Facing a David and Goliath battle

We note from David Mowling’s letter (Save Our Sussex Alliance, July 26) that, as a result of the rejections on July 17 of the two planning applications at Billingshurst and Henfield by Horsham District Council’s planning committee, he feels that ‘maybe this is the start of a new era for HDC. After all, the HDC planning committee did state that despite rumours it is NOT led by developers’.

Presumably when he wrote that letter, he was not aware of the truly bizarre situation that we Henfield residents now find ourselves in.

Horsham’s planning committee did indeed reject the application (DC/12/1004) for 102 houses on the greenfield site, Land East of Manor Close.

However, at the same time the council’s planning officers are standing by their previous decision not to contest the developers’ appeal against DC/11/1962 – an identical application.

The application for this site was originally submitted last year (DC/11/1962) but was not determined by HDC within the requisite period.

The developer, Welbeck Land, then lodged an appeal, on the grounds of non-determination.

HDC had two meetings in April and May to discuss whether to contest the appeal and, at the second meeting, decided there were not grounds to do so.

The case was then submitted to the Planning Inspectorate for resolution (and will be heard on September 4 in Roffey Village Hall, Horsham).

In the meantime, Welbeck Land submitted an identical application (DC/12/1004) and it is clear from the correspondence between Horsham’s planning officers and Welbeck, available on the HDC website, that there was an understanding that, if HDC approved this second submission, then Welbeck would withdraw its appeal against the first submission.

At the July 17 meeting, however, the planning committee did not approve the application; they rejected it by 11 votes to two.

It appeared they felt they now had more information to hand about the lack of deliverability and sustainability of the site than when they had discussed it before.

As one councillor pointed out, they hadn’t really discussed the application previously with a view to approving or rejecting it; what they had been discussing was whether to contest the appeal or not.

The planning officer at Horsham has confirmed that HDC cannot contest the appeal because they have already determined not to do so.

This leaves us residents in a hugely disadvantaged situation, where we as rank amateurs will be up against the legal might that Welbeck’s huge purchasing power can muster - truly a David and Goliath situation.

Henfield’s Own Preservation Society (HOPS) is a group of 100 or so residents who are extremely concerned for the future of our village.

Right now, a further 130 houses are being built on Henfield’s northern perimeter and 12 dwellings have been completed (and are mostly unsold) in the village centre.

We would urge anyone who is concerned about the relentless encroachment on our countryside to join us: email us at info@henfieldpreservation.org

And help us fight off the continuing threat of excessive development.

SHARON RIDGLEY

Chair, on behalf of Henfield’s Own Preservation Society (HOPS), Coopers Way, Henfield