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.