Housing hearing for Mid Sussex’s local plan postponed

Mid Sussex local plan examination hearings in early February
Mid Sussex local plan examination hearings in early February

A housing hearing scrutinising Mid Sussex’s local plan has been postponed a week after a planning inspector increased the district’s targets.

Jonathan Bore, who is testing the soundness of the plan, recommended an increase from 800 to 1,026 homes a year in his interim findings report released last Monday (February 20), a move which has outraged councillors, MPs, and campaign groups.

A hearing session on housing matters was scheduled for tomorrow (Friday March 3), but has been postponed by Mid Sussex District Council giving it more time to decide how to move forward.

The decision follows an exchange of terse letters between the planning inspector and the district council over the past week, with Mr Bore telling the council its plan did not need to identify every deliverable site, but should simply contain policies and the framework ‘for the housing requirement to be achieved’.

In a letter to Mr Bore, Chris Tunnell, interim head of economic promotion and planning at the district council, said: “As you know, the council has been considering your interim findings on Mid Sussex’s housing need and housing requirement.

“A number of complex issues are involved, and the outcome will have far-reaching consequences for the district.

“The council has not yet reached a concluded view on the way forward it wishes to take, and in those circumstances it would not be appropriate to begin the discussion about further work which might, on certain assumptions, be required to be undertaken.

“Consequently, we do not feel that the examination hearing currently fixed for Friday 3 March 2017 would serve a useful purpose in expeditiously progressing the plan.

“We intend to write to you again within the next few weeks, and will discuss through the Programme Officer a re-fixing of the session on housing requirement work for the not too distant future.”

This week the Mid Sussex Times has launched ‘Keep Mid Sussex Green’, backing councillors, MPs, and communities in their fight for fair and sustainable levels of development across the district.

Garry Wall, leader of Mid Sussex District Council, said he and fellow councillors had the ‘gravest worries’ about the inspector’s view that the district could accommodate 1,026 new homes every year for the next 17 years.

He added: “The council’s own work, which has been validated by senior and highly respected experts, recommends that 800 new homes could be delivered every year. The inspector is suggesting a level of housing that developers have never delivered in the entire history of Mid Sussex.”

He continued: “Local people understand the need to increase the level of housing and we believe that 800 new homes a year is a sensible and sustainable amount.

“Therefore we were shocked and hugely disappointed to read that the Inspector thinks that 1026 new homes could be built every year across our district.

“We have presented extensive evidence detailing the constraints in our District; local people are well aware of them. Our roads and railways are seriously congested and many key services are absolutely at capacity.

“In addition we enjoy a wonderful environmental heritage that we must endeavour to protect at all times. So we are very concerned and bewildered that these constraints appear not to have been properly understood by the inspector.”

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