LETTER: Planning in Mid Sussex a disgrace

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In your letters page (Middy 19.11.15), Terry Reilly urged people to vote for the Burgess Hill Neighbourhood plan in the forthcoming referendum as not to pass it would leave the doors open to developers and was not linked to the Town Centre development.

He is about as wrong as you can get. What’s happened over the last few years in planning in Mid Sussex is a disgrace. There are only Tories now. They’ve threatened destruction of our way of life, connived to strip Burgess Hill of its long established and much needed community facilities and refuse to offer even the prospect of replacing – even some of them.

The first attempt at setting a plan fell at the first hurdle and was kicked out unceremoniously by the Planning Inspectorate as not being fit for purpose.

Their second attempt is already starting to look as if it is going the way of the first as a few days ago, and reported in your pages, they have had to make further concessions and increase the MINIMUM number of homes to be built, mainly in and around Burgess Hill and within the proposed constraints of existing sites by around 20 per cent, increasing the density of build from around 30 homes to 50-70 (it’s very difficult to work out what 50-70 means as the council aren’t clear themselves.)

Anyway, back to the neighbourhood plan. A vote saying ‘NO’ will not stop the District Plan. Contingency arrangements are already identified on how to carry it forward by Mid Sussex District Council.

If the neighbourhood plan wasn’t anything to do with the development in the town centre, why are Planning Officers already proposing it will be a key document in considering the Planning Application, which is likely to go to a committee for decision in January/February?

Regarding the ‘Deal’ MSDC has struck with the developers to demolish Martlets Hall. Why aren’t we allowed to know what that ‘Deal’ is, there has not been a tendering process.

Smoke and mirrors doesn’t come close to explaining what’s going on, there are many more questions to answer before any of this should come to fruition.

I should say that I was a district councillor for the best part of 20 years, and involved with planning, policy and committees, for much of the time and right up to leaving the council in May this year.

I have checked that nothing has changed regarding planning law since then. I for one would urge people in Burgess Hill to vote ‘NO’ on the 10th December. And to carry on voting ‘NO’ until these councillors actually start listening to the community they are supposed to represent.

There is an alternative which is viable and some of the money raised by the destruction of the Martlets, along with some of the other £3.7M raised by selling off our assets over the last few years, can re-provide. It would involve purchasing a small piece of land near the Orion cinema, which is surrounded by land owned by MSDC (or the community, whichever way you wish to look as it), and redeveloping an area which is in need of a little refresh.

One final piece of information, in the emerging district plan is this little nugget of a policy:

‘Equalities Assessment for the Mid Sussex District Plan 2014 -2031 Division: Planning Policy and Economic Development’

Date Assessment completed: 23rd February 2015

1. SCOPING

1.1 What are the aims of the policy, service/service change or contract?

To provide a Development Plan to shape the future of development in the District by providing the planning policy framework to:

- Shape the pattern, amount and type of future development; - Protect and enhance the assets of both the natural and built environment.

I’ll leave your readers to ponder whether the council has any notion to pay lip service to its own policies, particularly when it comes to the Martlets Hall and the valuable community asset that it is! Then they can start promoting it again and stop using mealy mouthed words to talk it down.

Graham Knight,

Meadow Lane, Burgess Hill

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