Lindfield pensioner claims heart attack was brought on by planning row

An 80-year-old man from Lindfield who suffered a heart attack said it was brought on by a battle with the council over a neighbour’s planning breach.

Malcolm Smith said he was on the phone to the planning department at the council when the ‘stress of the conversation brought on a heart attack’.

Fortunately, he said his pacemaker shocked him five times, saving his life. His son called for an ambulance and he recovered in hospital.

He said: “I am lucky to still be here – we have been battling with the council about this development and lack of enforcement, but our complaints and concerns are falling on deaf ears and for some reason the council are letting this work continue.

Malcolm Smith said his pacemaker saved his life. Photo contributed

“It makes a mockery of planning permission and enforcement of it if developers can take matters into their own hands.

“I think everyone is concerned about the amount of development taking place in the area, but if there is no enforcement of what has and hasn’t been agreed it is even more worrying.”

Mid Sussex District Council confirmed that there was a breach of the original planning permission given for the development in Hickmans Lane, Lindfield, but that a retrospective planning application had since been approved and no enforcement action was needed.

Mr Smith’s neighbours, Mr and Mrs Burrows, said they were ‘saddened’ to hear about his ill health, and that the situation had caused him ‘unnecessary stress and anxiety’.

In a statement to the Mid Sussex Times, they said: “We would like to thank our advisors and the planning department for their cooperation and guidance allowing us to fulfil the correct democratic process for planning, to successfully obtain the required permission to construct our new home for our retirement, which was granted approval at a full planning committee meeting on the January 16, recommended by the planning officer and unanimously approved by committee members.”

They said Mr Smith had objected to the development and had taken pictures of themselves and their builders which they found ‘upsetting’.

“Now we are near the end of the build and about to move in and we are looking forward to our new life within Lindfield village,” they said. “We wish Mr Smith well for the future.”

Councillor Andrew MacNaughton, cabinet member for housing and planning, said: “I’m sorry to hear about Mr Smith’s recent period of ill health and I wish him a full and speedy recovery.

“Mr Smith is correct that planning permission was granted for the partial demolition of 41 Hickmans Lane and the construction of a large extension.

“When the builders demolished the whole building, it was a breach of planning permission and a new planning application was required.

“Our planning enforcement officer visited the site on three occasions to investigate the matter. The builders indicated their intention to continue work in accordance with the previous planning permission until a new planning application could be determined.

“It is important that any enforcement action taken by the council is proportionate and reasonable.

“As the new home shown in the retrospective planning application was largely the same as that which has already obtained planning permission, we took the decision to wait until the retrospective planning application had been considered before taking any further action.

“Our planning enforcement team made it clear to the builders that any further work carried out on the site would be at their own risk and that enforcement action would be taken should planning permission be refused.

“The retrospective planning application was approved by the planning committee on January 16, 2020, and therefore the breach of planning control has ceased and no planning enforcement action was required.”