‘Infuriated’ Hassocks residents have criticised a Government decision to allow 97 homes on appeal.
Gleeson Developments’ application for Ham Fields off London Road, Hassocks, was refused by Mid Sussex District Council in 2014.
The developer’s appeal was dismissed by a planning inspector but this decision was quashed in the High Court.
The appeal has been redetermined by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, who granted planning permission for the new homes last week.
Both Hassocks Parish Council and South Downs MP Nick Herbert have criticised the decision, while residents took to social media to vent their anger.
One wrote on Facebook: “This is so sad. Frustrating and disappointing and infuriating on so many levels. It’s such an insult to the neighbourhood planning process.”
The decision letter ‘accepts that a decision that is seen not to accord with the emerging HNP could lead to an erosion of local confidence in neighbourhood planning’.
The site is designated as green space and part of the countryside gap in the neighbourhood plan.
Ian Weir, chairman of the parish council, said: “We feel very badly let down by this decision which makes a mockery of the efforts of our community to take charge of its own destiny.
“We have been exhorted by the Government and by Mid Sussex District Council to prepare a plan which represents the wishes and needs of Hassocks and we have kept our side of the bargain. Neither the Government nor Mid Sussex have kept theirs.”
Mr Herbert, who represents Hassocks and Hurstpierpoint, added: “I am dismayed by the Government’s decision, which actually admits that it will erode local confidence in neighbourhood planning, and I simply cannot reconcile it with what I was told in December when ministers agreed to give more protection to neighbourhood plans.”
He argued the Government was ‘undermining’ the policy of neighbourhood planning and told ministers they could not encourage volunteers to invest time and money in plans only to see them ‘torn up in front of their eyes’.
Last month a Government appointed planning inspector increased the district council’s housing target from 800 to 1,026 homes a year.
In response the Mid Sussex Times launched ‘Keep Mid Sussex Green’ backing the fight for fair and sustainable levels of development.
Both Labour and the Lib Dems have criticised the district council’s Tory-administration for its handling of the local plan.
Roger Cartwright, Lib Dem county council candidate for Burgess Hill East, labelled the situation a ‘fiasco’ and suggested that the strategic gaps both north and south of the town could be eroded.
Meanwhile Greg Mountain, chair of Haywards Heath Labour Party, pointed the blame at the Tories for ‘failing to protect local people from unrestrained housing development’.
He added: “Mid Sussex Labour Party is committed to representing local people. Key to that at present is protecting us all from developers ignoring local views and building housing wherever they want. Our stance is clear over the last ten years.
“We have sought to make the district council meet its statutory duty as a planning authority to set a housing land supply figure and obtain an approved district plan.”
Earlier this month Garry Wall, Tory leader of the district council, said: “The Conservative administration has worked with local communities; to support neighbourhood planning and ensure growth is sustainable and supported by the correct level of investment in infrastructure.
“Now is not the time for knee-jerk reactions. Now is the time for leadership.
“These are interim findings and I will to continue to represent the best interests of residents, adopting the correct level of housing, to meet the needs of Mid Sussex remains our goal.”
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