What do we have to protect? The aquifer (water bearing rock) at Patcham. The aquifer system extends across large parts of the South Downs and the National Park. It supplies naturally filtered drinking water across the area.
Since the mid 1950's the whole system of water collection from the aquifers was integrated allowing control of the entire catchment area within the Brighton Block. The Brighton Block is that part of the chalk outcrop which exists between the rivers Adur and Ouse and forms the aquifer, water bearing rock, referred to. The Patcham Pumping Station has several major adits and was designated as a "Storage Station" at that time so that during the winter months most water would be pumped via designated leakage stations near the sea and rivers leaving the storage stations to provide water in the summer months when the water table was low.
Patcham Court Farm on Ewebottom Hill, in particular, is joined to the eastern adit of the Patcham Pumping Station via a large fissure which was breached as the adit was pushed further eastwards. As the water table rises the fissure allows water in the saturated zone rapid transfer to the adit as well as providing direct access from the surface which could potentially be contaminated. Because Patcham Court Farm is close to the abstraction adit, (sometimes referred to as a horizontal shaft), it makes it very difficult to prevent contaminates introduced on to the surface by development to be reduced to acceptable levels.
The proposed development site - Patcham Court Farm is rated a Zone 1 SPZ. This is the highest rated groundwater protection zone. As mentioned above it affords this high rating because on this part of the hill pollutants can enter the water stores beneath at the fastest rates and pollute the pumping station. This is due to the unconfined and porous nature of the Seaford Chalk that is just beneath the soil.
The area is also part of the Drinking Water Protected Area and the Inner Source Protection Area.
In the past the natural water systems surrounding Waterhall Pumping Station have been deemed so important that the Brighton Corporation appealed to Parliament in the 1920's because a shanty town was spreading on Sweet Hill. In 1924 by Royal Assent they were granted the powers to seize many acres of land in this area to protect the water supply. This Act of Parliament was The Brighton Corporation Water Act of 1924 (now superceeded).
The Hill itself is also unusual because outside All Saints Church, at the top of Church Hill there was a natural pond. In the winter this would overflow down to the bottom of Church Hill (which was then named Spring Street!) There is also a documented pond on the Patcham Court Farm site in the South East corner. This disappeared at some point in the 1970's but local residents have reported seeing a spring of water running from this point on occasion.