Plans allocating thousands of new Mid Sussex homes set to be paused

Plans for thousands of extra homes for Mid Sussex look set to come to a screeching halt as the Conservatives want to ‘press the pause button’.

It proposed allocating new strategic sites for 1,600 homes at Ansty, 1,400 homes west of Burgess Hill and 1,850 homes at Sayers Common.

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A total of 21 other smaller sites were also proposed totalling 1,562 homes.

Proposed site for housing near Burgess Hill, published in the MSDC draft local plan. Pic S Robards SR2201154 SUS-220117-094626001

This is on top of the 11,519 dwellings already allocated or committed.

However amidst uproar at the plan, the Conservatives, who control the district council, are calling for the process to be paused.

Jonathan Ash-Edwards, leader of the Conservatives at Mid Sussex District Council, said: “The council is mandated by national policy and by the planning inspector who examined the current District Plan to undertake a five year review which is now due. The results of this review have now been published so the community can understand the scale of the challenge we face in Mid Sussex.

“It is now sensible to press the pause button given the significant issues which impact the Council’s planning. I am writing to the Secretary of State, Michael Gove, calling for our housing targets to be reset to a level more consistent with our environmental and infrastructure constraints and liaising with our local MPs to make our case in Westminster. The Levelling Up White Paper will be published shortly and I hope the Government uses this as an opportunity to review the housing numbers currently set for parts of the South East such as ours.

Proposed site for housing near Sayers Common, published in the MSDC draft local plan. Pic S Robards SR2201155 SUS-220117-094753001

“It is essential that the plan maximises the amount of brownfield and windfall development that can be counted, although brownfield sites are limited in Mid Sussex. “The amount of unmet need from neighbouring Councils that we are expected to take needs to be thoroughly scrutinised. The rapidly emerging issues raised by Natural England about water neutrality in West Sussex also need much greater clarity and resolution.

“Mid Sussex is a great place to live and we must keep it that way by balancing the need for new homes for local people needing to get on the housing ladder with protections for our environment and the critical improvements to our infrastructure that must always come alongside new development.”

Robert Salisbury, Conservative spokesman for housing and planning, added: “Nationally, the Liberal Democrats have proposed that 380,000 new houses are built every year, a 26% uplift on the numbers currently set by the Conservative Government. This would require over 4,500 more houses to be built over and above the already increased numbers in the draft District Plan review. The Liberal Democrats must now explain to Mid Sussex communities where these additional houses would be built in our district.”

Just las week, Mr Salisbury, who is the council’s cabinet member for housing and planning, had said: “The new plan must identify sites to meet at least 7,000 new homes. The method for selecting sites to be allocated has been via a transparent and robust site selection process.”

Proposed site for housing near Copthorne, published in the MSDC draft local plan. Pic S Robards SR2201156 SUS-220117-095109001

Reacting to the news, Green district and town councillor Anne Eves said: “Had the Conservative councillors taken a more collegiate approach to this whole exercise, they wouldn’t have to be back-pedalling quite so furiously now. It is completely unreasonable to expect opposition councillors (many of whom have day jobs) to react to this 250-page dossier with only seven days’ notice.

“The inflated figure of 18,000 new houses is based on the outdated ‘dodgy algorithm’, which penalises the South East, is utterly unsustainable and will lead to a haemorrhage in votes from the Tory Party.”

Alison Bennett, leader of the Lib Dem group, added: “We are delighted that local Conservatives have seen sense and joined us in calling to fix the broken planning system rather than progressing with a review of the District Plan that was clearly flawed and has angered residents across Mid Sussex since the proposals were abruptly published last week.

“We are happy to help with the letter to Michael Gove, and welcome their interest in Liberal Democrat policy on this subject.

Proposed site for housing at Ansty, published in the MSDC draft local plan. Pic S Robards SR2201157 SUS-220117-095131001

“Liberal Democrats would give the power to build houses back to local authorities and social housing providers, rather than large private developers. That would provide more of the kind of housing that local people need, deliver homes that are genuinely affordable, ensure high sustainability standards are baked in, and give communities more control over where they are built.

“We hope that Cllr Ash-Edwards will raise these policies in his letter to Michael Gove.”

The District Plan review allocations have been widely condemned since they were publicly revealed last week.

Parish councillor Jon Gilley said: “Ansty and Staplefield Parish Council are totally opposed to the draft District Plan proposal of a 1,600-home new town merging Ansty and Cuckfield.

“Our parish has always adopted a pragmatic approach and has already agreed to 3,500 houses at the Northern Arc development a short distance down the road.

“Mid Sussex District Council has also totally ignored our neighbourhood plan, which took years to compile and was supported by the electorate.

“It seems district councillors are happy to put their heads in the sand and accept arbitrary housing numbers based on a central government algorithm.

“In the process they are totally ignoring the views of the vast majority of local residents who will not accept this developer-led Cuck-Sty proposal.”

The Green Party group on the district council said it ‘deplores’ MSDC’s District Plan which would ‘concrete over large swathes of our Mid Sussex countryside’.

