Wintons Farm – 8 houses or many more?

Wintons Farm – 8 houses now, more to come?!

An application has been made to build 8 executive homes on land at Wintons Farm, Folders Lane, next to the fishing lakes. SOFLAG will be objecting to it, and you could help by objecting too. 

We’ll explain why it’s important, and how you can object…

This is a greenfield rural location and we believe it is an unsuitable and unsustainable site for housing. 

We are also concerned that although only 8 houses are proposed now, many more could be to come – up to 120 houses have previously been proposed on a bigger site at this location. 

In 2013 and 2016 the proponents of this site suggested up to 120 houses on an area including the whole farm and the fishing lakes – site 4 in this extract from MSDC’s possible housing sites map: 
 

(557 on that map is SA13, and 534 is the Jones Homes Folders Grove development including SA12).

And in the recent Site Allocations DPD the whole of the farm (excluding the lakes) was proposed not just the small site being applied for now: 

We’re worried that this could be a Trojan Horse application. That’s when a developer applies for a small number of houses to start with before applying for more at a later date. They do this when they know that if they applied for all the houses at once it would be refused. Getting permission for a small development first helps by opening up access and setting a precedent for building at the location.

A classic example of this was the Willowhurst development on Keymer Road. We objected to that application because we knew that Thakeham Homes were using it to open up the fields beyond for development – although they denied it at the time of course! Sure enough they now want to build hundreds of houses on those fields (SA13) using Willowhurst as the access road.

Perhaps the developer will only ever want to build 8 houses at Wintons, but our experience tells us that is unlikely!

How to object – deadline Wednesday 13 October

SOFLAG will be submitting a comprehensive objection on behalf of all our supporters, but if you’d like to object yourselves you can do so here on the MSDC website. Or you can email the planning officer – joanne.fisher@midsussex.gov.uk

It’s application reference DM/21/3311 Erection of 8 dwellings, alterations to site access, provision of car parking along with hard and soft landscaping. | Land At Wintons And Wintons Fishery Folders Lane Burgess Hill West Sussex RH15 0DR

Reasons why this application is unsustainable and inappropriate include: 

  • The application is contrary to the policies and principles of the National Planning Policy Framework and specifically paragraphs 12 and 176
  • It contravenes Mid Sussex District Plan policies DP6, DP12 & DP19
  • It contravenes Burgess Hill Neighbourhood Plan policies H2 and H3
  • It would cause harm to the setting of the South Downs National Park
  • The site has been deemed unsuitable for housing due to risk of surface water flooding
  • This may be a “Trojan Horse” application for up to 120 houses

Read our full objection submission on the SOFLAG website.

The site is only 250 metres from the boundary of the National Park, and the flooding risk has been acknowledged by the developer in their own documents. It’s all classified as being at “1 in 1,000” risk of flooding, but so was Folders Grove and that’s flooded once already… 

Please help us if you can by sending an objection by 13th October. 

Site Allocations DPD Hearings – report 2

The Inspector’s initial Hearings finished on schedule, but this was not the end for our sites. 

After a whole day of listening to compelling evidence from our legal team, the South Downs National Park and local MP Andrew Griffith, Inspector Fox felt that there were lots of unanswered questions about Sites SA12 & SA13. 

On Thursday last week he came back to look at the fields again. In fact he viewed them twice, firstly with representatives from the National Park and MSDC. They disagree about about how many, if any, houses could be built on the fields without destroying the setting of the National Park and the Inspector has asked them to work together to try and come up with a solution to their current impasse.

He then looked at the fields with representatives from SOFLAG and Burgess Hill Town Council. He was considering the ecological impact of development, the proximity to the National Park and coalescence with the villages to the south. He was also interested in the access. 

Of course we can’t know exactly what he took away from this visit, but we are happy that he understood why we are fighting to protect these greenfield sites. 

We know he is taking this seriously as he has allocated another hearing session, to be held some time in the next few weeks (or possibly in a couple of months after the summer holidays). 

In the meantime, MSDC and  the National Park Authority have to finish their “statement of common ground” which may, or may not, produce a possible housing number for the Inspector to consider. There will also be another Landscape and Visual Impact Assessment (LVIA).

