Special meeting called after legal challenge to council decision

There’s been another twist in Mid Sussex District Council’s decision to adopt a planning document laying out sites for 1,704 homes.

Now an Extraordinary Meeting has been called for Wednesday (August 10) after the council acknowledged that a couple of documents which should have been available during the June meeting were not attached to the report but sent in link form.

While the council said the new meeting would allow it to ‘reaffirm its decision’, the action group said that was ‘meaningless’ adding that ‘you can’t reaffirm an unlawful vote’.

Mid Sussex District Council is holding an extraordinary meeting next week to reconsider its Site Allocations DPD

The two documents in question were a Sustainability Appraisal and a summary of public consultation responses.

The legal challenge included concerns that councillors had not been specifically directed to read either document.

Criticism was aimed at Robert Eggleston, who issued a pre-action letter of claim against the council, acting as a private citizen rather than as a councillor or leader of Burgess Hill Town Council.

Robert Salisbury, cabinet member for planning, said it was ‘frustrating’ that Mr Eggleston didn’t raise the issue during the June meeting, adding: “Had he done so, this additional work and expense might have been avoided.”

But a spokesman for the action group said: “How could he have known? It was their officers’ jobs to ensure that correct process is followed.”

Mr Eggleston said the calling of an Extraordinary Meeting was ‘a clear indication that [the council] accept the points that I made’.

He added: “Councillors will make an informed decision but they will do so on the basis that this meeting has not been called as a result of a court judgement.

“It’s been called by Mid Sussex District Council to try to mitigate what they see s a legal risk.”

Mr Salisbury said: “Any legal action has the potential to be very expensive and these are minor technical matters so, to protect the public purse, the matter is being referred back to council as soon as possible.

“We are working on the assumption that everyone is acting in good faith and trust that returning the matter to council will resolve matters.”