THE FIGHT is on to get a field east of Billingshurst re-designated as a village green as it has faced years of planning applications.
Village residents are joining forces to prevent housing development east of the village, and the latest step is to register part of the land as a village green under the Commons Act 2006.
Abutting the ancient woodland of Rosier Wood, the field has been subject to a number of planning applications by Bellway Homes and makes up a 130 hectare strategic development site.
An application to build 49 homes was rejected by Horsham District Council in March.
A spokesperson for Save Billingshurst Action Group said: “Local residents have enjoyed uninterrupted use of this land for the purpose of legitimate sports and pastimes for a period in excess of 50 years.
“The land is used daily by dog walkers, cyclists and runners and those just wishing to enjoy the solitude and natural beauty of the open countryside.
“Being located so close to the centre of Billingshurst, the land serves as a valuable amenity to local residents and makes a significant contribution to the personal wellbeing of many.
“It is used regularly by pupils of the local primary and secondary schools as well as Cubs, Scouts and Guides. Billingshurst would be much poorer for its loss.”
The original application was lodged in December 2009 to West Sussex County Council’s rights of way officer, with Bellway Homes and HDC objecting to the changes in April.
The group said they were disappointed with HDC’s objection to the application as they believed it would prejudice the current work on the Core Strategy Review.
They added: “This is surprising, considering that our elected councillors and their planning officers have fought to resist development of this land on five separate occasions so far, recognising the sensitivity of the site in terms of landscape character and its adjacency to Ancient Woodland. One can only question if the stance taken by the HDC strategic planning team has been taken with the full knowledge of our local councillors? We strongly suspect not.”
A spokesperson for Horsham District Council said: “Billingshurst is identified in the district council’s adopted Core Strategy as an area that will be considered for further growth, if necessary, in the future.
“Horsham District Council has recently consulted on housing numbers as it embarks on the preparation of a new plan to cover the period to 2031. It will be publishing a preferred strategy in the autumn for consultation, which will look at future large scale development sites.
“Clearly, if land is designated as a village green in Billingshurst it is then no longer available for development.
“The purpose of the district council’s response to West Sussex County Council is to set out this context as part of the county council’s consideration of the application for a village green at Billingshurst.
“If, however, the county council decides that the evidence which has been submitted in support of the village green application is sufficient to designate this land, the district council would support that decision.’’
Save Billingshurst Action Group is inviting anyone who would like more information, or who has used the land in the past, to contact the group via email to info@savebill ingshurst.co.uk