Third housing plan for Birchen fields recommended for approval

Birchen Lane
Birchen Lane

An application for 40 homes which has received nearly 400 objections, has been recommended for approval on Thursday (October 29).

The application for the homes on land north of Birchen Lane has received 385 Representations including representations from several campaign groups and Rt Hon Nicholas Soames MP.

The new application is the third for this site. The previous two applications sought to build 48 homes. One is still due to go to appeal next year.

This recent application has a reduced number of houses to 40, it has removed access via Birchen Lane, and the field to the south of the site will no longer be developed.

Most of the objections are due to concerns for nearby Grade II-listed Sunte House, loss the areas heritage and flood risk.

Developer Crest Nicholson undertook ‘technical investigations’ which found there is a ‘low risk of potential flooding from the development’.

The council’s planning officer has stated in its agenda documents for the meeting next Thursday that the plan ‘is recognised as having less than substantial harm on the designated heritage asset of Sunte House’.

The report states: “The impact is significantly lessened in comparison to the appeal scheme and it is recognised that planning conditions can be used to further mitigate any harm. No objections are raised to the scheme by Historic England.

“The loss of the two northern land parcels will result in harm to the historic landscape character; however the retention of the southern field and preservation of the adjacent Hollow Way ensures that the relationship of the medieval landscape with Sunte House to the south can still be understood. The loss of a 6m section of ‘important hedgerow’ will not have a significant adverse impact on the historic asset overall, planning conditions can be used to mitigate impacts and in accordance with Para 141 of the NPPF further archaeological work can record and further enhance understanding of the landscape prior to the loss. No objections are raised to the scheme by the Councils Archaeological Advisor.”

Some of the reasons for objections included: Impact on heritage assets, relative unimportance of housing need, revised proposals do not overcome previous reasons for refusal, contrary to Local Plan countryside policies, destroy rural character of landscape, medieval assart fields and habitats and wildlife, noise and light pollution, felling of trees, removal of ancient hedgerows impacting on wildlife, parking provision of 122 spaces is an under estimation, designated as a Green Corridor in Neighbourhood Plan, contrary to Lindfield Neighbourhood Plan, fields are a designated floodplain, dangerous junction with Portsmouth Lane and speeding traffic, infrastructure in town cannot cope, Gatesmead unsuitable for access sue to narrow windy nature, abuts an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, destruction of Ancient Woodland, southern field should be protected by condition or covenant to ensure it remain undeveloped grassland.

The site:

The site is within the countryside area of development restraint (CADR) as defined in the Mid Sussex Local Plan (MSLP). The High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty is approximately 0.7km to the west and 0.9km to the north. The majority of Birchen Lane, Portsmouth Lane, part of Brook Lane and Roundwood Lane to the north comprises an Area of Townscape Character.

The application site comprises some 10.2ha of land. To the north is Birchen Wood, part of which is designated as Ancient Woodland.

History:

An application for 48 homes on the site was submitted in January 2014 but this had to be withdrawn. The plan was resubmitted in December 2014 and refused in March 2015 due to its detrimental impact on the setting of Sunte House, substantial harm to the significance of the medieval assart landscape and comprises a non designated heritage asset.

This application is now the subject of appeal which will be determined by a public inquiry to be held week commencing 16th February 2016.