Nus Ghani, MP for Wealden, held an urgent debate in Parliament in support of Michelham Priory and urged the Minister to hold the Environment Agency to account and to take action to save its unique, historic moat.
Michelham Priory, situated in the beautiful countryside near Hailsham, boasts Britain’s longest continual medieval water-filled moat, which stretches a mile and encircles its site. The Sussex Archaeological Society, which cares for Michelham Priory and other historical properties across Sussex have spent eight years trying to work with the Environment Agency (EA) to address the issues of water supply and silt management.
The EA is failing in its duty to operate and maintain two water control structures and has not been providing water and silt management of the River Cuckmere over the past few years. As a result, there is no water supply to the moat during dry weather periods. This has caused the moat to dry out and resulted in damaging a unique natural ecosystem and huge regrowth of invasive vegetation.
The lack of water in the moat has also made the historic watermill inoperable. In such unprecedented times that we find ourselves in due to the Covid-19 pandemic, a facility such as this mill is absolutely vital to prevent shortages of flour. Additionally, the change in levels of soil moisture has led to the gradual drying up of the listed buildings that have stood on the site for centuries. The moat has to be de-silted and water has to be returned to it immediately, if the site is to survive and thrive for generations to come.
Nus Ghani said: “Michelham Priory is a wonderful piece of history and I am proud that Wealden is the home of the UK’s longest medieval water-filled moat. It is absolutely vital that the issue is addressed by the Environment Agency and that the moat is restored. I am delighted to have the opportunity to raise the issue in Parliament and demand firm commitments from the Ministers to act immediately. To let such a unique, historic site disappear would be a devastating historical, social and economic loss for East Sussex. I am not going to let this happen on my watch.”
“I welcome the Minister’s assurances that she has pressed the Environment Agency to find a workable solution and promised to secure a meeting. I am determined to meet with representatives from the Environment Agency in person to get this issue resolved. The Environment Agency must provide concrete answers as to why it is failing to address this case and provide a tangible plan for solving the problem.”