Tuesday, 23 July 2019


  • The planning process must not just be fair and democratic: it must be seen to be fair and democratic. Why was an extra committee date added on 25 July? Why are Rydon Homes in such a hurry ahead of a decision being made on their appeal on their previous, almost identical application? To avoid Hassocks’ democratic Neighbourhood Plan having more ‘weight’ at a later stage?
  • Mid Sussex District Council’s planning committee rejected the previous application because it conflicted with the policies in the MSDC District Plan for 2014-2031. What on earth is the expensive District Plan for, if it can be ignored by developers? 
  • The only change to the new application is the possibility of a pedestrian tunnel under the railway. No design for a tunnel has been created. Consultees have not been given the opportunity to comment on the design. As Network Rail does not know how much a tunnel will cost, it is unknown whether the cost may prevent a tunnel from going ahead. How can the DPC possibly give permission when the tunnel is completely undefined and has not been consulted upon? The tunnel is NOT at the heart of the matter. It is a peripheral detail. It is an excuse to submit the same planning application that has already been refused by the DPC.
  • All the reasons why the second planning application was refused are still valid.
  • The housing need for the district has been met, especially since the imposition of a 500-home 'strategic site' in Hassocks. The DP explicitly says that Hassocks will not be required to take more housing. Hassocks does not have the infrastructure to cope with yet another application.
  • Hassocks Neighbourhood Plan has made an important step, attracting significant planning determination weight, by progressing to Regulation 16 Consultation on Monday 22 July 2019, having been accepted by MSDC under Regulation 15.
  • Two other major estates are going ahead nearby in Hassocks on London Rd: the golf course opposite the proposed entrance to the new site, and Ham Fields. Also, 3,500 homes are being built a short way up the road in Burgess Hill - the effect on Stonepound traffic congestion and air pollution will be very severe indeed. There will still only be one road across the railway that divides the village. 
  • FOFRA has provided MSDC with folders full of public responses indicating that the fields are a much-loved source of Local Green Space. The fields were voted by residents as their first choice for Local Green Space as part of the democratic Neighbourhood Plan process. 
  • The site is unsuitable for a housing estate as it is a flood plain and floods during wet winters; there are also concerns that flood mitigation at the new site will effectively dam the Herring Stream, making flooding in existing housing more likely.

Saturday, 1 June 2019

Rydon submits third planning application for large estate on Friars Oak Fields - act now!

Hassocks is once again threatened by crazy over-development, with potentially many more than 1,000 new homes in the area - but no new roads or schools. There will still only be one road across the railway that divides the village.

Each of us has until Friday 21 June 2019 to object. Please write in your own words to object (details below).

The reasons why this proposal must be opposed are clear:

Mid Sussex District Council’s planning committee has ALREADY TURNED IT DOWN. The basic reason why councillors rejected it in November 2018 was that it conflicted with the countryside policies and other policies contained in the MSDC District Plan for 2014-2031. What on earth is the expensive District Plan for, if it can be ignored by developers? 

The housing need for the district HAS BEEN MET, especially since the imposition of a 500-home 'strategic site' in Hassocks, north of Clayton Mills.

The new application is almost identical to the rejected second planning application (the first was rejected by the housing minister) but it proposes a pedestrian tunnel under the railway. All the reasons why the second planning application was refused are still valid.

Hassocks' democratically-decided and legally sound Neighbourhood Plan, which has been held by MSDC since June 2016, designated Friars Oak Fields as Local Green Space. 

The site has been consistently opposed by the local MP, Nick Herbert.

Two other major estates are going ahead on a short stretch of London Rd alone - the golf course opposite the proposed entrance to the new site, and Ham Fields, next to Stonepound Crossroads. Stonepound Crossroads is the only Air Quality Management Area (pollution zone) in Mid Sussex. Nitrogen dioxide levels have been illegal there for years, and MSDC has a moral and legal duty to reduce pollution there, not increase it by permitting several new housing estates on the road leading to it. Also, 3,500 homes are being built up the road in Burgess Hill - the effect on Stonepound congestion will be very severe. 

