The leader of Mid Sussex District Council Garry Wall believes the planning committee’s unanimous rejection of the Penland farm application ‘reflected strength of local opinion’.
Garry Wall told the Middy: “It was good to see so many residents and Ward Councillors attending the planning meeting yesterday, to express their concerns and make sure their opinions counted.”
The council’s planning officers’ had recommended the 210-home application submitted by Catesby Estates and the trustees of the neighbouring Grade 11* Listed Borde Hill estate for approval.
However, Mr Wall said members made a ‘universally welcomed’ decision going against the advice of their own officers.
“The Committee meeting, which is held in public, ensures the process is open and transparent,” said Mr Wall.
“Members of the committee listened to the views of local councillors and residents, and after a robust debate which lasted for over two hours, the committee reached a unanimous decision to refuse the application at Penland Farm.
“It was clear from the reaction of local residents that this decision was universally welcomed by local people.”
Cllr Jonathan Ash-Edwards, councillor for Heath Ward, added: “The unanimous vote of the planning committee was a recognition of the significant negative impact that development in this location would have on the town and the opposition of hundreds of residents, The Town Council and three neighbouring Parish Councils.
“I congratulate the Penland Farm Action Group on the work they have done to help bring about this decision.
“Penland Farm has been ruled unsuitable for development by Planning Inspectors twice in the last decade and the housing targets in the District & Neighbourhood Plans can be met without this site being developed.
“Very significant harm would have been caused to the sensitive landscape in this part of town, the strategic gap with Cuckfield would have been narrowed and more pressure placed on struggling infrastructure.
“The draft Haywards Heath Neighbourhood Plan, which seeks to prioritise brownfield land for new homes, would have been fatally undermined by this site receiving planning permission.
“This vote was not about whether there should be more houses in Haywards Heath - there will be.
“It’s about how many, where they go and, ultimately, whether that decision should be made by local communities and their elected Councillors or by developers and landowners making speculative applications.
“A message has now been sent that Councillors will not rubber stamp inappropriate development.”
Catesby Estates is yet to confirm if the decision will be appealed, putting the ultimate power to determine the application in the hands of a Government planning inspector.
In the meantime, yesterday’s rejection of the plans has been welcomed by Haywards Heath Town Council which is promoting development on brownfield sites through its Neighbourhood Plan.
Mayor Sandy Ellis told the Middy: “I am so very happy and grateful to the residents of Haywards Heath and the Penland Farm Action Group for all their hard work campaigning against this planning application.
“I would like to thank the Mid Sussex district councillors who have come to this decision, in their objections to this planning application.
“Haywards Heath Town Council’s draft Neighbourhood Plan supports the development of brownfield sites and if this application were to have been taken forward, this would have gone against everything we have strived to achieve in our Neighbourhood Plan.
“The infrastructure is already overburdened and this would have added unwelcome additional traffic and all the problems associated with this.
“Our town benefits from a rural setting and a large monster of a roundabout that was planned as part of this proposal is not in keeping with the character of Haywards Heath.
“The effect on our countryside and on an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty would have been devastating and future generations would have been deprived of a valuable asset.
“This was basically an unsustainable development, putting strain on our schools and medical services.
“You have to draw a line and today’s decision has done just that by listening to the people of Haywards Heath and acting accordingly.”
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