We know that the Inspector has called for all this extra work to be done because the sites are so contentious, and because we were able to make our case so strongly at the Hearings. And that of course is in large part thanks to our generous donors helping to fund the fight – so thank you again!

Our voice will be heard again at the final hearing session. Before that happens, once again in conjunction with Burgess Hill Town Council, we have engaged an expert Landscape Consultant who will visit the sites to gain an understanding of their value. He will also review all the written evidence presented so far, and most importantly look at the new LVIA. He will then help prepare our Hearing Statement and appear at the Hearing on our behalf, together with our barrister Dr Ashley Bowes.

We don’t know how long all this is going to take nor of course how  much it will cost. At the moment we have just about enough left in the kitty – we anticipated something like this could happen!  And if we do need to raise a little bit more, we know our wonderful supporters will be there to help. 

Site Allocations DPD Hearings – first report

We attended the Hearings for 3 full days from 1 – 3 June 2021. This is quite a long report, but we wanted to let all our supporters know what happened, and how we think it went. 

Firstly we have to say a huge thank you to our fantastic team from Cornerstone Barristers (who also hosted us for the sessions), Grace Machin planning consultants and GTA Civils Transport consultants who all spoke on behalf of SOFLAG and Burgess Hill Town Council in defence of the fields.

And of course an equally huge thank you to all those who donated to enable us to engage the team. It was clear that as “amateurs” we would not have been taken seriously if we had tried to speak ourselves – the barrister for MSDC was very forceful and we wouldn’t have been able to stand up to him. 

On Tuesday Matters 1 and 2 were discussed. This dealt with lots of technicalities of the Development Plan Document as a whole such as whether certain policies are strategic or not.

Some questions relevant to Sites SA12 & SA13 came up, including the inexplicably few environmental considerations looked at by the DPD as it selected housing sites.

The fundamental issue of the unbalanced distribution of housing allocations was also raised, and this was discussed again under Matter 3 on Wednesday. 

We have made the important point that Burgess Hill was allocated over 5,600 houses in the District Plan compared to 2,500 at East Grinstead and Haywards Heath. And Burgess Hill is the only one of the three to have “no residual requirement” ie it shouldn’t have to take any more – as shown in this table from the District Plan itself: 

MSDC’s QC tried to counter this by making the staggering claim that the Northern Arc shouldn’t count towards Burgess Hill’s numbers!

The only way he could make the figures add up was to say that if you take that out then Burgess Hill is taking the same number as Haywards Heath and East Grinstead.
Which of course is technically true, but then if you take out Leicester’s goal the FA cup final was a draw…

The Inspector allocated the whole of Thursday to discuss sites SA12 & SA13. 

The first person to speak was Arundel and South Downs MP Andrew Griffith who explained his support for removing sites SA12 & SA13 from the DPD. He highlighted how damaging developing the fields would be to the National Park and the local community: 

“We cannot have a National Park that resembles Central Park, Manhattan, with development right up to the boundary. If we allow communities to coalesce, we actually destroy what makes people want to live there in the first place.”

Next came the representatives from the South Downs National Park Authority who were firm in their opposition to building hundreds of houses on these sites. The MSDC barrister seemed unwilling to accept what they were saying. 

Our barrister, planning consultant and transport consultant then all had their chance to present our case, and to respond to the MSDC barrister and others who tried to contradict what we said.

We think our case came across well. We showed the Inspector that to allocate Sites SA12 and SA13 causes harm to the landscape and biodiversity, damages the setting of the National Park and would affect the whole of Burgess Hill through the serious traffic issues.

Critically, he was also shown that he can remove these sites and the DPD will still provide the level of housing required – there are “reasonable alternatives.”

There’s no more for us to do at the Hearings until June 15th when the National Park and infrastructure issues including traffic will be discussed. Our expert transport consultant will appear again on that day and we expect more opposition from MSDC.

And then we just wait for the Inspector’s final report.

We can do no more. We did our best, and thanks to all our generous donors and by joining forces with Burgess Hill Town Council that best was as good as it could have been…

Thanks again for all your support.

SOFLAG

END OF YEAR UPDATE

SEASONS GREETINGS TO ALL OUR SUPPORTERS

Thank you to all our supporters for all your hard work during 2020, objecting twice to MSDC’s proposals to allocate the fields for housing in their Site Allocations Development Plan Document.

