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!