Mid Sussex’s local plan has been found sound by a planning inspector bringing to an end the council’s more than half a decade struggle to adopt a district-wide planning framework.
However the news has been met with dismay in Hassocks as the decision confirms the allocation of 500 homes north of the Clayton Mills development off Ockley Lane.
Mid Sussex District Council’s plan sets out housing and employment sites up to 2031, including a district-wide housing target of 876 homes a year to 2023/24 and then 1,076 dwellings per annum for the rest of the period subject to environmental assessments.
Planning inspector Jonathan Bore has held a series of public examination hearings to look at the soundness of the plan, and over the last year has requested a number of changes.
The last hearing in early February looked at the Hassocks housing allocation, which has attracted vocal opposition in the village since it was proposed in September 2017.
In his final report Mr Bore concluded: “The strategic allocations are well chosen, relate well to the settlement hierarchy and represent a sustainable approach to the allocation of major growth at the strategic level.”
A district council spokesman said: “The council received the Inspector’s final report on Monday 12th March and it is published as required on the council’s website.
“The full council will be asked to consider adopting the plan at its next meeting on the 28th March 2018. At that meeting the council will need to carefully consider the inspector’s report.”
Hassocks and Hurstpierpoint Labour Party described its ‘dismay’ at the decision to approve the inclusion of the land north of Clayton Mills site in the local plan.
Will Matthews, chair of Hassocks and Hurst Labour Party, said “These proposals were completely at odds with the views of local people, as expressed in the neighbourhood plan. So much for localism, as yet again as the Tories say one thing but do another.
“Trust in this Tory council administration is already in short supply, and with this latest decision Hassocks residents will remember not to put their faith Tory councillors again when the local elections come in 2019.”
Conservative MP for Arundel and South Downs Nick Herbert, who represents Hassocks, added: “I am extremely disappointed by the inspector’s decision in relation to Hassocks. It cannot be right that a development that a few months ago was unnecessary for Mid Sussex District Council’s plan is now held to be an essential part of it.
“I strongly objected to this proposal on behalf of the local community, and we secured a further hearing on it, but regrettably our concerns were dismissed.
“It was unfortunate that Hassocks did not have a neighbourhood plan, which is how decisions on development in the village should be made, involving the local community. Everyone accepts the need for more housing, but this is not the way to provide it.”
In a Facebook post The Save Hassocks campaign group said: “It’s not the news we hoped for.
“Clearly there is a housing crisis in Britain, and quite rightly young people want places to live - now and in the future. That doesn’t make the plans for Hassocks good or right, but a decision has been reached that the district plan as proposed by MSDC is sound and lawful.
“It has been remarkable to see the amount of effort put in by the people of Hassocks to protect their village. To have the number of representations sent in to the consultation was quite incredible, and the sight of the number of people attending the meetings in October and February was very uplifting.
“There is still much to be done - we can have an impact on planning decisions, we can ensure safety in Ockley Lane and more widely on the road network, we can ensure there is no unsafe crossing over the railway, and we can work to minimise join-up between Hassocks and Burgess Hill. Together we can maintain a village identity in Hassocks.
“Save Hassocks will be considering whether there are any grounds for looking at a challenge to the decision taken by the inspector, and of course if that looks unlikely to succeed, we can all hold the planning committee closely to account over the finer planning details. A bit of time is needed to digest and plan.
“We really are sorry not to be able to provide happier news for Hassocks at this point.”
Ian Tovey, campaign manager for Protect Ham Fields, said: “It now seems the government have a greater desire for housing than for the protection of our countryside and more importantly our health.”
But he added: “Hopefully this means the Hassocks Neighbourhood Plan is also sound and can be used to protect the other areas of green land around Hassocks of further development. This should include the land at Ham Fields, where another 130 houses are being applied for.”
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