Congratulations and respect are due to the Cuckfield Play Meadow Users Association who have succeeded in fundraising in excess of £100,000 with the aim of buying back the much used community amenity from Mid Sussex District Council (MSDC), who are intent on forcing through plans to build a large house on it.
While MSDC’s decision is awaited as to whether or not they will accept the bid, one has to ask why the plans have been forced through in the manner that they have. I attended the MSDC planning meeting when this application was agreed and both of Cuckfield’s district councillors spoke incredibly strongly and passionately against this application, I have great admiration for the stance they both took – doubtless against political pressure. As for the councillors on the committee, well it was hard to decide whether they were just blindly following the line they had been instructed to follow by their leadership, or whether they were simply apathetic.
One of the reasons given by the MSDC cabinet members involved as to why this application has to go ahead is that it contributes to housing numbers, and thus eases housing need. Well I wonder whether any MSDC cabinet member would care to clarify a few things for the benefit of the residents of Cuckfield and of Mid Sussex.
First of all HOW does building one very large house which will be bought by a wealthy family in any way contribute to the housing numbers in either Cuckfield or Mid Sussex? The clear answer is that it doesn’t, other than by one, and a vital community asset is being taken away under this ridiculous pretense. Secondly how does MSDC equate its actions on this matter with its support of the Cuckfield Plan which is now I believe going forward to referendum, and its support of the neighbourhood planning process in general?
The other assertion made by the Cabinet Member for Finance is that this has to go through because MSDC are in desperate need of the money. It’s at this point that I think the “elephant in the room” needs to be addressed.
Yes times are harder for local authorities due to the cuts imposed on them by central government, and it is a fact for those who aren’t aware that local authorities are obliged to keep a certain level of reserves, for emergencies that may occur, this is right and proper. However the state of MSDC reserves far exceeds healthy, yes some is spent on various projects but the majority sits there, doing nothing. While for the avoidance of any doubt, I’m not proposing they spend all of it, there is a significant level there which could and in my view should be spend for the benefit of the community rather than simply sit there and be added to.
Until those in positions of power at MSDC grasp the concept that the assets they hold are actually on behalf of all of us, the residents of Mid Sussex, then one has to fear for the future of the play meadow and all community amenities across the district.