Schemes make “a mockery” of localism bill

Mid Sussex District Council planning Committee meeting
Mid Sussex District Council planning Committee meeting

An outline plan for 157 homes on land at Little Park Farm and Highfield Drive, Hurstpierpoint was lambasted as another “cynical” example of developers trying to push through unpopular housing schemes in open countryside before Neighbourhood Plans are ratified and before the district council can demonstrate a five year land supply.

Councillor Peter Martin told the District Planning Committee last Thursday: “Someone is going along with a dustpan and brush, sweeping up little bits and pieces of land because we haven’t got our district plan through.

Councillor Peter Martin

Councillor Peter Martin

“Without a district plan you cannot demonstrate a five year land supply and you are at the mercy of developers.”

Referring to the planning vacuum rapidly being filled by speculative proposals, Hurstpierpoint resident Julie Bonnie said the application made “a mockery of the localism bill and all that it stands for.”

Due to the sensitive rural nature of the planning sites, councillors rejected the outline plan for 140 homes at Little Park Farm and a further 17 on land at Highfield Drive, even though Hurstpierpoint and Sayers Common Parish Council, which must find up to 255 homes over the next 20 years, had approved the outline scheme with conditions attached.

District councillors expressed anger and surprise when they heard that a narrow section of ancient woodland had been destroyed, mysteriously, on the spot where an access bridge was proposed onto the housing land.

Describing the destruction as “a violation”, councillor Graham Knight urged officers to prosecute those responsible.

The scheme, by Rydon Homes Ltd would have provided more than 40 low cost homes and planning gains would have included contributions towards a traffic calming scheme in the High Street. Councillor Martin laughed at the idea, saying cars were so “calm” they were at “a standstill”.

At the same meeting, councillors approved a controversial scheme for 81 homes off 31, College Lane. The Hurstpierpoint site is outside the village envelope in the strategic gap between Hurstpierpoint and Hassocks.

Councillors felt their hands were tied because the South East Plan was not revoked by the Secretary of State for Local Government, Eric Pickles, until February this year. As a result, the district plan has been delayed. Until it is ratified, the council cannot demonstrate a five year housing land supply.

Councillor Stephen Barnett said: “Because Eric Pickles sat on his hands we have no plan.”