Battle lines are drawn over 10,000 home ‘new town’ for West Sussex

JPCT 290714 S143111839x Mayfield Market Towns -photo by Steve Cobb SUS-140729-130135001
JPCT 290714 S143111839x Mayfield Market Towns -photo by Steve Cobb SUS-140729-130135001

Mayfield Market Towns’ proposal to build 10,000 homes, just outside Henfield, has become more concrete after it submitted its first proposal to the district council.

Based on its research, Mayfield’s 64 page document outlines a development that would equally split between the districts of Horsham and Mid Sussex.

The document also recommends an additional ‘standalone settlement in Horsham of 5,000’ homes and states there is provision for 20,000 houses in total within Horsham district, but explains that this could work out as a ‘much lower’ option than other scenarios.

The report, titled ‘Horsham District Planning Framework Proposed Submission’ (HDPFPS), reads: “Mayfield’s alternative and objectively assessed housing requirement of about 20,000 dwellings (1,000 per annum) can be accommodated in Horsham district and that a new settlement, incorporating 5,000 homes within the Horsham district, would be a sustainable option for strategic growth.

“A New Market Town of this scale would ensure that development at the smaller settlements could be much lower than in other scenarios considered within the HDPFPS when an objectively assessed level of housing need is considered.”

A representative at Market Place Communications (MPC) - a company hired by Mayfield to conduct its research - said the new Sussex town would be accommodating the ‘undersupply of housing’ in the district.

Since the government came to power in May 2010, it has abolished the South East Plan (SEP) and introduced the National Policy Planning Framework (NPPF), which designated a housing supply of 650 homes per annum for the next five years.

MPC account executive Scott Compton told the County Times:“Our evidence shows that a New Market Town as proposed by Mayfield would help to overcome the barriers to economic growth in the region, promote prosperity and make a significant contribution to addressing the undersupply of housing.

“It offers a sustainable way of meeting future housing growth by providing a new settlement with all the facilities required, and has clear advantages over other proposals, which are purely add-ons,” he said.

In its submission report, Mayfield stated that Horsham District Council (HDC) ‘does not have a full and proper understanding of the full objectively assessed need of the Housing Market Area’.

It also criticised the council for not engaging effectively with the neighbouring areas to the proposed site.

The report states: “There is no publicly available evidence base which shows how meaningful engagement has taken place with neighbouring authorities in a continuous fashion prior to submission of the report.”

In reference to the provision of houses in the district, Mayfield claims HDC ‘failed to calculate housing requirements’.

It also claims that HDC ‘failed to allocate sufficient housing land’, ‘failing to allocate sufficient employment land’ and criticised its ‘absence of an effective Environmental Capacity Assessment’.

In support of these claims, Mr Compton said: “In our representations to HDC, we have presented a robust body of evidence that shows their proposed development plan for the district is fundamentally flawed on a number of levels.

“Most significantly, it drastically underestimates the level of housing that will be needed in Horsham over the next 20 years.

“They have also comprehensively failed to work co-operatively with neighbouring authorities as required under government legislation, an astonishing oversight when such co-operation is so critical to tackling the nation’s chronic housing crisis,” he said.

The NPPF has identified building 650dpa (dwellings per annum) as a ‘working’ figure, but this estimate is not based on an up-to-date objectively assessed housing need study, according to Mayfield.

The report reads: “Therefore it would be impossible to agree on effective outcomes.”

It also states that the Alternative Sustainability Appraisal (SA) ‘demonstrates that a New Market Town between Sayers Common and Henfield is a sustainable strategic location’.

In the Alternative SA re-port, Mayfield said it objectively assessed housing need of 1,000dpa and the SA found that it is a ‘more sustainable option’ than HDC’s proposed housing requirement of 650dpa.

Mr Compton continued: “This submission is the culmination of many months of expert research, and we are hopeful that HDC will take the time to seriously consider our findings.

“In any case we are confident that the Planning Inspector will confirm the validity of our conclusions.

“Mayfield Market Towns has set out to deliver a prosperous and sustainable new community and all the necessary infrastructure to support it, and we are eager to work with HDC and the neighbouring authorities to realise this ambitious vision.”

Out of the 10,000 homes as stipulated at the beginning of the report, 3,000 of these would be affordable housing, and the development would hope to bring 10,000 new jobs to Sayers Common, Hickstead and Henfield.

The report is not a planning application, but a report based on Mayfield’s research. It looks into planning policy, working with the councils, housing growth need, environmental capacity, and other background information.

Action group LAMBS (Locals Against Mayfield Building Sprawl) is mainly comprised of residents living close to the proposed site where Mayfield plans to build.

