Lindfield residents have spoken of their relief after plans for 200 new homes were rejected by the district council.
More than 300 people wrote in to object to Wates Developments’ proposals for land south of Scamps Hill, which is not in the agreed Lindfield and Lindfield Rural Neighbourhood Plan.
Mid Sussex District Council officers explained that a recent High Court judgement meant neighbourhood plans carried reduced weight without an up to date district-wide plan.
But members of the council’s district planning committee rejected the scheme yesterday (Thursday April 7).
Afterwards Gil Kennedy, chairman of the Lindfield Preservation Society, said: “I think residents will be vastly relieved. Finally we won one.”
He fully expected Wates to appeal but thought the council would have strong grounds to fight it backed by government guidance and case law.
He added: “I am very pleased with the result. Lindfield has already absorbed three major housing developments that are in the process of swelling our population by about 20 per cent, with 600 additional cars spilling on to our roads. The infrastructure is already creaking and some time this had to be stopped.”
A spokesperson for Wates Developments said: “We are naturally very disappointed that the application for approximately 200 critically needed, private and affordable homes at Scamps Hill in Lindfield, has been refused by the Mid Sussex District Council.
“We remain very positive about the merits of the development and the plans for recreation space, a primary school and a 9.4 hectare Country Park which will remain in public use for perpetuity. We will now consider what further course of action we may take.
“We have great experience of delivering well considered projects in Lindfield and continue to believe our development proposals will considerably help Mid Sussex District Council towards meeting its housing need.
“Over the past ten years we have delivered just under 1000 new homes, of which 30% have been for affordable homes.
“The schemes that we work on are crucial to providing much needed homes to existing and future generations and ensure that communities are developed in the right way with the right infrastructure and facilities in place.”
During the meeting Mr Kennedy argued that approving Wates’ application would be a ‘violation’ of the neighbourhood plan and would lead to the ‘destruction’ of the area’s landscape.
He said: “It’s not just about Lindfield, this would drive a coach and horses through all neighbourhood plans. No community will be safe, it would make a nonsense of neighbourhood plans throughout Mid Sussex.”
John Jesson, another member of the society, asked: “Are you going to throw out Lindfield’s new neighbourhood plan the first time it has been put to the test?”
The outline application included 30 per cent affordable housing, a one form entry primary school and a 9.5 hectare country park.
Martin Leach, managing director at Wates, said they were keen to play their part towards solving the UK’s housing crisis, and argued that they had ‘taken great care to design a high quality development’.
The site is to the east of the already approved and under construction Heathwood Park development of 235 homes.
Local member Andrew Lea (Con, Lindfield) argued that the temporary, one-off and mitigatory benefits did not outweigh the cumulative adverse impacts including extra traffic, loss of countryside, coalescence between Lindfield and Walstead, and the inappropriate scale of the development.
Fellow local ward member Margaret Hersey (Con, Lindfield) called the promise of green space ‘laughable’ and an ‘empty promise’, thought that traffic congestion into Lindfield and Haywards Heath would increase, and felt the character and identity of Walstead would be lost.
Phillip Coote (Con, Crawley Down and Turners Hill) added: “How anybody can want to put a country park in the middle of the countryside is beyond me. If it was not serious it would be laughable.”
He continued: “How anyone can say 200 extra houses is not going to have a demonstrable effect on traffic, well they must be living on Mars or any other planet. They can’t be living in West Sussex.”
Christopher Hersey (Con, High Weald) added: “What in effect we are doing is creating an urban environment in a rural setting which is really the wrong way round.”
But Edward Matthews (Con, Copthorne and Worth) said: “You can’t go against the enormous drive from the Government to provide homes. There is a desperate shortage of homes and if this goes to appeal I think the inspector will take that into consideration.”
After nearly a two-hour debate Mrs Hersey proposed they reject the application and this proposal was accepted by the majority of the committee.
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