Birchen Fields housing plan unanimously refused

Birchen Lane
Birchen Lane

An application to build 40 homes which received nearly 400 objections, was unanimously rejected by the district council today (October 29), against officer’s advice.

Residents packed out the public gallery and over-spilled into a separate room to hear the decision on the application for land north of Birchen Lane - the third application for this site.

Mid Sussex District Council Planning Committee refused this application on the same three grounds used to refuse the previous application; the impact on the setting of Sunte House, a Grade II* Listed Building, the substantial harm to the significance of the medieval assart landscape which includes the adjacent Hollow Way and comprises a non-designated heritage asset, which conflicts with the Haywards Heath Neighbourhood Plan and the Lindfield Neighbourhood Plan, and failure to meet Policies G3, R4 and H4 of the Mid Sussex Local Plan in respect of the infrastructure and affordable housing required to serve the development.

The council’s documents state there have been 385 official letters of objection.

The council’s documents state there have been 385 official letters of objection.

Haywards Heath Town Councillor Jonathan Ash-Edwards was one of six speakers at the meeting - five spoke in objection.

He noted the plan to ‘offset’ the loss of the important countryside features by increasing local knowledge and understanding of the features which have been lost.

He said he read this to mean that some sort of boards would be put up to show what had been concreted over.

“The committee is being asked to accept the disruption of those features but that’s justified by telling everyone about them.

“We are in danger of getting ourselves in a dangerous precedent - that we allow harm and put up signs to say ‘this is what we’ve lost’.”

The previous two applications Crest Nicholson made for this site sought to build 48 homes. One is due to go to appeal next February.

This application has removed access via Birchen Lane, accept for rare emergency vehicle access, and the field to the south of the site will no longer be developed.

Mr Ash-Edwards pointed out the Secretary of State has called in the appeal in February, which was a ‘rare’ and suggested the site was of great importance.

“This should give us a warning of the interest of what’s happening here.”

He added that the Hayward Heath Neighbourhood Plan is due to go to consultation in November and the Lindfield Neighbourhood plan had completed its examinations and neither have included this site for development.

Councillor Bob Mainstone pointed out he was not on the committee which refused the previous application but could see from his visit to the site that ‘it would be a great shame if this landscape was destroyed’.

Councillor Margaret Hersey said she had ‘great concerns’ over the plans and listed her three main concerns; destroying the rural character of the landscape, lack of infrastructure and a history of flooding at the site.

She moved the council refuse on the same three grounds as previously and councillors unanimously agreed.