Mid Sussex MP Nicholas Soames and Arundel and South Downs MP Nick Herbert have welcomed the Government’s changes to planning guidance, which they say will strengthen their campaign against the proposed Mayfield new town between Henfield and Sayers Common.
A highly significant change in the guidance says that councils will no longer have to identify specific sites for development for the last five years of their 15-year plans. The provision was widely seen as unrealistic and was forcing councils to allocate unpopular ‘strategic sites’ for development, like the proposed new Mayfield ‘market town’.
The new guidance also states that infrastructure constraints must be considered in assessing a site’s suitability for development. This addresses a key local concern in West Sussex, where there is a strong feeling that development is allowed without the necessary infrastructure, such as roads and drainage, to support it.
The developer behind the Mayfield scheme which proposes 10,000 new homes be built in the Twineham and Wineham area welcomed infrastructure being given significant weighting under the new guidance.
Company director Lee Newlyn said: “We are pleased that new guidance puts infrastructure at the heart of assessing suitable areas for development.
“Infrastructure is of course a key local concern in West Sussex and we believe that a New Market Town, with sufficient infrastructure implemented from the beginning, can go a long way in meaningfully addressing housing need.”
The new planning guidance also addresses another local concern by making clear that emerging local plans should be given weight in decision-making even before they are passed.
Mr Herbert said villages such as Hurstpierpoint and Hassocks have seen their proposed neighbourhood plans undermined when speculative developers have put in planning applications on land that the plans say will be protected.
The Arundel and South Down MP has just taken the unusual step of objecting to a proposed development in Hassocks for this reason, as it runs against the desire of the proposed neighbourhood plan.
The new guidance will ensure that emerging neighbourhood and local plans are given proper weight when such planning applications are decided.
Mr Newlyn commented: “Mayfield Market Towns supports the Local Plan process and will continue to pursue the allocation of a New Market Town through Local Plans as long as they are prepared in a reasonable timescale.”
Mr Newlyn added: “Mayfield Market Towns are in this for the long-term as we believe that a well-planned new community provides a much better opportunity to meet local housing need than adding on housing estates to existing towns and villages.”
However, the new guidance also encourages brownfield development and clarifies the ‘duty to co-operate’, under which neighbouring councils are required to consult each other on their plans.
Mid Sussex District Council recently had its proposed plan delayed by the Planning Inspectorate on the grounds that it had failed in the ‘duty to co-operate’, but the MPs state the new guidance makes clear that this is not a duty to agree.
Commenting on the new guidance Mr Soames said: “This is a step forward in the right direction.
“I am particularly pleased with the new guidance on infrastructure since several recent permissions have been granted on already unsuitable sites where the infrastructure is wholly inadequate.
“Nick Herbert and I are continuing to wholeheartedly support the District Council as they deal with these very tricky issues.”
Mr Herbert added: “These are welcome changes which show that Ministers have listened to local concerns about planning reforms.
“A focus on redeveloping brownfield sites, a more sensible approach on the ‘duty to co-operate’ between councils, and giving proper weight to emerging local plans so that they’re not undermined by speculative development should all help to achieve a better balance between providing housing and protecting the countryside.”
Mid Sussex District Council has also welcomed the new planning guidance announced by the Government last week.
Its leader Cllr Garry Wall said: “The changes are a step in the right direction.
“We are grateful to our MPs; Nick Herbert and Nicholas Soames for their continued support in taking this Council’s concerns about planning to the heart of the Government.
“Thanks to their strenuous efforts, the changes to the planning guidance are positive for Mid Sussex and will help ensure the Council is able to continue to protect the unique characteristics of our District.”