2021 could bring a major decision on the fate of the fields with the conclusion of this Site Selection process.

There’s not much progress to report following the latest round of consultation. According to their website, MSDC are still “reading and logging the responses received during the consultation”. 

Thanks again to everyone who responded.  Hopefully local people have made their voice loud and clear.

WHAT HAPPENS NEXT –

Legal representation at the hearings – a call for donations?

For the first time in SOFLAG’s history, we may need to appeal to you for financial support.

The Independent Planning Inspector will be considering MSDC’s Development Plan at hearings in the new year.

This could be our final shot at protecting the fields from development.

If sites SA12/13 (the name given to the fields in the MSDC Document) are allocated, building is scheduled to start in 2022….

MSDC and all the developers will be heavily represented by barristers to defend their interests. It’s a sad fact that for us to have any effective presence at the hearings, we too will need to engage a specialist planning barrister.  In previous such hearings, we’ve seen that the Inspector simply takes more notice of the words of officials and their barristers.  They speak the same language.

In such uncertain times, we realise it’s not the best time to be asking for money, but one thing that we’ve all learned is how important nature and open spaces are to the wellbeing of our population.  Space, clean air, nature habitats…all these things are set to be lost if this development goes ahead.  If you are in a position to donate, now really is the time…. Think about how your quality of life will be affected if this development were to go ahead… the traffic, the loss of open natural space, the drop in property value, Burgess Hill eating up further swathes of the Hassocks countryside…

If you think you might be able to help, now is the time so please do let us know.

Please email info@soflag.co.uk and tell us how much you might be able to contribute to a legal fighting fund. It doesn’t matter how small the amount. This will enable us to build a fundraising plan. If you’d rather chat to one of us about this, leave your phone number and we’ll give you a call.

This does not mean you are committing yourselves to anything, it’s just to give us an estimate. We won’t keep a record of who offered what, and we’ll ask again if and when we decide we are able to go ahead.

We know the development is crazy. The Town Council know it’s crazy.   So we must make sure our voice is heard by the inspector.  We’re sure, if the evidence is presented in the correct way, they will also see this development is totally inappropriate.

We are currently looking into the best and most secure way to collect and hold donations. We’ll be in touch in the new year when we know more…but in the meantime please email us if you would like to contribute.

A taste of what’s to come?

Anyone wondering what will happen if we don’t stop the development got a sneak preview a couple of weeks ago when the A273 between Hassocks and Burgess Hill was blocked by a fallen tree .

During the morning rush, hundreds of extra cars drove north up Ockley Lane / Keymer Road into Burgess Hill, and by 8.30 the traffic was stationary as far south as Broadlands and the Folders Lane roundabout and Hoadleys Corner were gridlock.

This is what it will be like every day once 500 houses at Clayton Mills with one access point on Ockley Lane are built and Keymer Tiles / Kingsway are finished, plus the 350 that we’re fighting against…

BATTLE COMMENCES

OBJECT NOW!

Help convince the Inspector that Sites SA12 & SA13 should be removed from MSDC’s Site Allocations DPD by responding to the consultation. 
We know they are unsuitable, unsustainable and undeliverable, and the whole Site Selection process has been mishandled.
If they’re allocated, developers get the green light, traffic in Burgess Hill will be gridlocked and the green gap between Burgess Hill and the Downs villages could be completely lost.
All your responses will be sent to the independent Inspector – every one counts.
REGISTER YOUR OBJECTIONS BY 28TH SEPTEMBER
HERE’S HOW..
Object Online:

1.   Click here  or type the following into your web browser:
https://www.midsussex.gov.uk/forms/?form=28943&w=1
You will find yourself at this page:

2. Click on ‘Next Page’.
You will arrive at a page to enter your personal details.  You only really need to enter your name here, unless you wish to respond as an organisation, then

3. Click ‘Next Page’ again 
On this page you must enter your home address and email address.

4. Click ‘Next Page’ again .

You will find this screen – we’ve highlighted how to complete this page:

5. Click ‘Next Page’ one last time.

You will find yourself at the ‘Your Comments’ section of the form.  This is where you will enter your own reasons for objecting.

WHAT SHOULD I WRITE?

We recommend you write one objection per issue, don’t put all your issues in one email objection.

