Developers have now revealed their proposals for up to 306 homes on more than 21 hectares of woods and arable farmland on the borders of Haywards Heath and Cuckfield.
The plan for Penland Farm is being put forward by the trustees of the Borde Hill Estate and Catesby Estates.
Currently, the site is woods including ancient woodland, grassland, areas of water, hedgerows and scattered trees with Penland Farmhouse in the middle. It is classified as a “Countryside Area of Development Restraint”.
The ancient woodland - Penland Wood and Millennium Wood - and the farmhouse would be preserved within the 21.35ha site, which is bounded by Penland Road, Balcombe Road and Hanlye Lane and abuts the playing field of Harlands School.
So far the developers have established that bats, dormice, badgers and common reptile and amphibian species use the site.
In support of their plans, the developers are quoting the government’s National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), which presumes in favour of ‘sustainable development’.
They are also quoting the lack of a five year land supply for housing, due to Mid Sussex District Council’s absence of a current district plan.
On Monday and Tuesday the trustees of the land held an exhibition of their plans at Clair Hall. Nearly 400 people saw them.
The trustees say: “The Council are preparing the Mid Sussex District Plan and little weight can be given to this plan at this stage. Given the urgent need for housing the planning application will be submitted in advance of any significant progress on the Haywards Heath Neighbourhood Plan.”
The proposals will be submitted in September after any adjustments following feedback from the public exhibition.
The trustees say: “The benefits of new housing at Penland Farm will outweigh any potential impact. This will be demonstrated in the application documents including an Environmental Impact Assessment that will be submitted in support of the planning application.”
The plans, including up to 92 “affordable” homes, show access to the housing estate as via a new roundabout off Balcombe Road.
Mark Sitch, planning partner of designers Barton Willmore, denied the accusation that has been levelled at developers of cynicism in trying to build homes during the period when Mid Sussex has no district plan and on land that is not earmarked under the “localism” initiative.
He said: “There is an identified need for new housing - a range of new housing; we are responding to that identified need. It is a combination of brownfield and greenfield sites that have come forward so far.
The more straightforward brownfield have been developed, the less straightforward have not been, for obvious reasons. There is a need and that need is so great that we need to develop on greenfield sites as well and you are not going to fulfil that need for housing by realising brownfield sites alone.”
Penland Road resident Deborah Hovell said the plan was “absolutely appalling” and the town and Balcombe Road could not cope with so much additional housing.