Plan to build offices in Hickstead would ‘scar’ farmland, says resident

Pets Corner plans new HQ, Jobs Lane, Hickstead. Pic Steve Robards SR1516520 SUS-150715-094655001
Pets Corner plans new HQ, Jobs Lane, Hickstead. Pic Steve Robards SR1516520 SUS-150715-094655001

A plan by a firm to build its new headquarters on fields in Hickstead has been described as a ‘scarring’ of farmland.

The Middy reported last week that major employer Pets Corner may leave Sussex if its planning application fails for a new distribution centre and business park on Northlands Farm.

Barry Livett, of Jobs Lane, Hickstead, is a member of the group developing Twineham’s local parish plan. He said the site in question is home to a range of wildlife, as well as a natural filter zone for pollution created on the A23 and a natural flood-relief zone.

“My understanding is that when the plot was originally sold, it was on the strict pre-condition that the land was to be used for the replacement Haywards Heath cattle market, and if not, it was to remain in agricultural use.

He added: “It was not to be re-designated for other uses that could add to the creeping urbanisation scarring the local farmland and surrounding woodlands.

“Allowing this plot to be developed will pave the way for the remaining land between there and Burgess Hill, as well as other surrounding plots, to become ripe for unfettered redevelopment.”

Dean Richmond, managing director of Pets Corner, said if the firm cannot move to that plot it will, most probably, have to move out of Sussex into the M4 corridor.

He said: “Having to leave our Sussex base would be an awful wrench for everyone at Pets Corner, not least our many staff who live locally.”

Mr Livett added that this did not seem likely as a similar large scale distribution centre will already be located near the Triangle at the eastern end of the A2300 under planning consent granted as a part of the Northern Arc development.

He added: “Should additional space be required, there remain other brownfield sites located locally which could be redeveloped to fulfil the narrow criteria the companies have used in their search for alternative locations.

“Given the companies sought to portray themselves in the article as local, community-oriented organisations, I should have thought seeking socially acceptable premises would have been high amongst their site selection priorities rather than mere convenience and the possible cheaper option of developing greenfield areas.

“I should like to commend the actions so far of the planning team at Mid Sussex District Council for upholding the long standing popular policy of protecting the beauty and character of our local Sussex countryside, and for resisting the relentless pressure of the property developers from the likes of Mayfield and others who repeatedly submit plans in the hope that such attrition will wear down local opposition - be assured, it will not.

“It should also be remembered that the MSDC is funded by the many local households who pay council taxes, not just by business rates.”

Mr Richmond said last week: “If the planning application goes through we will build a new headquarters that would represent one of the most outstanding examples of sustainable and eco-friendly construction and become a home to over 100 existing and newly-recruited staff.”