Jill Goulder goes to a trio of local talks on your behalf.

It’s surprising what you can find to go to if you keep an eye on the odds and corners of local media and allow for last-minute new things in your diary. Here are accounts of three recent under-promoted events of central interest to TTL members which should have had huge audiences.


18th April 2018, on our water. Aimee Felus of Brighton ChaMP for Water (a SDNP-sponsored project concerned with groundwater quality in the Brighton/ Lewes area) gave a brilliant presentation at the Linklater about our aquifer, though with an audience of only about 8. I came away inspired and appalled. We’re in one of the dryest areas in the UK; but have you ever thought about why we have no local reservoirs as in the Weald? Because we have a huge chalk ‘reservoir’ consisting of the very ground that we’re on and the Downs around us, which hold all our water: Southern Water have 13 boreholes in the Lewes area, and there are many more private ones (such as the Linklater’s own). So the lovely news is that we’re drinking our own Lewes water; but the unfortunate news is that we’re busy polluting it.

One of the biggest polluters is of course nitrates: the Downs have very thin soil and farmers have to fertilise to get returns, and the excess soaks into the chalk. Another gateway to pollution is the thousands of soakaways in the Brighton area, which deliver polluted drain-water from roads etc deep into the aquifer. And on the matter of roads, Aimee pointed out that a huge ocean polluter (totally dwarfing micro-plastics!) is car tyre- and brake-wear particles washed off the roads. All that grey slush when we have snow? Yes.

Two pieces of better news. First, we don’t have rubber particles in our water as our Lewes chalk does a good job of filtering them out. Second, we can combat the pollution going into the sea from these particles by planting ‘rainscapes’ (rain-gardens) near roads. Apparently these can absorb c.80% of the vehicle-generated gunk: so efficient are they that vegetation and silt removed from rain-gardens during maintenance actually have to be treated as contaminated waste; but the contaminants are so valuable that there are now companies buying this waste and extracting the metals/ chemicals.


21st April 2018, on transport. The South Coast Alliance for Transport and the Environment (SCATE) launched their New Transport Vision for the Sussex Coast at a meeting at the Town Hall lecture room, in which various speakers (from Friends of the Earth, Sussex Community Rail Partnership and others) discussed some of the key principles and findings of the report. The event clashed with TTL’s Electric Car Show in Harvey’s Yard – and promotion seemed to appear quite late – but there was a reasonable audience. SCATE’s objectives are set out in their website, scate.org.uk; their aim, underlined at the meeting, is to maximise transport choices ‘as you leave the front door’. A couple of cogent points from the meeting:

  • – There is irrefutable evidence now that if more roads are built, people drive more – for example, shopping at more distant places. This is called ‘induced traffic’. This dominant ‘predict and provide’ approach is extremely flawed.
  • – We should get children used to not having a car, leading to a cumulative lifetime effect of reducing car-mindedness. The good news is that driving-licence ownership among young people is very much down.


26th May 2018, on our green Depot. Our own Depot queen Carmen Slijpen gave a fluent and informative talk on the Depot cinema’s considerable green credentials; this unfortunately didn’t get promotion outside the Depot’s own mailing list, and I noticed it by chance the day before in a post in Facebook’s Lewes Present group. So we were a tiny audience, but included a couple of very attentive children.

The Depot’s eco-friendly infrastructure is truly impressive: a ground-source heat pump (with pipes going 200 metres into the ground), solar panels, a green roof with local wildflowers, krypton double-glazing, a retriever of cooking fat for recycling, low water-use loos …. As visitors will know, the Depot sell no drinks in plastic bottles, and they try to minimise plastic packaging for snacks, though this remains a knotty problem, as does the question of containers for hot drinks taken into the cinema. The staff’s uniforms are recycled from plastic bottles! and will be re-recycled into plastic bags when worn out. The Depot has a very splendid cycle-rack, and a wall with holes for bird- and bat-nesting, and local materials where possible (flint, Sussex chestnut for the shutters).

Carmen was honest about the bumps along the route, not least the huge fossil-fuel bill which she is tackling. The Depot roof could have held more solar panels, but they would have been intrusive on the beautiful Downs view from homes above the building; the ground-source heating needs tweaking for efficiency; and in fact cooling is quite an issue, with the Depot’s sunny position, though they do what they can with roof and window vents. LED lights are a literally brilliant success, but pose dimming problems. Meanwhile, irrigation has had to be installed for the green roof and the grass in the courtyard. But these are the difficulties that pioneers endure on our behalf, so that installers and users learn and improve. What a privilege to have this initiative in the heart of Lewes.


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