Victory in years-long battle to save a children's play area

The Play Meadow, CuckfieldThe Play Meadow, Cuckfield
The Play Meadow, Cuckfield
A woman has won a years-long battle to save a children's play area in Cuckfield from development.

Flis Irving took Mid Sussex District Council to court in London after the council granted planning permission for a detached house to be built on the play area at Courtmead Road in the village.

Flis argued that generations of children had played on the land - known as The Play Meadow - and she even gained support from actor Edward Fox who grew up in Cuckfield with his brother, fellow actor James Fox.

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Flis also had support from the community for the treasured piece of land and a £100,000 bid was made by the village to buy it - but the bid was rejected by the council.

Edward Fox EMN-160504-110321001Edward Fox EMN-160504-110321001
Edward Fox EMN-160504-110321001

However, last week Flis emerged victorious when her lawyers argued in the High Court in London that, among other things, planning policies had been misinterpreted and that the council’s approach to the impact of the development on the conservation area was flawed.

In a complex written judgment top judge Mr Justice Gilbart criticised lawyers who he said had presented the court with a mass of documentation.

He rejected a number of the arguments put forward by Mrs Irving’s legal team and went on to quash the planning consent granted by the council on two points.

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He held that the development would “cause harm to the character and appearance of the Conservation Area” whereas a planning officer’s report which the council considered before granting consent had said: “The new development will not result in substantial harm to the special character of the designated heritage asset as a whole.”

The judge continued: “If there is harm to the character and appearance of one part of the Conservation Area, the fact that the whole will still have a special character does not overcome the fact of that harm.”

The judge also held that the planning officer in his report to the council had misinterpreted policies relating to Conservation Areas.

However, although he quashed the planning consent that may not be the end of the matter. He went on to grant an application by the council to appeal against his decision.

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Flis added after the hearing: “It is significant that Mr Justice Gilbart highlighted the importance of preserving The Play Meadow as part of the Cuckfield Conservation Area for the benefit of local people.

“I hope that the council will finally take note and stop fighting for a third party to develop it.”