Mid Sussex District Council take the consultation to its next stage – and SOFLAG find serious issues with their procedures and transparency, some laughable traffic statements, and an unbelievable environmental claim from a developer…

There’s a lot going on with the Council’s site selection consultation at the moment and we want to make sure that those of you who can’t follow us on social media are kept up to date. So this update is long, but we don’t want you to miss anything.

Consultation – a questionable process

The Site Allocations DPD consultation closed at the end of November and now the next stage has started with a meeting of the Scrutiny Committee for Housing, Planning & Economic Growth on 22nd January.

When the report of the consultation responses was published online by MSDC, the SOFLAG response was missing from the document, as was that of the Broadlands Residents Association. Both these were highly critical of the selection of Sites SA12 & 13. We questioned this omission and were assured it was just a technical oversight. Oddly, the responses weren’t missing from the one hard copy placed in the Council Members room. The 57 missing pages were eventually added online, but not until after the Scrutiny Committee had met, so any councillors relying on the online version were scrutinising an incomplete document.

This doesn’t give us much confidence in the handling of whole consultation process. What else is being missed?

Request for information refused – more issues with transparency

SOFLAG has been trying to find out why the fields south of Folders Lane were preferred to Haywards Heath Golf Course. The Golf Course site seemed to perform better against the selection criteria. It also delivered a higher number of houses distributed more evenly across the district. We published the letter from golf course developer Fairfax Homes expressing their surprise at this decision. Their response to the consultation also makes interesting reading.

We have asked to see the notes from the Working Group which made that selection. This should be a simple way for MSDC to prove their decision was the right one. But MSDC have twice refused our Freedom of Information request. We have now been forced to escalate this to the Information Commissioner…

When is a traffic problem not a problem? When the SYSTRA computer says so…

It seems that MSDC would rather believe SYSTRA’s computer model than the evidence that we can all see with our own eyes on a daily basis.

The Keymer Road-Folders Lane roundabout  is jammed up every day, but the SYSTRA report doesn’t even mention this junction, let alone list it as assessed.

The consultation raised lots of questions surrounding SYSTRA’s assessment result, and in response MSDC state “The Strategic Transport Assessment will make clearer the localised impacts and associated mitigation within the next version.” .

Councillor Janice Henwood asked a question at the Scrutiny Committee: “How will this assessment address the east-west, north-south traffic flows in BH, with particular reference to the roundabout at Keymer Rd/ Folders Lane?”

Assistant Chief-Executive Judy Holmes read out a written response. It included the following gem about the SYSTRA traffic study, which provoked hoots of disbelief in the public gallery:  “The study concludes that the junctions at Folders Lane and Keymer Road, even without any mitigation, are not identified as being severely impacted by the site allocations DPD.”

Perhaps they think it’s so bad already that hundreds more cars every day won’t make any difference…

Developer’s magic trick for biodiversity…

We have spent several hours up at the Council offices looking at the detailed consultation responses that haven’t yet been published, including Persimmon’s – the main developer who wants to build on the fields.

Apparently they think that concreting over ancient fields can lead to an increase in biodiversity…

Their submission to the consultation contains this amazing statement from the consultants who wrote it:

“We can confirm the applicant’s agreement and commitment to ensure there is a NET GAIN IN BIODIVERSITY as a result of this development”

How does concreting over ancient ecosystems and replacing them with roads and houses possibly achieve this? Aren’t we supposed to be rewilding, not de-wilding? But of course adding one specimen of one native tree that isn’t currently onsite could be classified on paper as a statistical increase…

The submission included an “Environmental Concept Masterplan” and “Environment Landscape Statement” prepared by a company called CSA Environmental. Their website boasts of “a strong track record in delivering planning consents, and a long history of inquiry successes” which tells you all you need to know.

According to the Sussex Biodiversity Record Centre, protected species at this location include internationally protected species of bat, great crested newts, brown hairstreak moths, dormice, snakes and many varieties of bird. We included this information in our submission to MSDC.

The ecological devastation caused by developing this unspoiled site cannot be ignored – especially when there is a far less destructive option available now at Haywards Heath Golf Course…

Thank you for all your support.

We don’t need you to do anything at this stage. We’re hoping that MSDC see sense and withdraw Sites SA12 & SA13 before the next public consultation, but if they don’t we’ll have to object all over again.

We’ll keep you posted….

Posted in Uncategorised.