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 significantplanning determination weight, by progressing to Regulation 16 Consultation on Monday22 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.