The site is a flood plain and floods during wet winters; there are also concerns that flood mitigation at the new site will effectively dam the Herring Stream, making flooding in the Shepherds Walk area more likely.

To see all the relevant documents, go to https://www.midsussex.gov.uk/planning-building/view-and-comment-on-planning-applications/.

What do we all need to do?
Please write to MSDC before 21st June 2019. You must include your name and address plus the planning reference number.

Title: Planning reference number DM/19/1897
Email: planninginfo@midsussex.gov.uk
Post to:
Planning Department
Oaklands Road
Haywards Heath
West Sussex
RH16 1SS

Thursday, 22 November 2018


Rydon’s plan for 130 homes on Friars Oak Fields will be considered at a Mid Sussex District Council planning meeting on 29 November 2018.
The planning department has recommended approval, even though:
  • Hassocks is already expected to take two other major developments on London Rd, plus 500 homes north of Clayton Mills, with no more schools, roads across the railway or other infrastructure. 
  • The parish council has objected to the proposal, and the site is specifically excluded in its Neighbourhood Plan (which MSDC has been in possession of since JUNE 2016). 
  • Mid Sussex now has a District Plan and has already met its required housing numbers. 
  • Officers rejected a neighbouring site on the grounds that it was not allowed for in the District Plan!

Have your say and do it today - using reference DM/18/2342, please email:
  • MSDC Conservative councillors for Hassocks: Michelle Binks michelle.binks@midsussex.gov.uk and Gordon Marples gordon.marples@midsussex.gov.uk 
  • MSDC planning officers: Sally Blomfield sally.blomfield@midsussex.gov.uk and Steven King steven.king@midsussex.gov.uk 
  • Hassocks' MP: Nick Herbert nick@nickherbert.com

You might like to point out that the next local elections are on 2 May 2019.
Hassocks’ other MSDC councillor, Sue Hatton, is the only non-Conservative out of 54 councillors, and has already opposed over-development in the area, as has Hassocks' county councillor, Kirsty Lord.
The meeting is open to the public, so come along: District Planning Committee, 29 November, 2pm, Council Chamber, Mid Sussex District Council, Oaklands Road, Haywards Heath, RH16 1SS.

Monday, 2 July 2018

Urgent action needed - act by 20 July 2018 to help save Friars Oak Fields

Rydon Homes has submitted a completely new planning application to build a major housing estate on Friars Oak Fields. Any comments that you made on Rydon’s previous application no longer count. In order to save the fields and prevent further over-development of Hassocks, it is essential for as many people to object as possible. Talk to your family and friends. Please tell Mid Sussex District Council in your own words what you think about the new application ­- by 20 July 2018.

This new application has been made even though:

  • the site does not form part of the now-confirmed Mid Sussex District Plan, which allows for plenty of new homes (16,390 in the district from 2014 to 2031). 
  • the site was opposed by Hassocks Parish Council and was not included in its Neighbourhood Plan, for which the public voted the site 13th out of 15 possible housing sites.
  • the site was allocated as a Local Green Space in the Neighbourhood Plan, which was submitted to MSDC for approval in summer 2016.
  • the site was opposed by the local MP, Nick Herbert.
  • Hassocks already faces around 800 new homes in the next few years, on top of the large number that have been built in recent years. The total will far exceed the number that Hassocks can reasonably take, given the fact that there is only one road across the railway dividing the village, and no plan for new schools.
  • Two other major estates are going ahead on a short stretch of London Rd alone - the golf course opposite the proposed entrance to the new site, and Ham Fields, next to Stonepound Crossroads.
  • Stonepound Crossroads is the only Air Quality Management Area (pollution zone) in Mid Sussex. Nitrogen dioxide levels have been illegal there for years, and MSDC has a moral and legal duty to reduce pollution there, not increase it by permitting several new housing estates on the road leading to it.
  • The site is a flood plain and floods during wet winters; there are also concerns that flood mitigation at the new site will effectively dam the Herring Stream, making flooding in the Shepherds Walk area more likely.

