Plan for ‘new Milton Keynes’ near Henfield

JPCT 170912 Countryside east of Henfield. Photo by Derek Martin

JPCT 170912 Countryside east of Henfield. Photo by Derek Martin

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New plans for 10,000 houses on fields near Henfield would create a new Milton Keynes in the West Sussex countryside, it has been warned.

The comment came as part of a tide of strong criticism of the property developers’ controversial proposals.

One of Mayfield Market Town's potential ideas for development of 10,000 houses.

One of Mayfield Market Town's potential ideas for development of 10,000 houses.

Roger Smith, from CPRE Horsham and Crawley, said: “Should this proposal be permitted it would transform a substantial and rural part of our district into a new Milton Keynes, with the consequent loss of much needed farmland and a huge increase in the district’s population.

“Developers are targeting Horsham district - circling like vultures - in the expectation that their aspirations to build huge and unprecedented numbers of houses on our countryside will be realised in consequence of the Government’s clear shift in favour of development.

“Doubtless other developers will put forward similar proposals in other parts of our district. This should be a wake-up call.”

Mayfield Market Towns, based in London, pitched their scheme to Horsham District Council in June for five distinct villages between Henfield and Sayers Common in Mid Sussex.

However, Lee Newlyn, one of the three directors at Mayfield, told the County Times that they did not have fixed areas of land for development, and wanted to hear from local councils and people before determining the exact layout of any scheme.

“We are not foisting one solution down their throats. We want to get them involved in shaping the development. That’s just one solution. It could be two or five villages, it could be tacked on to Henfield. There are lots of structural ways,” he said.

“When we presented to Horsham that was the five villages, we may have a different plan going forward. One of the villages would be near, but not touching Henfield. One to the north, one shared between Mid Sussex and then two in Mid Sussex. Horsham District Council quite liked that idea. We think that’s a good solution.”

Villages would include a primary school in each and an academy at the centre.

“What we said to Horsham if that’s a way of starting discussions then that represents about 6,000 homes in Horsham, and 4,000 in the Mid Sussex area and that’s as far as we have gone,” Mr Newlyn added.

COUNCIL FORMING NEW STRATEGY

A document from the latest Strategic Planning Advisory Group suggested that if plans went ahead, Mayfield could deliver 500/1,000 homes within the planning period up to 2031.

“We think it’s a bit conservative,” Mr Newlyn said.

“We would start developing around 2020, with the first 2,000 dwellings by 2031.”

Potential sites were loosely graded on a range of factors, with Southwater scoring 40 points, North Horsham 38, Billingshurst 37, a new market town 34, and west of Ifield 24.

However, council officers stressed this was only a rough exercise for the benefit of the general public.

HDC is due to announce in October which strategic sites for housing in the district it will bring forward.

A new market town has been on the radar of HDC, Mid Sussex District Council, and Crawley Borough Council in an effort to meet regional housing targets before, as the three authorities commissioned GL Hearn to write the New Market Town Study Report in August 2010.

MAYFIELD MARKET TOWNS

The three investors at Mayfield have been looking at a new settlement south of Gatwick for the past 20 years, with one of them involved in talks with Crest Nicholson, reported earlier this year.

However, Crest were unwilling to go any further, and Mr Newlyn banded together with Peter Freeman and Jamie Borwick to bring the project forward.

Mr Newlyn explained: “We are taking the risk ourselves. We are putting sufficient capital to get through the design stage to outline planning consent approval.”

Affordable housing, sustainable infrastructure, and green energy were three of the things Mayfield would emphasise in any project.

They would also look at a shuttle bus to Gatwick, and potentially even a tram network.

Mr Newlyn said they would attempt to alleviate existing problems in the area, including drainage, and see if they could solve them as part of any ongoing development.

“We’re pursuing this in a fairly relaxed way. We have said to Mid Sussex and Horsham we can’t deliver housing in the next five to seven years. We can provide a solution in the mid-to-long-term,” Mr Newlyn added.

The scheme is already being branded unsuitable for the area amidst fears of urban sprawl.

Henfield has only just emerged from a public inquiry into plans to build up to 102 homes on land east of the village.

Henfield’s Own Preservation Society issued a statement saying: “We are extremely concerned that, yet again, Henfield is under threat.

“‘Tacking’ 2,000 houses on to Henfield would double the village at a stroke. Villages evolve; they cannot be built to order. How much more quality agricultural land will be swallowed up by these proposed ‘villages’?”

Sheila Matthews (Ind, Henfield) said that speaking from a personal point of view she felt that the locations and design of the scheme was wrong.

“I’m concerned that this will not deliver what the district needs for the future. We need a scheme that will stand alone meeting community needs,” she said.

“Urban sprawl is a dangerous route in planning, containing no proper facilities. I have many concerns about this.”

One Henfield resident said: “This looks like someone has bought the land without any real scheme in mind and has just bodged something up.”

However Ian Howard (Con, Southwater), HDC cabinet member for living and working communities, said: “Although a new market town between Henfield and Sayers Common has been proposed, this is a long-term strategic issue that would require on-going joint working with the neighbouring authorities.”