Nick Herbert: One battle after another over development

Arundel and South Downs MP Nick Herbert
Arundel and South Downs MP Nick Herbert

I was pleased that West Sussex County Council’s planning committee this week voted to refuse retrospective planning permission for an expanded waste processing facility at Crouchland Farm near Kirdford.

A few years ago I visited the farm and was supportive of the principle of recycling waste from their own dairy unit. But the operation has grown from then so that waste is now brought in to the farm from long distances, involving disruptive lorry movements on totally unsuitable country lanes. And all this was done without permission.

On behalf of the local community I raised a formal objection to the expansion. The industrial activity was simply inappropriate for the rural area. Not far from the farm is the site where Celtique Energie wants to drill for fracking.

The same argument applies - it’s a totally inappropriate site close to the South Downs National Park.

That’s why I objected to the company’s application to drill, and why I have asked to appear before the Planning Inspector early in September when the company’s appeal is heard.

This Sunday morning I will be joining a walk in Houghton Forest, near Madehurst, to see the site where Forest Holidays want to build 75 holiday lodges and other facilities.

I have already raised concerns that this is not a suitable development in this beautiful area in the South Downs National Park.

I sometimes feel as if the communities I represent are having to fight one battle after another to protect the West Sussex countryside and the special South Downs which we love.

I don’t believe that anyone is opposed to all development, but it’s a question of scale and whether the proposals are in keeping with the area.

After all, the South Downs have the highest landscape protection for good reason.

Industrial units should be sited sensibly, maximising the use of brownfield sites, and avoiding lorries through tranquil villages or on narrow country lanes. This isn’t selfish - it’s just common sense.

Some people criticise me - and the communities I represent - for opposing major developments in my constituency. Well, I’m completely unapologetic about it when schemes are inappropriate or poorly located.

As I told a Government conference on neighbourhood planning this week, I am privileged to represent one of the most beautiful constituencies in England - a very special rural area.

Local people rightly want to keep it that way, and I will do everything in my power to support them.

If you would like to get in touch with me, please write to me at the House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA, or email me at nick@nickherbert.com.