Plans to demolish two car parks in Haywards Heath and replace them with housing ‘appalling’

A proposal to demolish two car parks in Haywards Heath and replace them with housing has been described as ‘appalling’.

Thursday, 7th January 2021, 10:16 am

The draft plan lays out the bare bones of long and short-term projects up to 2031, which are aimed at breathing new life into the town centre and helping it to thrive.

In the plan, the district council proposes consolidating three small car parks in the town – Haywards East, Haywards West and Franklynn Road – into one or two larger capacity car parks at The Orchards.

Haywards Heath town centre. Picture: Steve Robards

This in turn will present an opportunity for redevelopment of the smaller car parks, principally for residential use, it says.

The three car parks are often at capacity, the council adds, ‘causing frustration for shoppers, who often circle between car parks to find a space, causing unnecessary vehicle movements, particularly in South Road’.

But the proposal has been met with dismay.

Elizabeth Benner, 84, of Warninglid, said: “I think it would be appalling if they go. My husband and I use the car parks all the time. They are great for people who just want to have a quick shop.”

Mrs Benner said she feared people may not know about the proposal due to ‘lack of publicity’.

“If they are going to make a major change like this, people should know about it and have the chance to have their say,” she added.

In response, councillor Andrew MacNaughton, cabinet member for housing and planning, said: “We launched our six-week public consultation on the Haywards Heath Masterplan in November last year and encouraged all local residents to have their say on the proposals.

“We publicised the consultation widely, with articles appearing in local newspapers, on social media and we ran a feature in our Mid Sussex Matters magazine, which is delivered to every household in the district.

“To make it easy for residents, we also produced an interactive map online that summarised all the key proposals.

“The map has been viewed over 7,500 times on our website and we have received 243 responses from local residents to the consultation.

“The Haywards Heath Masterplan is a guide to future development in the town; it sets out a vision for the area. Any future changes to the town will still require planning permission and residents will have further opportunities to comment on any planning proposals that come forward.”

Plan a ‘missed opportunity’

Mid Sussex Labour Party has criticised the Haywards Heath Masterplan, describing it as a ‘missed opportunity that fails to show what is needed for Haywards Heath people’.

A spokesman for the political party said: “The current draft lacks vision, it is inadequate, unambitious and unrepresentative of Haywards Heath people.

“Labour urges the planners to go back to the drawing board and address major failings.

“These failings include a lack of consultation to date and a failure to recognise the growth in population and associated traffic flows in a future where climate change will impact on everyone’.

The party says future -proofing of the plan requires a more open approach than seen to date.

It adds: “Haywards Heath residents will expect far more dialogue with them about the future of community resources, such as Clair Hall or modernised shopping facilities.

“The Labour Party will hold planners to account at every stage in order to ensure Haywards Heath develops a community soul for the benefit of those who live, work and enjoy leisure here, rather than allow exploitation of the town for the benefit of property developers and their associates.”

‘Clear blueprint’

In response, Jonathan Ash-Edwards, leader of Mid Sussex Conservatives, said: “Town centres and the way we shop have been changing for some time due to online retailing and the coronavirus pandemic is accelerating many of those trends.

“It’s vital that our town centres remain vibrant places for the future which means that the town centre masterplan needs updating.

“The document provides a clear blueprint for future economic recovery, growth and vitality, as well as identifying opportunities for regeneration.

“Public consultation was undertaken in November and December and I would like to thank the members of the public who took the time to submit their comments, which are all being considered.”