extraction for a two year period and the importation of inert material over a five year period only, to enable the restoration of mineral working at Washington Sandpit for the long term benefit of the Sandgate Country Park. This planning permission was varied in 2018 (recorded by HDC as NC/18/004 and by WSCC as WSCC/009/18 /SR) to allow sand extraction until 31 December 2019 and required the importation of material by road to cease and the restoration of the land to be completed by 1st May 2020.
However, in January 2020 Britaniacrest submitted an application to vary conditions, again, and allow a further two years of extraction and restoration by 2028. As of early August 2020 a decision was still pending but the expectation is that the application will be granted.
A path along the northern boundary of this pit from Hampers Lane connecting to a path running along the northern edge of the Sandgate Quarry would provide an off-road path from Water Lane to Hampers Lane that avoids encroaching on the privacy of residents of Badgers Holt.
David Wilson Homes (DWH / Millford Grange)
This site, previously owned by RMC and then CEMEX, was acquired by Barratt Homes (developed under their brand – David Wilson Homes). This site is of significance in respect of the Country Park because the planning application for the Millford Grange Housing Development includes the implementation of Phase 1 of Sandgate Country Park.
It had been hoped that this area, previously the site of RMC Engineering Works, would be included as part of Sandgate Country Park. In the early 2000’s the County Council proposed the site as a waste processing plant. This was strongly opposed to by the local community, including the Society, and thankfully the threat receded.
Then, around 2010 an planning application was submitted for a housing development on the site. As the site previously accommodated works buildings it counted as a ‘brown field’ site so suitable for development. The landowner, CEMEX, agreed to donate to Horsham District Council the site to the north of this development (the Old RMC Quarry, see below), plus approximately 18.5 acres of the Sandgate Quarry site – the restored northern area (Sandgate Park) as described above.
The original application for 100 homes was rejected for a number of reasons. The decision was appealed on the basis of a revised application which included a proposal for Phase 1 of Sandgate Country Park comprising the areas CEMEX had previously agreed to donate to HDC but now with these areas privately owned but maintained with public access. Phase 1 of Sandgate Country Park is described in the Long Term Landscape Management Strategy
It was partially on the basis of the provision of Phase 1 of Sandgate Country Park that the planning application was allowed on appeal. Millford Grange Appeal Decision Paragraphs 87-93 and 116 refer.
Old RMC Quarry – 11 acres approximately
This site was also acquired by Barratt Homes from CEMEX. The ownership of this area transferred to the homeowners at Millford Grange with a management company under the control of the residents being the responsible for maintenance.
This area is now accessible by the public, for quiet enjoyment and onward access, via a gate on Hampers Lane opposite Badgers Holt. Paths have been laid and a number of benches installed. The area has been much improved by the management company which has removed rubbish, such as discarded plastic tree tubes, but have retained the wild flowers and scrub that provides an excellent wildlife habitat.
A path provided by the National Trust across one of their fields links Millford Grange to Georges Lane. The path emerges onto Georges Lane near the Warren Hill car park and the existing public footpath across Washington Common to the A24 underpass.