Video: groups protest in Burgess Hill about ‘unacceptable’ loss of allotments to make way for homes
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The demonstration by Burgess Hill Allotments Association and Burgess Hill Residents Association took place in Church Walk on Saturday, October 7.
Participants said they were protesting Mid Sussex District Council’s decision to keep Chanctonbury Allotments, near Queens Crescent car park, as an area for development in the District Plan.
They were also objecting to plans to build hundreds of new homes on the Network Rail owned land and the ‘overdevelopment’ of green spaces.
Sean Kelly, chair of the Burgess Hill Allotments Association said: “We feel this is unacceptable and it would cause unacceptable damage to the wildlife, inconvenience for residents. There’s a known flood risk, and it’s inexcusable that we would be losing the town’s largest allotment site. We’ve heard a lot of excuses, they aren’t good enough, so we’ve gathered plenty here to make a lot of noise and show the frustration of both allotment holders and those who care about our local wildlife and ecosystem.”
A district council spokesperson said: “We appreciate that there is uncertainty around the continued use of the Chanctonbury Allotments but in our work with Network Rail it is clear that without the inclusion of the allotment site the regeneration of the station area is not viable. We know that is disappointing news for allotment holders which is why we have proposed a robust mitigation plan.”
The council said it will secure a new site for allotment holders if the development proceeds, adding that this is now a policy requirement in the District Plan. The council said there would be no development on the current allotments, which will remain in use, until a new allotment site is ready.
The spokesperson said: “We have already identified a potential site that will be 25 per cent larger and it will be identified in the District Plan.”
They continued: “The proposed development at Burgess Hill Station supports a long-term vision to regenerate Burgess Hill and this would create a new transport hub that is fully accessible, modern and fit for a town of over 40,000 people. It is subject to the adoption of the reviewed District Plan, and then the preparation of a detailed masterplan before going through the robust governance and scrutiny that comes with planning applications.”
The council said it would work to mitigate disruption while communicating with Burgess Hill Town Council, allotment holders and the community.
On September 18 MSDC leader Robert Eggleston sent a letter to allotment holders explaining that Network Rail need to develop on the Chanctonbury Allotments. He told the Middy in November last year that the town council had leased the site from Network Rail for over 60 years.
In the recent letter, he said he had worked with MSDC to find solutions to potential disruption, including the new larger allotment site in the Chanctonbury area. He said this would be transferred to Burgess Hill Town Council as Statutory Allotments. He also said the new allotment site is on land owned by MSDC and the developer would bear the cost of developing it into allotments for Burgess Hill Town Council.
He added: “It is highly likely that there will be no change in the status and use of the Chanctonbury Allotments for at least the next five years.”
The letter also said that ancient woodland adjacent to the allotments would be ‘fully protected’ against development, with no access from the station site, and have a ‘green buffer zone’.