To see all the relevant documents, go to https://www.midsussex.gov.uk/planning-building/view-and-comment-on-planning-applications/ and use the reference number DM/18/2342.

Rydon’s previous application was rejected by the independent planning inspector and by the housing minister. They were concerned about the safety of the open railway foot-crossing right next to the site. Rydon’s new application suggests that this could be solved with a footbridge. However, this is unlikely to be a practical solution: in order to clear the bank and the trains on the mainline track, and to provide access for pushchairs and wheelchairs, it would have to be extraordinarily high and wide.

In any event, since the site is not necessary according to MSDC’s own District Plan, residents’ concerns about traffic, schools, flooding etc will have to carry much more weight now that the ‘presumption of development’ specified by national planning guidelines no longer applies (it applies when local authorities do not have an up-to-date district plan, but Mid Sussex now does). Councillors on the MSDC planning committee would make an absolute mockery of their own District Plan (and common sense, and local democracy) if they passed the application.

Friars Oak Fields Residents Association is asking as many people as possible to object to this latest plan. Please write in your own words, highlighting issues that are of concern to you. The title of your letter or email should be Planning reference number: DM/18/2342. Email: steven.king@midsussex.gov.uk. Post: Planning Department, MSDC, Oaklands Road, Haywards Heath, West Sussex, RH16 1SS. Please include your name and address on any correspondence. Please copy your letter to Nick Herbert MP (see www.nickherbert.com for contact details) and to your district councillors (see http://mid-sussex.cmis.uk.com/mid-sussex/Councillors.aspx). Thank you!

Thursday, 2 February 2017

Friars Oak Fields planning application 'call-in' hearing to be held summer 2017 - act now!

The latest stage in the fight to stop Rydon Homes destroying Friars Oak Fields (and, in the process, wrecking Hassocks Parish Council's Neighbourhood Plan) is that with the help of our MP, Nick Herbert, we alerted the government to the fact that there is a clear case for it to 'call in' the planning application, which was approved by Mid Sussex District Council last autumn.

This means that Gavin Barwell MP, the minister for housing, has asked the national Planning Inspectorate to set up a public inquiry. An inspector will hold inquiry meetings over a few days, perhaps as early as this June, at the MSDC offices in Haywards Heath. The inspector will then make a recommendation to the minister (formally, his boss the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government) who will decide whether or not to approve Rydon Homes' application.

Local residents are also awaiting the result of a call-in on the nearby Ham Fields application, next to Stonepound. And the golf course housing estate application has been approved and looks like it will be built. We don't need to remind anyone of the dramatic effect on traffic, school places etc of having more than one additional large estate built on London Rd in Hassocks. There is no plan for another local school.

The Friars Oak Fields Residents Association committee is still working hard to fight for what is right. What we are asking residents to do now (by 24 February) is to write to the Planning Inspectorate to make your views clear. Please write to:

Helen Skinner
Planning Inspectorate
Room 3/0
Temple Quay House
2 The Square
Bristol BS1 6PN
or email: helen.skinner@pins.gsi.gov.uk

Please quote reference APP/D3830/V/17/3166992

Please say politely and in your own words why you think building on Friars Oak Fields is a bad idea. You might like to mention: 
  • the increased traffic congestion and pollution - even more traffic would be forced through Stonepound crossroads, which is the only access route to the village and the only pollution blackspot in Mid Sussex with illegal levels of nitrogen dioxide
  • the increased risk of flooding to existing properties by constructing an access road that will put a 'dam' across the floodplain
  • the increased danger to local children by the estate being built right next to an open rail crossing with an exposed electrified rail, on the other side of the tracks from Hassock's schools, playgrounds and shops
  • the fact that there will be nowhere for children from yet another new estate to go to school, and there is no plan for a new school
  • the fact that the fields are a surprisingly rare accessible local green space that is much-loved by families, walkers and dog-walkers
  • the fact that the site was explicitly rejected by local people in a democratic vote for the Neighbourhood Plan 
  • the fact that to ignore the Neighbourhood Plan is against the intentions of the government's own Localism Act 2011.

