Hassocks residents who staged a recent protest over pollution at Stonepound Crossroads, were incredulous this week when they heard of plans by Gleeson to build 98 homes nearby.
The developer distributed flyers to London Road residents asking for feedback on “exploring the opportunity” for a new development behind their homes, with potential access onto the A272 London Road, where cars queuing up to the crossroads belch out nitrogen dioxide above the UK legal limit.
The development to the west of London Road on land known locally as ‘Ham Fields’ would be landscaped and include much needed affordable homes for rent or part ownership, but residents, whose houses back onto the site say the gap between Hurstpierpoint and Hassocks would be eroded to “a few hundred yards”, swallowing up meadows and creating “Hassockspierpoint”.
Residents say speculative developers are trying to push through applications on sensitive rural sites before the district plan is approved and the council can demonstrate a five year land supply for development.
London Road resident Valerie Alford said: “I feel utterly betrayed by the loophole in the planning system. I’m sixty one and feel too old to face this awful threat to my home, and sick that I may be powerless to stop it.
“I bought my Victorian house 30 years ago, solely because of the wonderful location, with far reaching views across the fields at the back, and the sun setting on the horizon of distant woods to the far west.
“The A272 is, of course, a busy road with its awful fumes, litter and noise, but it was worth living along it because of what we have at the back.
“Now, we are threatened with 98 dwellings. We’ll be trapped by buildings behind us and a smelly road in front.”
The gap between Hurstpierpoint and Hassocks has already been reduced to 600 metres, following the district council’s recent approval of a housing scheme off College Lane in Hurstpierpoint.
London Road resident Steve Cowle said: “This proposed development will close the gap to within a few hundred yards.
“This completely erodes the identities of these fine historic villages. Everything must be done to prevent the creation of Hassockspierpoint.”
He added: “The infrastructure within Hassocks is already at breaking point; local schools bursting at the seams and the junction at Stonepound already highlighted as the most polluted in Sussex.”
Stonepound Crossroads has been declared a Air Quality Management Area because nitrogen dioxide emissions from car exhausts are higher than the UK legal limit. The district council has come up with a draft management plan that includes erecting signs asking motorists to switch off their engines.
But London Road resident Ian Credland, who would like the land behind his home turned into a nature reserve, said building yet more homes close to an overused crossroads near the South Downs National Park would be madness.
“There are traffic queues every night in all directions,” he said, “We need less traffic not more!”
Gleeson’s housing proposal is a ‘concept’ on the drawing board, but a spokesman for the developer, Matt Richardson, hinted that a formal proposal would be submitted to the district council soon.
He said: “There is a need for housing now and we are unclear as to when a replacement Local Plan will be in place.”
Addressing pollution issues at Stonepound, he said: “We are aware of the concerns of local residents regarding the matter of air quality, however, we have considered these in detail. Any final proposal, whilst taking on board the comments of local residents, will also consider those made by the council within their Management Plan.”
Addressing residents’ concerns about the erosion of the strategic gap and the loss of countryside, he added: “From the outset of considering any proposal for the site we carefully considered the landscape and indeed the proposal we are consulting on has been landscape-led and seeks to protect the relationship longer term between the two villages.”
Gleeson’s vision for the Hassocks site, as spelled out in its flyer, is “to create high quality living accommodation to meet a wide range of housing needs in the community”, including “affordable homes for local people on waiting lists or trying to get their foot on the property ladder.”
Gleeson’s flyer contains a request for residents’ comments, which should be sent to Matt Richardson by August 30 via email: firstname.lastname@example.org