Veteran Edward VIII actor Edward Fox has joined Cuckfield’s battle royal to save its community Play Meadow.
Mr Fox, whose most famous roles include Edward VIII in Edward and Mrs Simpson, stepped into the spotlight with a heart-felt letter to campaign champion Flis Irving.
In it he said of the hard-fought over site: “It certainly should not be another damn ugly, common, rich man’s house.”
Mrs Irving, who lives next to the Play Meadow, wrote to the actor appealing after owner Mid Sussex District Council agreed to sell the much-treasured parcel of land for development.
The newly-formed Play Meadow Users Association has now raised more than £100,000 to try and out-bid a developer of the prime location plot, which sits between Courtmead Road and village centre.
Mrs Irving said Edward Fox, who grew up in Cuckfield alongside brother and fellow thespian James Fox, wrote back expressing support for the community effort.
The 77-year-old who starred in films including ‘Day of the Jackal’, ‘Never Say Never Again’ and ‘Gandhi’, said he had known Cuckfield closely for 75 years and remembered the Play Meadow. He recognised its value as a community asset where children could play and refer to nature.
Mrs Irving described the house now being proposed for the site as a “massive monstrosity” on four levels, with amended plans having made no difference.
She said: “The council’s own conservation officer is saying it is still a blot on the landscape.”
The district council sanctioned sale of the land and then applied to itself for outline planning permission for a detached five bedroomed house.
People have until July 4 to comment on the amended plans while the Play Meadow Users Association intends to bid for the land on behalf of the community later this month.
In a report to the council’s planning committee its own conservation officer Angela Haywood says: “The amended proposal does not address the concerns outlined in the preceding consultation (dated 22 April 2014) and the level of development remains inappropriately intensive.”
Previously she had said the proposal was for an “overwhelming” new dwelling of four stories projecting well beyond both the front and rear building lines. She said “a bulky, dominant form of development entirely alien to the streetscape of Courtmead Road is thus proposed.”
She added that the house would harm the distinctive qualities of Courtmead Road and the significance of the designated heritage asset as a whole.
But a council report is recommending it for approval saying: “Whilst it is accepted that the dwelling is substantial in size, it is not considered that its scale will result in substantial harm to the character of the area.
“Some harm may arise from this proposal as a result of the loss of panoramic views out of and across the site to the south. However the views into/across the site are only one component of the Conservation Area as a whole.
“It is considered that the limited harm generated by this proposal is not sufficient to outweigh the benefits of the proposal. For these reasons, taking into account the advice set out within the NPPF it is felt that this application can be supported.”