Almost 100 Haywards Heath residents gathered in Fox Hill on Saturday (February 25) to protest against three major developments proposed for the town.
Despite the cold blustery weather, families wrapped up warm and held up banners and posters on the ‘ordered walk’, which set off at 10am at The Fox and Hounds pub.
The proposed developments are 151 new homes in Gamblemead, 320 new homes in Rookery Farm, in Rocky Lane and up to 400 new homes in Hurstwood Lane – which are all yet to be considered by Mid Sussex District Council.
Objections to the developments include: the danger of roads and increase in traffic, the lack of infrastructure in the town, an unrealistic transport plan, the ancient woodlands and wildlife and outlook for residents who moved to the town for a semi-rural lifestyle.
Stephanie Went, 54, who organised the event moved to Fox Hill three years ago for the semi-rural lifestyle and has lived in Haywards Heath for 18 years.
She said: “I am so pleased about the number of residents who came along. Let’s hope it’s a catalyst for a real turning point for our green belt, ancient woodland and communities as a whole.”
Adrian Warwick, 80, has lived in Fox Hill for 42 years and has been involved in the campaigning from the very start. He said he was ‘amazed’ by the number of residents who had become involved.
He said: “It was bigger numbers than we had hoped for and was all down to Stephanie.
“Today it sometimes feels that this spirit lives on as so many are obliged to fight again to protect their hard earned family homes, lifestyles and outlooks from outsiders.
“Our town signs say that Haywards Heath is the heart of Mid Sussex. I have always loved living in this part of the country but the reality today is that this area of Haywards Heath is having its heart torn out whilst breaking the hearts of a captive and ageing community in the process.”
Suzy Sambell, 43, a secondary school teacher who lives off Rookery Way in Fox Hill, came along to the protest and highlighted the ‘already overburdened’ infrastructure of the town.
She said: “The pressure on school places, on doctors spaces and dentist appointments are virtually impossible to come by.
“And with the additional increase in so many families living around this end of the town – that pressure will worsen. Not to mention the volume of traffic and the lack of through roads.”
Matthew Chapman, 48, of Fox Hill Village, said there was ‘no other way to make the town’s voice heard’.
He said: “The whole burden of truth that’s been shifted in favour of the developers and the odds are just so stacked against us to make any sort of protest.
“We are trying to protect the countryside and wildlife - which will be gone if this field goes. It is a sad story and we don’t feel like we have much power.”
Claire Johnson, 46, of Rookery Way protested with her two daughters on the walk, Keira, 12 and Tayler, 14.
She said: “Sadly we have watched the destruction of the ancient woodlands and what they plan to build on Rookery Farm is only going to destroy Haywards Heath.
“It is going to increase the pollution and is not going to be a safe environment for children to walk along the street. The infrastructure is going to be affected substantially and the council will be paying for it for many, many years to come and the only winners will be the builders. So we feel that we need to fight to try and save it.”
Paul Barber, 54, of Fox Hill Village echoed the concerns over infrastructure and said the new homes would ‘not be be bought by local people’, which would ‘bring more people to the area’.
Jenny Bailey, 56, who has lived in Fox Hill for most of her life, became emotional after the walk. After bursting into tears she said the developments would ‘destroy and kill the habitat’.
In the past week MPs, councillors, and communities have united in opposition to new housing targets imposed on the district by a Government appointed planning inspector.
This week the Mid Sussex Times has launched ‘Keep Mid Sussex Green’ in support of the campaign for fair and sustainable levels of development in the district.
Since the Middy covered the protest Fox Hill, many nearby residents have got in touch to voice their objections and concerns too.
Stephen Nash, of Fox Hill Village, has sent a letter of objection to the application for 151 new homes in Gamblemead, of which 30 per cent would be affordable.
The full planning application was approved by Haywards Heath Town Council on February 13 and is now to be considered by district councillors.
He said: “We are aware of the compelling need for housing. But that does not mean development should be at any cost – basic planning ‘development control’ criteria must still be met.”
Dianna Tregenza, from Brighton, responded to the protest video posted on the Middy’s Facebook page and highlighted the growing concern over infrastructure in the town.
She said: “There is not enough hospital care, doctors, dentists, school and nursery places, a hosepipe ban nearly every year for water shortages and thousands of empty properties including commercial. If we can bedroom tax the poorest, why can’t we second home tax the richest?”
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