Medieval woodland ‘threatened’ by Haywards Heath homes plan

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An expert archeologist has said medieval woodland in Haywards Heath should be protected – after 48 homes were earmarked for the site.

A controversial planning application for a new housing development on Birchen Fields on the edge of the town has been submitted to Mid Sussex District Council .

Dozens of residents have objected to the new development, which they argue will ‘eat into the countryside’ and place an ‘unacceptable burden’ on the town.

Mark Taylor, principal archaeologist for West Sussex County Council has also spoken out against the plan – saying the proposals will ‘adversely affect a remnant of medieval assart landscape’.

Mr Taylor said the land, which stretches between the railway built in the 1840s, to the north by the golf course and to the east by 20th century expansion of Haywards Heath is ‘all that remains of the of the once open farmland setting of the listed Sunte

House and Wickham Farm’.

The archaeologist added that the western edge of the application site – bounded by a public right of way which is a sunken track or ‘hollow way’ – was likely to have occurred at the same time as the medieval assart landscape.

“Once the open assart fields are developed and the shaws or wooded hedge divided by the necessary north-south communicating road the historic character will be lost and cannot be re-instated. I therefore recommend an objection to the proposal,” he said.

Mr Taylor also cites the emerging Mid Sussex District Council Local Plan, which aims to prioritise the protection of valued landscapes for their ‘visual, historical and biodiversity qualities’.

The site also borders a grade II listed building, Sunte House which is a ‘designated heritage asset’.

English Heritage – the principal conservation consultant – is still yet to comment on the application but conservation officer for Mid Sussex District Council Angela Haywood said the devlopment will not result in ‘substantial harm to the significance of the designated heritage asset’.

The proposals, put forward by Crest Nicholson Operations Ltd, include 48 new homes and affordable homes, garages, landscaping and new access roads.