'Relief' for Cuckfield residents fighting to save play meadow as application for house deferred

Residents campaigning to save a play meadow in Cuckfield said there was a ‘sense of relief’ when an application to build a house on the land was deferred.

Despite a five-year battle from residents, Mid Sussex District Council still want to build a detached house on the land in Courtmead Road.

Residents campaigning to save the play meadow in 2016. Photo by Derek Martin

Residents campaigning to save the play meadow in 2016. Photo by Derek Martin

A new application was due to be considered by planners at a meeting on Thursday evening (December 6), but was deferred.

Flis Irving, who has spearheaded the villagers’ battle, said: “I suppose there was a sense of relief that the inevitable decision of ‘permission’ by the planning committee was moved to a later date.

“But the application being withdrawn at the eleventh hour was one of initial surprise, with perhaps a tinge of disappointment that the councillors had delayed hearing the strong objections on behalf of the community from Janet Beales, Andy Burton, Cuckfield Parish Council, and me.

“Over the past five years, Mid Sussex District Council has seemed incapable of listening to what local people want, which is to return the play meadow and its stunning views to the community. But they are still determined to put a house there.

Flis Irving and Janet Beales, who runs Next Step Nursery in Cuckfield. Photo by Derek Martin

Flis Irving and Janet Beales, who runs Next Step Nursery in Cuckfield. Photo by Derek Martin

“I have become somewhat cynical in what they view is right – and what they view is right is not for the community. But I guess this gives them more time to do what is right – and what is right is to give the meadow back to the community. All we can do is hope that they will do the right thing.”

Residents have gone to strenuous lengths to try and save the meadow over the past five years, including a High Court battle and a community bid of more than £100,000 to buy the meadow.

READ MORE: Villagers' fight to save much-loved Cuckfield play meadow continues
In December 2013, the land was padlocked to prevent any public access to it. It has remained padlocked with no public access since this date.

The district council confirmed this week that a new date for the application to be considered had not yet been set.

Next Step Nursery staff and children outside the meadow. Photo by Steve Robards

Next Step Nursery staff and children outside the meadow. Photo by Steve Robards

Councillor Andrew MacNaughton, cabinet member for housing and planning, said: “The application was withdrawn from the agenda by planning officers to allow additional information to be added to the committee report.

“Planning officers were made aware on the afternoon of the planning committee meeting of a request to West Sussex County Council that sought to amend the definitive map and record a public footpath through the site.

“The lateness of this submission did not allow the planning committee sufficient time to consider the implications of the request on this planning application.”

RELATED STORIES: Approval granted to build on Cuckfield play meadow despite opposition
‘We won’t give up’ say villagers fighting to stop council building on children’s play area
Cuckfield woman to battle council in high court in row over village green
Approval granted to build on Cuckfield play meadow despite opposition
One final push to save Cuckfield play meadow
‘Royal’ actor joins planning battle

The play meadow was padlocked in 2013. Photo by Steve Robards

The play meadow was padlocked in 2013. Photo by Steve Robards