East Grinstead land to be sold for affordable housing

The parcel of land earmarked for development off Blackwell Farm Road (Photo from Google Maps Street View)
The parcel of land earmarked for development off Blackwell Farm Road (Photo from Google Maps Street View)

Mid Sussex District Council has agreed to sell a patch of land in East Grinstead which will be used to build ten social housing homes.

Members of the cabinet approved the sale of the half-acre site in Blackwell Farm Road to The Guinness Partnership for £400,000 – £220,000 less than was agreed for a sale which fell through in 2016.

The council will provide Section 106 contributions to help bring forward the development.

There are 291 people on the housing register with a link to East Grinstead and no social housing has been built in the area since 2016.

While sad to see the loss of green space, members decided the sale was too good an opportunity to miss.

Andrew McNaughton (Con, Ardingly & Balcombe), cabinet member for housing and planning, said: “Central government has tried to encourage local authorities, when they own land, to release it for social housing. We’re doing just that.

“It’s a site for 100 per cent affordable units. At the end of the day, that is the driving factor for me.

“To be quite honest, we haven’t got enough social housing within the district. For us to miss this opportunity would be a shame.”

The land, next to Mount Noddy Cemetery, was among several acres bought by the Urban District Council in 1947 for housing use. While other homes were built around it between then and 1974, this patch has been left as open space for at least the last 40 years.

The council received a string of complaints after it advertised the proposed sale.

Traffic was one of the main concerns raised, with one resident stating: “We cannot cope with the volume of traffic and parking along Blackwell Farm Road as it stands due to residential, hospital and school parking but to then add further disruption and congestion just seems pointless.

“The plot of land will not give you enough housing to warrant the knock on affect this will have on the local area.”

Another said: “This piece of land is a lovely green space in a town which is fast losing it’s open spaces and is becoming over-crowded with housing.

“The road is already at breaking point at school drop-off and pick-up and can not cope with anymore housing and cars. Leave this small piece of land alone.”

Cabinet members were told that most of the objections received were classed as planning objections and would be considered when a planning application for the site was considered.

After the meeting Judy Llewellyn-Burke, deputy leader of the council, said: “There is currently a serious shortage of social housing in East Grinstead for local people in housing need. The common housing register has 291 people from East Grinstead on the waiting list and for 268 of those people their first choice preference is to remain in the town.

“Under the current planning system we are reliant on housing developers to provide affordable housing as part of their new housing schemes. However, private developers are under no obligation to build right away and the reality is there haven’t been any new affordable housing units built in East Grinstead since the St Margaret’s Convent development in 2016.

“By using this parcel of council land we can ensure that 100 per cent of the new homes that are built are used to provide much needed homes for local people who desperately need them. The sale of this land provides us with the opportunity to help 10 local families find a home of their own and make a huge difference to their lives.”