More than 100 protesters gathered outside Horsham’s council offices to object to a 160 home development plan going to appeal that has kept the community ‘under siege’.
Residents, councillors and local groups rallied outside Park North on Tuesday (March 25) with picket signs to protest against Barratt Homes’ plan to build 160 homes off West End Lane, Henfield.
Hands off Henfield leader Simon Andrews said he was surprised by the big turnout.
“It’s more than we were expecting - it’s excellent.
“I think the residents of Henfield are here to look at it from a sustainable point of view. They can see the proposed site is unsuitable for that size and they’re afraid of the impact of it on infrastructure and local services if it goes through.”
In August 2013, Horsham District Council (HDC) rejected the application on the basis that is was not in keeping with the rural area, townscape and in close proximity to a Grade II listed building, Camellia Cottage.
“The ideal outcome is if it’s refused,” said Mr Andrews. “We’re not nimbies, we believe in sustainable development.”
Mr Andrews added that residents would rather develop a Neighbourhood Plan alongside the parish council than have a developer decide on their behalf.
Roger Smith of Campaign to Protect Rural England said that Henfield is a community ‘under siege’ by developers.
“This application is of huge significance, it’s got the community under siege by developers seeking to exploit the weaknesses of planning regulations.
“It’s inappropriate and in the wrong place.”
Hands off Henfield Secretary Kenneth McIntosh said that if the planning application goes through along with others in the pipeline there will be a 20 per cent increase in the population.
A resident, Colin Simmons, who is living in close proximity to the proposed site said he is concerned about the sewage network.
“My neighbour has had raw sewage in her house down to the sewage pipes being very old. With the extra 600 houses they’re going to burst more - it’s just rubbish!”
Another resident, Patricia Stredwick, said she is ‘very angry’ and the development will ruin ‘beautiful’ views.
“That particular area is right next to the Downs link, it’s a beautiful spot and they are going to destroy it it’s ridiculous. I’m very angry.”
At the public appeal Barratt Homes’ solicitor Mark Lowe said that the district in the last seven years has been ‘way below’ its 650 home target for the Government’s five year land supply.
He said that Barratt Homes understands residents’ concerns and ‘severe opposition’, but villagers should also consider the needs to provide homes for those that work in Henfield and those that go away to study and return without an affordable home to buy.
HDC’s solicitor David Linttot said the harm to the landscape would outweigh the benefits of the development.
“The magnificent views from the site will be lost.”
He added that the site is currently crisscrossed with public rights of way.
“It cannot demonstrate at a good quality sustainable level.”
The council has withdrawn its highways and noise objection.
The appeal will continue on March 25, 26, 27, 28 and April 2. April 3 will be held in reserve if it proves necessary.
Pictures by Derek Martin.