“Bepton Down SSSI should be a unique area of chalk downland in West Sussex – but it isn’t.

Bepton Down is just below The South Downs Way on a north facing slope with stunning views. It should be 14 hectares of extraordinary habitat, home to protected species of plants and grasses – and one of the few remaining areas of chalk downland in West Sussex.

Bepton Down has been neglected and it is now reverting to a mixture of scrub, wasteland and coarse vegetation. Brambles, nettles and other plants are smothering the chalk downland plants. Grazing hasn’t taken place when it should have happened. At other times the wrong animals have been introduced at the wrong times. There have been no recordings of Early Purple or Greater Butterfly orchids this year.

How can Bepton Down be in such a poor state when it is protected by law?

Natural England have repeatedly been advised of the poor management of this SSSI, yet no action has been taken to prevent this steady decline. Natural England’s enforcement policy states that action should be taken against SSSI owners and occupiers if they fail to manage the land properly. I asked Natural England in 2016 if they would consider enforcement. The answer was “no”.

Bepton Down SSSI is a complete failure by Natural England to fulfil its responsibilities.”

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