If you wish to object regarding several issues, write several simple objections. This is allowed.

We also advise you write the objection in your own words if possible. It doesn’t have to be long but representative of your opinion.

Here’s some examples of issues:

You are objecting to the allocation of housing sites SA12 & SA13 in the DPD because:

  • The site selection process was dishonest, unrepresentative, did not follow MSDC’s own guidance.   Representations made during the first consultation were ‘lost’.
  • The traffic report produced for MSDC is fatally flawed. Clearly the traffic situation is already at breaking point and nothing substantive can be done to address this.
  • The biodiversity within the site makes it unsuitable for development and MSDC have ignored this.
  • This will coalescence – the green gap between Burgess Hill and the villages to the south will be lost forever.
  • There is a lack of infrastructure and nothing is showing in the proposals to address this.
  • Allocating these sites for housing goes against the District Plan and national planning guidance

If you don’t want to object online, you can do it by email or post: 

 

Please take a little time out of your day to do this.

We always complain that no one listens to us.  Now we have the opportunity to be heard by an independent inspector.  Unlike MSDC they will listen, so make the most of it.

OBJECTIONS MUST BE IN BY MONDAY 28TH SEPTEMBER – PLEASE DO IT NOW!

THANK YOU FOR YOUR SUPPORT…

FINAL BATTLE STARTS NOW

The final phase of the Site Selection process has begun… 

This is our best chance to:
Save the ecologically rich Folders Lane fields from development
Save Burgess Hill & surrounding villages from traffic chaos & its devastating effect on local families and businesses
Prevent a building frenzy concreting over the beautiful countryside as the edge of Burgess Hill extends towards Keymer allowing more development to the south

We believe we can save the fields. But we all need to come together as a community to show the Planning Inspector that this proposal is bad for our area.

WHAT NOW? 
A final public consultation has now opened.
Your responses will be passed to the independent Planning Inspector who will decide the fate of the fields, and our community.

WE NEED YOUR HELP AT THIS CRITICAL TIME
It’s the last throw of the dice and you CAN make a difference. We’re asking for two things from you now: 

1. Can you help us with evidence?
We’re building a case that the Site Selection process has been flawed and is unsound. We’ve found lots of errors and other issues.  Have you any written correspondence (emails or letters) with MSDC about the threat to the fields or a local planning issue over the last few years?   If you can help, please follow this link and email info@soflag.co.uk and we’ll be in touch. Your name won’t be made public.
 
2. Object, object, object…

The public consultation is open from 3rd August – 28th September.

We need everyone to respond objecting to Sites SA12 & SA13.  These responses will be sent to the Inspector, who will count and review them. It’s important we get as many as possible.  There were over 800 in the first round – this time we need 1000+.

Sign up for our email updates for more news on how to object.


SOFLAG are determined to prove to the Inspector that Sites SA12 & SA13 are unsuitable and should be removed from the Site Selection document. The Inspector is independent and not swayed by party political allegiances.

Everything you do to help us will count.

If we fail, developers will have the green light to build – traffic in Burgess Hill will be gridlocked and the green gap between Burgess Hill and the Downs villages could be completely lost.  We know the developers are waiting to pounce.  So, we need to protect our community, countryside and livelihoods.

We need you now, more than ever. So please….

1. Send us any information about MSDC and the fields.
2. Look out for our next update on how to respond to the consultation.
 
If you have any questions, please email and we’ll try to answer them. 

Follow these links for more details on how we got to this point:

MID SUSSEX DISTRICT COUNCIL VOTE TO CONDEMN THE FIELDS

EXPERTS CONFIRM TRAFFIC STUDY IS FLAWED

HOW BURGESS HILL & DOWNS VILLAGES COULD NOW MERGE

EXPERTS CONFIRM TRAFFIC STUDY IS FLAWED

As you know MSDC have been relying on the traffic study they commissioned from SYSTRA to try and prove, in the face of all the evidence to the contrary, that hundreds more houses exiting onto Keymer Road / Folders Lane won’t cause gridlock. 

