29 March 2020 – News update

We hope all our supporters are safe and well at this difficult time.

Some things are of course much more important than planning, but while we are off work and safe at home, we have time to update you with a newsletter or two…

Since our last edition, Mid Sussex District Council revealed their intentions at another Scrutiny Committee for Housing and Economic Development (on 11 March).

Thank you so much to all those supporters who came along and packed the public gallery – I think they were quite surprised to have so many witnesses! And it was great to chat to some of you. We couldn’t do this without you. 

These are some of the things we’ve learned from what was said at the Committee – thanks mainly to some tough questioning of MSDC officers by Burgess Hill Councillors Robert Eggleston, Janice Henwood and Matt Cornish and also Sue Hatton from Hassocks. 

Saying one thing, meaning another.. Councillor Neville Walker announced at the Scrutiny Committee that the Council’s much vaunted 5 year housing land supply is “our insurance preventing unwanted development throughout our beautiful Mid-Sussex”.

This prompted snorts of derision from the public gallery and no surprise. It wasn’t long before council officers were explaining that once this site selection process is finished the review of the District Plan starts and they will have to “identify new sites to meet new targets” in a never-ending rolling process. And where will these sites be? Well it partly depends on which sites get through this round. Burgess Hill Councillor Robert Eggleston got MSDC officers to admit that if the fields South of Folders Lane are developed in this round, the “built up boundary” of Burgess Hill moves to the edge of the new housing. And current MSDC planning policy means that any land within 150 metres of that new boundary is fair game for developers. That’s all the fields between Keymer Road and Ditchling, and even south of Wellhouse Lane.

This is why we’re doing everything we can to fight it…

Getting closer to the truth about how and why the fields were chosen..

We’re waiting for the result of our appeal to the Information Commissioner over MSDC’s refusal to release the notes from the Site Selection Working Group that unexpectedly chose the fields South of Folders Lane for housing at their final meeting last summer.

At the Scrutiny Committee, Councillor Sue Hatton, the only member of the Committee who actually sat on that working group, raised serious issues about how it operated in its final weeks, and we share her concerns.

These are her exact words from the Committee meeting on March 11:

“As a member of the site selection group, and I think I’m the only one in this room that has sat on it from this committee, I was concerned that the final months’ deliberations were severely restricted as a result of last May’s election. The group had been set up specifically for all areas of the district to be represented equally by councillors with an in depth knowledge of their own areas and that was its strength. Unfortunately the group was depleted after the election, reduced by 3 including its chairman with no substitutes allowed. These were all members representing the south of the district. When its last meeting was called in August when I was away on holiday there were therefore no councillor to represent the south to take part in the deliberations at that meeting. Consequently the 300 site [SA13] was chosen over Haywards Heath Golf Club which I note now has been submitted as a planning application in its own right. In view of this I think the site south of Folders Lane should be taken out, and consideration be given to the inclusion of Haywards Heath Golf Club.”

It couldn’t be clearer…

The decision making process was not fit for purpose, with the final crucial recommendations being made by a depleted, unrepresentative, working group, and we believe MSDC are trying to hide the truth…

A SOFLAG dictionary of MSDC words and phrases…

Is it all part of MSDC’s plan? Confuse the public with technicalities so they can’t understand or argue against them?  

Luckily SOFLAG are here to help explain a couple of the more significant words and phrases used at the last Scrutiny Committee: 

This relates to traffic, and basically means that all that transport modelling they rely on so much is only measuring, (or rather modelling because they don’t actually go out and measure any actual traffic!), the additional impact of the new houses as allocated in the Site Allocations DPD.

So it doesn’t matter how congested a junction is already, it’s how additionally bad it’s going to get. Which presumably means that if like Folders Lane / Keymer Road it’s pretty much gridlocked already, making it a bit worse is ok.

To quote Andrew Marsh, Business Unit Leader for Planning Policy:
“What the transport model was doing, and what the results are showing which is that the additionality of the sites within the sites dpd, and that’s all 22 housing sites, employment sites and the science and technology park don’t cause a severe impact on that junction by virtue of the sites dpd itself”

Another wonderful phrase courtesy of MSDC’s Andrew Marsh, used when talking about why certain sites were rejected again after the first consultation round. He said:
“What we need to be mindful of with all of the sites that we’re taking forward is their ultimate deliverability,”

We assume this means how likely these sites are to be delivered for housing, and how quickly.

This of course then begs the question, when Haywards Heath Golf Course is ready to go and now has a live planning application in progress, and there are clearly many, many issues with the fields south of Folders Lane, why on earth did they reject one and choose the other…?

What can you do? 

At the moment of course, the only truly important thing for all our supporters is to stay safe and follow the government’s advice on social distancing and staying at home.

We are local, and can offer help to anyone who needs it – email info@soflag.co.uk

We are waiting to hear what the Corona situation means for the planning process. The full Council Meeting on April 1 that would have debated the next stage of the site allocations process is listed as “postponed”. This should mean an extension to the timeframe, and we’ll let you know as soon as we do. 

Follow us on social media if you can for the latest updates (click on the links at the bottom of this email). If you can’t, we’ll be sending another newsletter soon..

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