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Mid Sussex Planning Committee votes to allow Rydon Homes' application

Councillors on the Mid Sussex planning committee made a shameful decision on 13 October. To shouts of disbelief from the public gallery, they decided to pass an application by Rydon Homes to build an estate on lovely Friars Oak Fields, Hassocks. 

Many people will think: so what - houses need to be built and they have to go somewhere, don't they? 

But why require parish councils to spend tens of thousands of pounds on Neighbourhood Plans and then ignore them? 

Hassocks' NP named Friars Oak Fields as local green space, and allocated other areas as more suitable sites for homes. Local residents voted heavily against Friars Oak Fields being a housing site because they are a notorious floodplain, are next to a dangerous unmanned rail crossing, and are a much-loved area of local green space. 

The NP is nearly complete, at 'examination' stage, yet councillors decided it 'carries little weight', as planning jargon has it. Why? Because the same councillors have for several years now left Mid Sussex completely exposed to over-development. They have failed to produce a '5-year housing land supply document' and to prepare a sound District Plan, so under our current government's planning law, there is a 'presumption of development'. 

In fact, councillors can refuse unsuitable developments if their 'adverse impacts' would 'significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits'. The adverse impacts of building a large estate on the other side of the railway from the village's schools, shops and main park include the danger of children getting hurt on the dangerous, open foot crossing. Furthermore, building an elevated access road from London Rd to a new estate will obviously create a barrier to the flooding that results every winter from the Herring Stream and from groundwater. This dam will put existing housing at higher risk of flooding. 

Furthermore, the Rydon application makes no provision whatsoever for a desperately-needed new school. It can only ensure that yet more rush-hour traffic goes through Stonepound, which is Mid Sussex's only official pollution blackspot. 

How much more unsustainable do estates have to be before they are rejected? 

Thursday, 6 October 2016

Fofra appeals to Mid Sussex District Council planning committee to reject Rydon Homes’ plan DM/15/0626 on 13 October

The amended application for outline permission for a 130-home, 383-bedroom estate on a green-field site at Friars Oak Fields (FOF), Hassocks, should be refused. The adverse effects of building there ‘would significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits’ under the terms of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), making it an unsustainable development. Further to our submission to MSDC of 28 September 2015, we summarise here the reasons that, taken together, add up to an overwhelming case for the application to be rejected:

1. It is strongly opposed by Hassocks residents and the parish council (which unanimously rejected the amended application in the strongest terms), and was explicitly rejected as a housing site in the Neighbourhood Plan (NP), which is in an advanced stage of development. To approve the planning application would therefore be an injustice that would make a mockery of local democracy. The draft NP has allocated building sites to meet of all Hassocks’ housing needs as part of the MSDC local planning process. There is therefore simply no need to build on a site that the residents of Hassocks have overwhelmingly decided they don't want developed. Out of 20 possible housing sites voted on by the public, FOF came 3rd from bottom, despite the fact that majority of Hassocks residents live on the other side of the railway that divides the village (in other words, many Hassocks residents live some distance from the proposed development but are still strongly opposed to it).

2. The lack of any provision for a school or other facilities would not only put excessive pressure on already-oversubscribed local schools but would force yet more traffic through Stonepound crossroads, not least to gain access to the village’s shops and schools. This is the only Air Quality Management Area (AQMA) in Mid Sussex and as such it is inconceivable that building on FOF can be justified. Real-world vehicle pollution is subject to many variables such as traffic growth, the unknown effectiveness of new vehicle emissions tests and legal changes in public health legislation. This uncertainty is reflected in growing concerns about air quality among eminent national and international bodies. But it is absolutely certain that the proposed development cannot have a positive effect on the AQMA, where MSDC has reported exceeding the annual mean air quality objective since 2006. Consequently, this is in conflict with Policy CS22 of the Local Plan, the provisions of paragraphs 109, 120 and 124 of the NPPF and UK and EU Air Quality legislation compliance for the protection of health. Defra states that an AQMA can only be revoked once the local authority has considered measurements carried out over several years or more. Rydon is attempting to get around the AQMA problem by delaying the availability of the planned housing at FOF until 2019, because it claims that by then pollution will have reduced to legal levels; an extraordinary claim that it cannot prove with the measured data required to officially revoke an AQMA. A new estate can only increase traffic congestion, there being only one road crossing point on the railway for several miles (ie between Clayton and Burgess Hill). FOFRA’s reports to MSDC dated 30 April, 10 May and 19 May 2016 explain these issues in more detail.