We all know this is nonsense, so SOFLAG commissioned an expert transport consultant, GTA Civils, to examine the SYSTRA report and the claims it makes. The GTA Civils report found many issues with the SYSTRA study, and we sent a set of questions to MSDC.  You can read all the details on our website here: http://www.soflag.co.uk/traffic-truth/

In summary though, there are 3 worrying things to highlight, which surely demonstrate what we’ve known all along, the study is deeply flawed and cannot be relied on as evidence:

• To comply with the NPPF, the traffic study should have contained safety study work. MSDC admit that this has not happened, and state that it will be completed in due course in time for the inspection. The public were consulted, and Councillors are being asked to vote on Wednesday, without knowing the impacts on road safety of Sites SA12 /13, based on the evidence of an incomplete transport model that has no safety study.

• MSDC admit that the traffic model uses average speeds to create traffic flows. This is useless on the southern side of Burgess Hill when roads and junctions are gridlocked in the morning and evening peaks – an average is meaningless.

• MSDC accept SYSTRA’s interpretation of only “additional severe impact” being a problem. But if the situation at a junction is already severe, this means that no amount of new development can have an “additional” impact to make it severe, when it is severe already. To use a simple analogy, you can’t make a full glass any fuller by pouring in more water, you only make a mess…

BURGESS HILL & DOWNS VILLAGES COULD MERGE

If Sites SA12 & SA13 are allocated in the Site Selection DPD, this becomes a very real threat, something SOFLAG and Burgess Hill Town Council are keen publicise so that people responding to the consultation and the Inspector are aware of the consequences.

How could this happen? It’s because if the fields are developed, the built up boundary of Burgess Hill moves to their southern edge. According to MSDC planning policy and the District Plan, all the last remaining fields between BH and Keymer / Hassocks would then become fair game for developers because they are now “contiguous with the settlement boundary”.

And with the 500 houses at Clayton Mills already moving the northern edge of Hassocks closer to Burgess Hill, how long will it be before there is a single sea of concrete and houses between the two?

Developers already have their eyes on fields south of Wellhouse Lane, moving ever closer to Keymer, as this map from a “scoping” planning application in 2017 shows:

COUNCIL VOTE TO CONDEMN FIELDS

MSDC voted against removing Sites SA12 & SA13 from the Site Selection DPD document at the last Full Council meeting on 22nd July.

Leader of Burgess Hill Town Council and MSDC councillor Robert Eggleston proposed an amendment to save the fields by removing them from the allocation document, but as expected thanks to the efforts of council officers and councillors from the north of the District it failed.

The voting was very telling.

Almost every Councillor from Burgess Hill and the villages to the south supported the amendment, with the notable exception of Colin Trumble (Conservative, Hurstpierpoint) who voted against, in effect supporting an increase in traffic in his area and the narrowing of the green gap protecting his village from coalescence.

In contrast, fellow Conservative Emma Coe-Gunnell White was brave enough to defy her party to support her constituents and support it.

Of course, every Councillor from north of Burgess Hill voted against the amendment, happy to see hundreds more houses dumped on Burgess Hill rather than their own area.

Now it all depends on the independent Inspector who will see every response to the next round of consultation. We’ll be sending a comprehensive submission and asking all our supporters to respond too. Thankfully the Inspector is not swayed by party political allegiances.

The fields could be saved at vital Council meeting

 

After delays due to Coronavirus the Site Selection DPD will be voted on at the Full Council Meeting on Wednesday 22nd July.

Burgess Hill Councillor Robert Eggleston is putting forward an amendment to remove Sites SA12 & 13 from the allocation.

In addition to all the reasons why the fields are unsuitable and unsustainable, there are 3 important grounds for their removal on Wednesday:

1. They are not needed – MSDC can now meet its housing requirement with a comfortable buffer without concreting over these green fields.  Read an explanation of why here

2. Allocating these fields moves the built up boundary of Burgess Hill to their southern edge, making all the last remaining fields between BH and Keymer / Hassocks fair game for developers because they are now “contiguous with the settlement boundary”.

3. If developed, there will be thousands more car journeys on the already gridlocked Folders Lane / Keymer Road / Hoadleys Corner routes into town. Burgess Hill will grind to a halt. Read how MSDC can’t answer the serious questions about their SYSTRA transport study here

Your local councillors have the power to stop this by supporting the amendment – contact them now and urge them to do so. Email addresses here:
http://midsussex.moderngov.co.uk/mgMemberIndex.aspx…