Campaigners have failed in their bid to have a much loved wildflower meadow removed from the South Downs National Park’s emerging Local Plan where it is earmarked for 35 to 40 houses.
The Coldwaltham meadow Conservation Group made strong protests to a full national park authority meeting, but their plea fell on deaf ears.
Members voted to keep the meadow on the site south of London Road in the draft plan when it goes out for consultation in September.
Now campaigners will have to renew their battle through the latest public consultation of the park’s draft Local Plan but they say the consultation goalposts have been moved and they now have an uphill struggle to win their case.
Campaigner Jim Glover said: “Coldwaltham residents are alarmed because they were denied a proper ‘section 18 consultation’ which looks carefully at all the evidence when the proposals for 40 houses on the meadow were quietly released just days before the consultation deadline. “The next stage of public consultation this autumn, known, as a section 19 consultation, restricts the questions that can be asked to just the soundness and legality of the local plan, making it much more difficult for local people to object.”
Mr Glover, fellow campaigner Chris Skinner and chairman of the Wiggonholt Association Janet Aidin all spoke to members at the full authority meeting.
They told the meeting: “It takes decades to create a flower meadow with the benefit of substantial government grants but just one careless decision to destroy it. So why do it?”
They said they felt ‘disenfranchised’ by the lack of consultation over plans for 40 homes on their much loved wildflower meadow.
Janet Aidin said: “It rings very hollow for people to be told this is a landscape-led plan when they can’t even comment on this blot on the landscape. The local plan process should be seen to be fair, it should be seen to be reasonable. Instead it just looks mechanical. Major changes could be made and I would like to suggest this is an obvious candidate. A decision to remove it and hold a fresh consultation would demonstrate natural justice and the plan would be the sounder for it.”
Campaigners are angry because they were not consulted about the allocation of the site for housing.
It first appeared on a national park planning agenda in March when housing allocations in the were discussed.
Members of the committee believed Coldwaltham Parish Council had been consulted, but they knew nothing about the allocation.
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