Mid Sussex District Council has been accused of being panicked into drawing up ‘madcap ideas’ as part of its District Plan.
The accusation has been made by the Sussex branch of the Campaign to Protect Rural England which says there is a serious gulf between the council’s housing target and its ability to deliver it.
CPRE spokesman Michael Brown said that just 18 months ago the council’s target was to build 530 houses a year, which had since gone up by more than 50 per cent to 800.
He added:“Mid Sussex, as a rural district with substantial environmental and infrastructure constraints, simply does not have the capacity sustainably to absorb the level of housing that the district council is proposing.”
A number of new sites have been put forward including schemes for homes in Hassocks, Lindfield and East Grinstead, as well as a site for 600 new houses at Pease Pottage, where there are also plans for a new hospice.
“CPRE Sussex is concerned that MSDC has been panicked into this last minute proposal at Pease Pottage,” says Mr Brown. “The site is within the High Weald AONB, ignores the wishes of the local Slaugham Parish as expressed in their draft Neighbourhood Plan and makes a mockery of the restrained rural development policies that MSDC intends to include in its own plan.”
Mid Sussex Council leader Garry Wall said: “We have been following the outcomes of Local Plan Examinations in other areas carefully in recent months and the requirement to support neighbouring authorities with any unmet housing need has been strongly enforced. It is also clear that Inspectors are pushing councils hard to deliver an increased level of housing to meet the national shortage.
“We cannot ignore what is happening in other areas. We must take a responsible approach and make the changes necessary in order to give the Plan the best possible chance of success at examination; these include increasing the number of homes provided by the plan to 800 per year.
“We have a clear plan in place that shows how these homes will be delivered. It includes a strategic development site at Pease Pottage and a new Housing Density Policy that will make best use of the land currently allocated and will reduce the need to use further greenfield sites.
“Throughout the preparation of the District Plan we have used professional advice and based our decisions on clear evidence. Without these modifications we risk years of ‘planning by appeal’, allowing private developers to dictate how much housing there should be in Mid Sussex and where it should go.”