Dismay and anger as homes appeal is lost

Busy Henfield High Street
Busy Henfield High Street

Henfield is bracing itself for more than 100 additional homes, which will now be built on farmland east of Manor Close.

Appeals inspector Christine Newmarch has allowed an appeal by Welbeck Strategic Land against Horsham District Council, following the recent public inquiry.

She has also ordered that Horsham District Council is to pay the company’s costs - which are expected to be a substantial five figure sum.

She was critical of Horsham District Council in her appeal decision, mentioning specifically its failure to provide accurate figures relating to the five-year housing supply available in the district.

She said that a more recent snapshot had been provided by an objector, arising from a Freedom of Information request.

“But the council concedes this contains errors, including double counting of some sites. As the council did not provide a witness at the inquiry who could be tested on this matter, I gave it little weight.” she added.

Mrs Newmarch said that the modest development in Coopers Way, coupled with the large scale development at Parsonage Farm were both within the built-up boundary of the village and did not count towards the 150 homes allowed by some criteria.

She added: “I consider additional residents could help maintain the viability of local services and shops, which can provide for most daily requirements and the proposal amounts to a sustainable development.”

Addressing local drainage and sewerage concerns, the inspector said that a sustainable urban drainage system, which would be controlled by condition, would be provided.

She added that although the site was used by dog walkers at the time of her visit, she was not convinced that housing there would result in the loss of sport, recreational or amenity space and would not conflict with criteria.

Access will be solely from Wantley Hill estate, with only pedestrian, cycle and emergency access provided from Benson Road. Mrs Newmarsh said that any limits to bus services serving the village could not be assessed because of very recent timetable changes.

Referring to assertions that occupiers of the proposed homes would be commuters playing no part in village life, she pointed out that is had been accepted that residents from the Parsonage Farm use the village shops at weekends and are becoming involved in the village.

Forty per cent of affordable housing will be contained in the development and there will be a contribution towards provision of health services, including GP and Community Services. There will also be a contribution to address the problem of a shortfall of education services in the area.

She has also asked for a sustainable surface water drainage scheme to be installed as well as a condition to control the connection of foul drainage from the site to the sewerage system.

Despite strong concerns expressed by many local people, she said there was no evidence that any effects arising from the development would significantly outweight the benefits.

But pressure groups in the village said that Mrs Newmarch did not obtain a true picture of congestion in Henfield, paying one visit on half-day closing on a Wednesday afternoon and another on an afternoon when traffic wardens were patrolling in the village. Neither had she taken into account lack of jobs.