Developers thwart villagers’ planning hopes

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Villagers are asking Secretary of State Eric Pickles to call in a planning appeal after a housing estate was given the go-ahead despite it being contrary to their emerging Neighbourhood Plan.

Residents have also written to MPs Nicholas Soames, Francis Maude and Henry Smith after their proposals for where future housing should go were ignored.

Slaugham Parish Council, together with residents from the four villages in the parish, have spent many hours and money preparing a Neighbourhood Plan to suggest where development should go to meet local needs.

But a proposal by developers Redrow for 51 houses in Pease Pottage, which was turned down by Mid Sussex District Council, has now been allowed by a planning inspector despite being objected to by the parish council as well.

The development site off Black Swan Close is bordered by Mid Sussex, Horsham and Crawley constituencies and local people are lobbying MPs Nicholas Soames, Francis Maude and Henry Smith.

Slaugham Parish Council chairman Sue Hance said: “The parish council was very disappointed with the inspector’s decision.

“The problem is that if Mid Sussex District Council, as the Local Planning Authority, cannot give enough weigh to an emerging neighbourhood plan like our’s then developers will put in a premature planning application that will undermine the neighbourhood plan.”

She added: “The problem is this is such a new process that no one has really thought through what will happen in this period (before a neighbourhood plan is adopted) and developers, if they think their sites are not going to be included in a neighbourhood plan then they have put in their own plans beforehand.”

Mrs Hance said councillors now wanted to prevent the same situation affecting other communities.

Pease Pottage resident Hilary Darvishi said villagers were disappointed that Redrow had been given the green light.

She said residents were encouraged by the introduction of ‘Localism’ and the chance to help shape their community. They had come up with a plan for a stronger village centre, shops and housing making use of brown field sites instead of the green space now destined for development.

But Mrs Darvishi, treasurer of Pease Pottage Residents’ Association, said ‘localism’ had turned out to be worthless with local people’s views ignored in the planning process.

She said: “There is real disparity between statements made by Ministers as to the weight that should be given to emerging neighbourhood plans and the actual weight given by local planning authorities during the current planning process.

“Slaugham Parish Council have spent a lot of time, effort, passion and money on their plan and it’s time Ministers stand up and give neighbourhood planning the necessary support to prevent premature planning applications upending the process.

“It would be terrible for all the parish council’s efforts to have been in vain as already many in Pease Pottage are asking ‘why have we bothered?’”

Mrs Darvishi said the organisation Group Action for Pease Pottage, which is part of the residents’ association, was now encouraging residents to write to their MPs and the Department for Communities and Local Government, which is responsible for neighbourhood planning, to express their disappointment.

She said people were also writing to Secretary of State for Communities Eric Pickles to ask him to call in the Redrow appeal for reconsideration.