The deputy leader of Mid Sussex District Council has spoken out to reassure the public that the much-heralded and long-awaited District Plan is viable.
When adopted, the plan will be the tool the authority uses to control development, especially house building. Its delay, caused by the abolition of the South East Plan, means the council cannot demonstrate a five-year land supply. Consequently, developers are submitted their own sites, many on green fields.
In last week’s Mid Sussex Times, doubt was thrown over survival of the draft plan beyond the drawing board by Michael Brown, trustee of the Sussex branch of the Campaign to Protect Rural England.
In a letter Mr Brown said the plan was due to be examined by a Planning Inspector in November but: “That public examination has now been postponed indefinitely, whilst the Planning Inspector considers a point raised by Brighton and other coastal councils, egged on by a raft of property developers including the promoters of the mad “Mayfield Market Town” scheme, who would like to build houses here to absorb an alleged overspill of demand in between Brighton and Chichester.”
But this week the district council denied the delay was indefinite saying a planning inspector would hear evidence from Brighton and Hove, Adur, Worthing, and Lewes councils on November 12. The latter will contend that MSDC has not considered appropriately how it can help to meet their housing needs and, if proved, the council may be asked to withdraw its plan.
In his letter, Mr Brown warned that withdrawall of the plan would also throw into “disarray” the 18 neighbourhood plans now being compiled by towns and parishes. He warned that property developers had “wormed their way” into the process as evidence would also be taken from 12 property companies.
He said it would be “shocking” if the democratic planning process was thrown into chaos, even more so if based on arguments of property companies aiming to “concrete over our countryside with a 10,000 home new town”.
But this week, Cllr Gary Marsh, MSDC deputy leader and Cabinet Member for Planning, hit back saying the council had worked incredibly hard to get the District Plan ready for inspection and progress on its adoption had moved at a tremendous pace.
He said: “Our District Plan has now been submitted to Government and is going through its public Examination. The Independent Planning Inspector is leading on this process and he decides exactly how the Examination will be conducted.
“In September the Inspector called an Exploratory meeting so he could develop a greater understanding of exactly how Mid Sussex District Council and neighbouring authorities have addressed their Duty to Co-operate.
“The next stage in the timetable is the first hearing on November 12, which will check that we have met all the legal processes and requirements for producing the District Plan. After that it is likely that the main hearings will take place in January 2014. This is the normal process for Examinations under the new planning system. We look forward to continued support from the communities of Mid Sussex as we work towards getting our Plan formally adopted.”