Haywards Heath councillors vote unanimously against Penland Farm and Birchen Fields housing proposals

Haywards Heath Town Council planning meeting at Clair Hall
Haywards Heath Town Council planning meeting at Clair Hall

Developers were given a clear and unequivocal message last night (Wednesday) when Haywards Heath town councillors voted unanimously against two proposals for a total of 258 new homes.

Nearly 300 people filled Clair Hall to hear the town council’s planning committee debate the controversial applications which would see houses build on what are now acres of green fields on the northern edges of the town.

Clair Hall, Haywards Heath - town council planning meeting

Clair Hall, Haywards Heath - town council planning meeting

The first was a revision of the plan by Catesby Estates and the trustees of Borde Hill Estate to build 235 homes at Penland Farm, a bid they have now curbed to 210 homes.

Their proposals would include a new roundabout, described as the biggest in Haywards Heath, which people said they feared could lead to building on Sugworth Farm as well at a later date.

The second was by Crest Nicholson for 48 homes on what is known locally as Birchen Fields, off Portsmouth Road on the edge of Lindfield.

In both cases members of the Save Penland Farm and Save Birchen Fields action groups, as well as the Haywards Heath Society, condemned the applications as totally inappropriate and unsustainable.

Members of the planning committee also concurred as did other councillors who were allowed to speak on behalf of their constituents. The members voted unanimously against both applications.

Isobel Holloway for Save Penland Farm said: “This is a line in the sand moment, a line that cannot and must not be crossed. If it is crossed it will set the most dangerous precedent for Haywards Heath and the whole of Mid Sussex.”

Zoologist Dr Fiona Tyson warned of the destruction of habitat for birds, reptiles and bats if building was allowed on Birchen Fields while others warned of more flooding downstream in Lindfield in areas which were currently under water because of inadequate drainage.

Several speakers call the developers “opportunistic” in trying to take advantage of the planning void that exists while the Haywards Heath neighbourhood plan is still being debated.

County and town councillor Sujan Wickremaratchi summed up the feelings of many when he spoke about Birchen Fields.

He said: “I will say again, as a resident of 35 years, we will object to our green fields being built upon by opportunistic developers for their own gain having no regard for our wildlife, our residents, our town.”

What do you think about plans to build on Birchen Fields and Penland Farm?

Comment here to register your views and see today’s (Thursday) Mid Sussex Times and next week’s paper for more on these issues.