GLOBAL superstar Keith Richards has backed a campaign by his neighbour to preserve a rare meadow in West Wittering.
What’s more, his neighbour Peter Dawson has decided to start a national campaign to get more protection for green spaces in the UK.
Mr Dawson, 85, from West Wittering, leads the campaign, triggered by efforts to protect two sites of conservation importance bordering Redlands Lane in the village.
A previous campaign by the pair, to save bats living at Redlands Woodland, was successful, and Keith now owns that land.
But Mr Dawson said Redlands Meadow, a rare piece of land, was still at risk of ruin.
The land has been identified as a rare, wildflower-rich unimproved grassland – and 97 per cent of this kind of land has been lost to development, cultivation and the use of chemicals.
Mr Dawson fears that, without protection, the same could happen to Redlands Meadow.
Mr Dawson and his neighbour Richard Shrubb have spent 17 years restoring the land, which is home to many rare wildflowers and wildlife.
The previous owner of the land was in the process of selling the land to the pair, but she died, leaving the land to her next of kin.
“The new owner lives remote from it, and will only rent it on an annual basis,” Mr Dawson said.
“Agricultural land increased in value 200 per cent in ten years – a safe long-term investment for non-agricultural investors, most will manage the land for financial return, not conservation.”
Mr Dawson is concerned, because despite the site being a Site of Nature Conservation Importance and an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, there is nothing to stop the cultivation of the land for agriculture with chemicals.
“No-one has the powers to stop its cultivation or chemical treatment and loss of wildflowers for people and wildlife – bees, green-winged orchids. Its only protection is an owner who can afford it and is committed to conservation.”
He said a site can be protected if it is a Local Nature Reserve, but to get that status, it must be owned or leased by the local authority, which Redlands Meadow is not.
He said more needed to be done to protect sites like these, and agreed with Natural England’s recommendation that there should be 2.5 acres of accessible green space for a population of 1,000 people within 2km of their home.
“Housing and infrastructure will take thousands of acres of countryside,” said Mr Dawson.
“Wildlife and visually-attractive habitats will be lost to increased food and energy demand. Within this unstoppable spread of tightly-packed houses in towns and cities, protected green spaces are a basic need.”
With the weight of Mr Richards behind him, Mr Dawson hopes to bring Redlands Meadow into the public eye, and change the rules so that sites like these can be protected.
He said his aim was ‘to strengthen the laws that protect small areas of unspoiled land which sustain rare or endangered plants and animals’.
To find out more about the campaign to save Redlands Meadow, visit www.witterings.co.uk