VILLAGERS are ecstatic after defeating developers and halting new homes being built on a greenfield site.
Cuckfield residents packed into the Mid Sussex District Council North East Planning Committee meeting to hear councillors debate a revised bid for 22 homes on land off Ardingly Road.
Housing proposals for the 2.2ha site have met fierce opposition since 2010 and district councillors refused an original application for 30 houses because of its impact on the land’s long views to the South Downs. The developers appealed but lost with a planning inspector agreeing the views were “stunning”.
New plans for 22 houses met planning requirements and officers recommended approval but their recommendations were unanimously rejected by councillors. The decision was taken after 238 letters of objection and a petition signed by 320 people were received.
Cuckfield Parish Council, which is developing a Neighbourhood Plan under new Government “Localism” rules, is drawing up proposals for where it thinks new homes should go in the village, after extensive consultation of residents.
Parish council chairman Nigel Page, who also leads the 20-strong Neighbourhood Plan team, said he thought it was the first time locally and possibly nationally that views submitted by a Neighbourhood Planning team had been taken into account.
He said: “We have made considerable strides in planning for the future of the village and our emerging Neighbourhood Plan states where the residents of Cuckfield believe any development should be. The Ardingly Road site is not considered a suitable site.”
Ward councillor Katy Bourne implored the committee to “protect the vital aspects of the district, listen to residents and embrace the spirit of localism”.
Chair of the campaigning North Cuckfield Action Group Kathryn Bull said: “The development proposed was simply the wrong design and in the wrong place.”
Campaigners said the new homes were refused on grounds of impact on the character of Cuckfield and evidence submitted in its emerging Neighbourhood Plan.
Mr Page said: “We believe this is the first time a planning application in Mid Sussex has taken into account evidence submitted by a neighbourhood planning team. We are at an advanced stage with our evidence published and adopted by the parish council.
“Our evidence was a full landscape appraisal of Cuckfield which identified sites with less impact, a housing need survey which showed we were providing housing for people with a local need. Lastly we submitted a Parish Housing Land Availability Assessment which identified other sites which would provide 130 houses and were in a more suitable location than this application.”
Mr Page said the decision had given the Neighbourhood Plan team a real boost.
He said: “This decision came at a crucial time as we start to draft our plan and we are very appreciative of the planning committee taking our work into account as part of the Government’s localism agenda.
“We also believe this sends a message to other neighbourhood planning groups, of which there are 17 in Mid Sussex and countless nationally, that emerging localism does work and if you want to influence your community over the next 20 years this is the best way to achieve it.
“We hope to put the plan before an inspector very early 2013 and, if accepted, will go before a Cuckfield community to be voted on. It will then carry legal weight and be an adopted document which has to be taken into account.”
More details of the Neighbourhood Plan are available at www.cuckfieldplan.com