‘We won’t give up’ say villagers fighting to stop council building on children’s play area

DM16147043a.jpg. Cuckfield play meadow under threat of development. Flis Irving, left, and Janet Beales. Photo by Derek Martin SUS-160710-140545008
DM16147043a.jpg. Cuckfield play meadow under threat of development. Flis Irving, left, and Janet Beales. Photo by Derek Martin SUS-160710-140545008
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Villagers who have waged a years-long battle to save a children’s play meadow from development vowed today: We won’t give up.

They had hoped they had won their fight to stop Mid Sussex District Council building a detached house on the play area - in Courtmead Road, Cuckfield - back in June.

DM16146986a.jpg. Cuckfield play meadow under threat of development. Protestors in front of the padlocked entrance to the meadow.  Photo by Derek Martin SUS-160710-140612008

DM16146986a.jpg. Cuckfield play meadow under threat of development. Protestors in front of the padlocked entrance to the meadow. Photo by Derek Martin SUS-160710-140612008

At that time, in a High Court hearing, a judge ruled that the development would cause harm to a conservation area in which the play land - used by generations of children - is sited.

But this week Mid Sussex District Council lodged details of the proposed new house with estate agents for the property to be sold ‘off plan’ for around £2 million. The council says proceeds will benefit the community.

But outraged residents say the council’s move amounts to the council ‘thumbing their noses’ at the judge’s ruling.

Flis Irving, who has spearheaded the villagers’ battle said: “I will continue to fight this to the bitter end. I think it is morally wrong, so wrong. The council should not be developing land with one enormous house at the expense of the community.”

She added: “The play meadow is one little space in a conservation area and it is the same piece of land that a High Court judge has said should not be built on.”

Janet Beales, who runs the Next Step Nursery which has been using the play meadow for around 20 years, said: “The council is depriving everybody from using this piece of green; they are just hell-bent on selling it. But we are determined that we are not going to give in to the council’s bully tactics.”

But Mid Sussex District Council leader Garry Wall said: “In the current financial climate it’s vitally important that we, as local authorities, become as financially self-sufficient as possible and make effective use of our resources to deliver the best possible services for our residents.

“The money raised from this project will support services for local people and help to make improvements to existing community buildings like our leisure centres, pavilions and community centres.

“We currently have a significant shortage of affordable housing in Mid Sussex. We also have many local families who are desperate to remain in the area where they grew up and are searching for an affordable place to live that’s close to friends and family.

“The money generated here could be used to deliver additional social housing for local people that would otherwise be unaffordable. We have over 1,600 applicants waiting on our housing register and building one house in Cuckfield could generate enough income to deliver an extra 15 affordable rent homes for local families in the district.

“The council is very sensitive to the concerns of some local residents and understand their views about this land, but there is a solution available. The Parish Council owns a larger area of open space immediately adjacent to this site which is held for the enjoyment of the public as an open space.

“Our landscape experts advise that this land is suitable for use by local groups which will complement the large amount of open space already available in the village. We hope the Parish Council will work with the council to ensure this land is made available to the public.”