In June it organised a meeting about Mayfield Market Towns’ intention to build 10,000 homes and attracted more than 400 residents at St Paul’s Catholic College in Burgess Hill, where a panel of MPs, councillors and representatives of other organisations were present.

Richard Howard, is challenging the Mayfield Representation report and said: “There has been no ‘community engagement’. From the very start they have sought to undermine local democracy in the preparation of this unsustainable proposal.

“The mountains of Appendices submitted along with this Representation reveal a fantasy scheme which could only have been dreamt up by remote city planners creating a theoretical model, with no proper understanding of the local area.

“Their claim to have consulted with the local residents is farcical. They have even had the gall to rename Sayers Common ‘the new ‘Sayers’ in proposals for a ‘split settlement’ - completely without the knowledge or permission of the villagers living there.

“The housing numbers they want to impose on Horsham District are ridiculous; many thousands more houses than can be accounted for by their unwanted proposal. This makes nonsense of the claim that it would be instead of the so called ‘add-ons’ to existing towns and villages. That was just a spurious ploy designed to hoodwink people into supporting the unnecessary destruction of thousands of acres of beautiful Sussex countryside.

“This plan is in no way sustainable. The site is an important wildlife habitat, on a flood plain seven miles from the railway line - Mayfields’ own study states that it will generate tens of thousands new car journeys every day; how can that be green?

“If Mayfield got its way, the iconic view from Devils Dyke would be one large urban sprawl peppered by new sewage treatment plants, power stations, wind farms, retail and industrial parks and an expanded road system; and Brighton’s ‘lungs’ would be gone forever.”

Dr Roger Smith, speaking for CPRE Sussex-Horsham District, told the County Times: “Mayfield Market Towns’ submission in response to Horsham District Council’s Horsham District Planning Framework is a significant step in their attempt to gain approval for their proposed new town.

“To justify their proposal they are seeking to convince the Planning Inspectorate that a house-building target of at least 20,000 new houses – far in excess of the 13,000 considered to be just-about-sustainable by HDC – be imposed on the district.

“The threat posed by Mayfield is therefore very real, and it is not confined solely to the area targeted for their new town.

“This is because 15,000 of the of the 20,000 houses would be built on countryside elsewhere in Horsham district, including north of Horsham and Southwater, though Mayfield is also pressing for a new settlement of 5,000 at an unspecified location elsewhere in Horsham district.

“Mayfield and the other developers who are also seeking to impose huge house-building targets on the district are doing so in the belief that the Planning Inspectorate will decide in their favour – and that public opinion and opposition will probably count for nothing in the decision-making process.

“Cynicism and concerns about the quality of decision-making is understandable and for good reason - because the planning system often seems to be skewed in favour of developers.

“It is vital therefore that all who are concerned for the future of our district, the countryside and the natural environment, ensure that elected representatives – MPs and district councillors – are fully aware that the outcome of the forthcoming Examination in Public (EiP) of the Horsham District Planning Framework and the unprecedented threat to the district’s countryside is of major consequence and that the house-building targets now being pressed for by developers are excessive and unacceptable.

“It is essential, too, that all organisations and action groups formed to defend communities against inappropriate and harmful development challenge the huge targets at the EiP. And, the don’t-build-in-my-backyard build-in-someone-else’s approach favoured by some will play into the hands of developers, so best not employ it.”

Henfield resident Kenneth McIntosh said: “I do much prefer organic growth to meet local housing needs and do support local sustainable development, and Mayfield’s proposals do not float my boat.

“Our unique Sussex Low Weald and its villages need to be protected for those in our surrounding towns and tourists to breathe in and take in the peace and beauty that is theirs for ever to enjoy for ever.

“To describe the 10,000 home a ‘garden city’ when it is only through building high density housing in order to recoup land purchase costs and achieve the high profit margins demanded is laughable.

“Green spaces do not create profits to a developer. Visit Crawley (New Town) and see how much has gone under concrete and tarmac through infilling of the original designed-in green spaces. The Low Weald deserves better than this.

“Serious threats do loom: The 1946 New Towns Act has not been removed from the statute book and can be used with relative ease and impunity.

“To counter these threats we do have to work with our local authorities when they ask for support to their plans. We have to find out how our politicians and not just those currently in office stand on Mayfield’s proposals and on housing issues.

“To better protect our natural and built environment we need to lobby for existing policy frame works on housing development and their guiding principles to be upheld.

“We need to better support exiting policies on the use of derelict land and the redevelopment of derelict buildings for housing.”

To read Mayfield’s ‘Representations to Horsham District Council on the Horsham District Planning Framework Proposed Submission’ report, go to HDC’s planning portal at

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