3. As well as the AQMA, the planning inspector cited the local planning gap as a reason to refuse the nearby Ham Fields appeal last year. The decision was informed by the decision of the Secretary of State in relation to a further application to build in Hurstpierpoint. Building on FOF would clearly contravene MSDC’s local gap between Hassocks and Burgess Hill. It would be too far out from the village centre to do anything but damage village cohesion and identity, and instead would lead to coalescence with Burgess Hill, which is explicitly guarded against in the current MSDC local plan.

4. The proposed access road will only make London Rd more hazardous, as it is on a stretch of road where traffic approaches the bend north of Friars Oak pub at speeds of 50-60mph, the current speed limits notwithstanding. Furthermore, the application makes no provision to improve non-car access to the village or to public transport networks. Indeed, West Sussex County Council’s consultation response dated 29 September 2015 stated: “I struggle to reconcile that with the view expressed in the transport assessment at paragraph 3.5.5 that ‘…all local facilities including bus stops, shops and services and schools are within easy walking and cycle distance of the school.’  Similarly I struggle with the reference in paragraph 3.7.1 to ‘…local facilities within Hassocks are within easy walk or cycle distances…’  These statements of easy access by walking are found throughout the transport assessment and I think misrepresent the position. This is the weakest component of the accessibility assessment of the site. The length of the walking distance could justify a reason for refusal of the application…”

5. FOF is a floodplain and the development’s design would actually cause an increased risk of flooding, as well as damaging the ecology of the Herring Stream. FOFRA’s reports to MSDC dated 30 April 2016 show that a) The site is fundamentally unsuitable for residential development due to the Herring Stream floodplain and the amount of ground water / surface water endemic on the site; b) The proposed design, particularly the raised access road embankment across the entire width of the floodplain and the addition of a man-made compensatory extension to the existing flooded area, will cause an unacceptable increase in flood risk to existing dwellings in Shepherds Walk; c) The modelled flood extents do not tally with empirical evidence which shows that there is a real risk that fluvial flooding could extend over greater areas than predicted by the models, thus creating flood risk that is not revealed in the Flood Risk Assessment. In this respect, the Environment Agency accept that the developer’s flood model predictions do not match photographic evidence of actual upstream flooding in back gardens of houses in Shepherds Walk and Friars Oak Road. d) The proposals will cause ecological damage to the Herring stream due to loss of earth bank habitat, destabilisation of the earth banks and the introduction of waterborne pollutants caused by run-off water disposal into the river.

6. The site is right next to a dangerous open foot-crossing (Woodside) over the London-Brighton main railway line. Rydon argues that putting 130 family homes on the other side of the railway from the village’s schools, shops and bulk of housing will only increase foot crossings by two crossings per day, and that no one will ever use the crossing during the peak pedestrian period of 8am to 9am, but do not give any reason for this claim. Rydon also says that 98.81% of pedestrian journeys from the estate will never go via the crossing despite it offering the shortest pedestrian route to almost all the amenities in Hassocks. This is cynical nonsense that puts the lives of children in danger. FOFRA estimates that at least 50 more crossings per day will result from the development. Please see FOFRA’s analysis of Rydon’s predictions, dated 13 May 2016.

7. It is a surprisingly rare area of accessible green space for the well-being of local families and walkers, and is a haven for wildlife. The development would destroy a well-used site near to and with views of the South Downs National Park. Hassocks Parish Council supports this view and has decided to allocate Local Green Space status to FOF.