They believe the draft plan is full of ‘meaningless’ words such as where possible and should, pointing to the Northern Arc developers as an example where housebuilders are ‘very rarely prepared to go the extra mile and provide renewable energy sources’.

The Greens wanted to see photovoltaic panels planned in at the start, with homes built on the north-south axis to benefit from them.

They also do not want to see developments built with ‘unsustainable’ gas boilers and suggest statements of intent such as ‘to create and maintain town centres that are vibrant, attractive and successful’ would ‘read like a sick joke to the people of Burgess Hill’.

Meanwhile references to the creation of first-class cultural facilities ‘will ring hollow with the people of both Burgess Hill and Haywards Heath when we have lost the Martlets Hall and are fighting to keep Clair Hall’.

They believe the West of Burgess Hill allocation would ‘wreck the rural charm of the Green circle, one of the greatest assets of the town’.

On the subject of housing targets, the Greens suggest these are ‘unfairly biased’ towards building in the South East and take ‘no account’ of increased likelihood of flooding, water shortages, sewage discharges into rivers, and the release of carbon through the destruction of soil, trees and hedges and the use of concrete.

The revised plan would also ‘cause yet more loss of biodiversity and fragmentation of habitats’. They are unconvinced by the promise of 20 per cent biodiversity net gain and believe nature needs to be looked after to improve people’s wellbeing, catch carbon, reduce flood risk and attract tourism ‘all of which are good for the economy too, but don’t count for a bean in the planning laws’.

The Greens also question where the new doctors will come from to man the GP surgeries and how hospitals and roads will cope with 50,000 extra people.

Their statement concluded: “How would Greens do things differently? We would: focus on brownfield sites, and occupying empty homes; introduce checklists for housing developers to identify those who would go above the statutory requirements: are they prepared to install PV or heat pumps, offer water-saving appliances, rainwater collection, use of greywater, and use of local recycled materials; prioritise ancient woodland, green spaces, wellbeing and wildlife protection.”

Last week Lib Dems in Hurstpierpoint and Sayers Common made their opposition to the proposals clearly known.

This week, Robert Eggleston (LDem, Burgess Hill - Meeds) pointed out that of the extra new homes proposed the south of the district is taking more than 70 per cent.

He said: “This is on top of the substantial house building target for the area. Looking at the plans overall it is clear the Albourne and Sayers Common effectively becomes one settlement and similarly Cuckfield and Ansty merge.”

In his view ‘salami slicing’ the greenfields of south Mid Sussex is proof the national planning system is broken and not working in favour of the district.

Although some new homes will need to be built, Mr Eggleston suggest the balance of power and rights between communities and giant developers is ‘completely unbalanced’.

He thought it was wrong for the district council to entertain proposals from developers without at the same time giving councillors and communities they represent equal time to make their views known before being in the middle of a planning inquiry.

He added: “I am very concerned by the amount of greenfield land that is being surrendered in the south of the district and around Burgess Hill and our village neighbours.

“I have strongly argued in favour of each community having its own separate identity (see, for example, my views on development south of Folders Lane) but the proposals coming out of Mid Sussex District Council are creating an urban sprawl by stealth.

“As a district councillor I am being asked to consider and recommend substantial policy changes which will set the tone for further development in the district forever. I am expected to do this with barely a week’s notice. This is totally unacceptable, and it risks making bad decisions if all of us are not given sufficient time to scrutinise the proposals. A week is clearly not enough time.

“Burgess Hill has, in the past, stepped up to the plate and done all the right things when it comes to supporting the housing needs of the district. We have done this, even though, there has been limited investment in the town centre over the years. But yet again these latest proposals do not address the town centre infrastructure gap and effectively leaves Burgess Hill short-changed again.”

Although the proposed strategic site allocations have garnered the most attention, a number of smaller sites have also been put forward.

These are: Batchelors Farm, Keymer Road, Burgess Hill (33 homes), land off West Hoathly Road, East Grinstead (45 homes), land at Hurstwood Lane, Haywards Heath (55 homes), land at Junction of Hurstwood Lane and Colwell Lane, Haywards Heath (30 homes), land east of Borde Hill Lane, Haywards Heath (60 homes), land to west of Turners Hill Road Crawley Down (350 homes), Hurst Farm, Turners Hill Road, Crawley Down (37 homes), land west of Kemps Hurstpierpoint (90 homes), The Paddocks Lewes Road, Ashurst Wood (8 homes), land at Foxhole Farm, Bolney (100 homes), land West of London Road, Bolney (north) (81 homes), land rear of Daltons Farm and The Byre, The Street, Bolney (50 homes), land east of Paynesfield, Bolney (30 homes), land at Chesapeke and Meadow View, Reeds Lane, Sayers Common (33 homes), land at Coombe Farm, London Road, Sayers Common (210 homes), land to the west of Kings Business Centre, Reeds Lane, Sayers Common (100 homes), land to South of LVS Hassocks, London Road, Sayers Common (120 homes), Ham Lane Farm House, Ham Lane, Scaynes Hill (30 homes), land at Hoathly Hill West Hoathly (18 homes), Challoners, Cuckfield Road Ansty (37 homes) and land to west of Marwick Close, Bolney Road, Ansty (45 homes).