‘Wake-up call’ issued to district’s residents by opponents of new town 10,000-home proposal

Wineham yellow ribbon demo against proposed new town in the area. Pic Steve Robards
Wineham yellow ribbon demo against proposed new town in the area. Pic Steve Robards

A wake-up call is being issued to those living in the Horsham district in and around Partidge Green by the founder of a campaign group opposing plans for 10,000 new homes between Henfield and Sayers Common.

Having seen a map of predicted traffic flows by the developer Mayfield Market Towns (see image, right), Anthony Watts Williams, founder of campaign group LAMBS, is warning of gridlock on roads through Jolesfield, Partridge Green and further afield including Cowfold on the A272.

“We are talking about 10,000 new homes and between 15,0000 and 20,000 cars,” Mr Watts Williams told the County Times. “It would change the area completely -we would be faced with gridlock.”

The ‘wake-up call’ comes in the same week local MPs debated the potential development at Westminster, as well as the news that a Government Inspector has rejected Mid Sussex District Council’s district plan.

Both issues have wider ramifications for the Horsham district, with many now questioning if HDC’s plan, yet to be published, could also be similarly dismissed by a Government official, while if the Mayfield Market Town’s proposals were to proceed, what would be the impact on the 2,500 home plans for Liberty’s North Horsham development?

Speaking at a specially convened Adjournment Debate in Westminster Hall on Tuesaday, Nick Herbert, the MP for Arundel and the South Downs, listed a number of concerns he and the MP for Mid Sussex, Nicholas Soames, shared in respect of the 10,000 home new town plans.

“First, there is considerable public concern about the proposal,” said Mr Herbert, who added after raising the spectre of ‘planning blight’ that he had ‘never known anything like it’.

Sustainability was another key issue, with Mr Herbert citing a report previously joint-commissioned by Horsham, Crawley and Mid Sussex councils that ruled out a new town precisely on the grounds that it would not be sustainable.

Mr Herbert questioned: “Whose view will carry the day when we promise localism in such matters?”

The third issue referred to, concerned ‘the behaviour of the developer in promoting the scheme’.

Mr Herbert told the meeting that Mayfield Market Towns had distributed 8,000 leaflets in Francis Maude’s constituency in the Horsham area ‘telling people that they need not have development in that area because they can have a new town outside their area instead’.

“The developers are setting out to undermine the normal local planning process and interfere with the sensitive consultations that local authorities are holding with our electorate,” said Mr Herbert.

“That is entirely reprehensible behaviour; it is deeply unhelpful to the development of new plans; and it should be roundly condemned.”

‘conflict of interest’

Mr Herbert went on to express concern about one of the directors of Mayfield Market Towns in particular - Lord Taylor of Goss Moor, who ‘is one of the Government’s advisers on planning and has been drawing up the very guidance on the national policy planning framework on which local authorities are being asked to rely, as they consider their local plans’.

Mr Herbert questioned: “How can one of the directors of a developer that is actively seeking to subvert localism and produce a new town in a local area also advise the Government on how localism will work?

“That is clearly a conflict of interest.

“It is deeply resented by local people, and it is damaging to the perception of the Government’s independence in such matters.

“We do not believe that it can stand.”

The County Times approached Mayfield Market Towns to request an interview with one of its directors to address the concerns raised by the MP for Arundel and South Downs at Westminster this week.

We were informed none were available for comment, but a brief statement was released to us.

It read: “With more and more local families in need of a home, Mayfields believe that a new market town with the right social and environmental infrastructure can provide a much more sustainable solution than adding huge new estates to existing towns and villages.

“We passionately feel that a new town is the most effective way of delivering sufficient homes and employment opportunities to the area.

“Mayfields will continue to make representations as part of the planning process to try to show that this is a better option for long term growth than continued add on development.”

Mid sussex plan rejected

Meanwhile, countryside campaigners said gthey were united in fury at the news that the Mid Sussex District Plan has been rejected on a technicality- leaving the door open to speculative property developers who are determined to build on green field sites.

The plan has been thrown back at the council by a Government Inspector, who ruled that the district had failed in its ‘Duty to Cooperate’ with neighbouring councils.

The local tax payers will now have to foot the bill for a new plan, stated the Campaign To Protect Rural England (CPRE), and the district remains vulnerable to a tide of property developers, hoping to cash in on what’s been dubbed a building ‘free for all’.

“This is a sad day for the people of Mid Sussex,” said Michael Brown from the Campaign to Protect Rural England (Sussex).

“It paralyses the district planning process for another year or more and it is a further nail in the already well-studded coffin of local democracy.”

Could the same fate fall to the Horsham taxpayer and district council, yet to publish its plan?

will hDC plan be rejected?

The County Times asked if HDC is confident that its plan will not suffer the same fate at the hands of an inspector, and if so why?

We also asked, if a new market were to be given the go-ahead would it be instead of or as well as the proposed North Horsham development?

And, what will be HDC’s next steps as a result of this news?

A spokesperson from HDC said: “We are aware of the inspector’s decision and will be considering what if any implications there may be for our district over the coming weeks.

“It is too soon to comment beyond that at this stage.”

significant feedback

Horsham’s draft housing strategy received nearly 2000 comments during an eight week public consultation exercise which closed last month.

Nearly 1500 of these related to the controversial plans by Liberty Property Trust, cited as a preferred option by HDC, to site 2,500 homes and a new business park north of the A264 - the North Horsham development, first revealed by this paper in January 2012.

Meanwhile, Mayfield has published three masterplan options on its website - www.mayfieldtowns.co.uk - and is appealing for feedback.

“Your feedback will help us determine a masterplan for the purposes of preparing a Supplementary Planning Document (SPD) if the site is identified for a broad location for an a new market town.

“This would be the next process Mayfield Market Towns goes through after getting a broad allocation in the Local Plan(s),” states the website.

Option 1 is for what is termed a compact settlement with all community facilities focused in a central location (see image, left).

Option 2 is called a split compact settlement which in addition to development between Henfield and Sayers Common also includes the expansion of Sayers Common.

While Option 3 is a ‘dispersed villages’ model which according to the website would provide ‘a dispersed settlement which would consist of a larger ‘market centre’ together with a cluster of villages each with open space and key facilities’.

Unfortunately, no one was available from Mayfield to discuss the pros and cons of the three options it is presenting, or the predicted traffic flows, before we went to press this week. However, an interview request has been granted for later this month.