About 400 people turned out to view proposals for a development of up to 500 homes on land between Crawley and Copthorne.
‘Copthorne West’ by developer St Modwen includes housing, new allotments, space for a school and a green buffer zone to help preserve the gap between the two areas.
The two-day exhibition on Friday and Saturday was a chance for residents to have their say before an application is submitted this year.
Project leader Colin Darby said: “There’s a huge long waiting list for affordable housing. Families are getting smaller, people are living longer and there’s an increased need for homes.
“People forget we are not covering the whole thing with concrete. Forty per cent is only going to have buildings on and the rest will be left as parks, playing fields. You can protect that gap. Bits that are open, we will leave open.”
The villagers were recently polled on whether this area next to the M23 should be used for housing. Out of 12 sites, Copthorne West had the lowest score.
That view was echoed by many at the exhibition. John Smith of Beechey Way, Copthorne said: “Some time or another they are going to build on that land, but it’s whether 500 homes or something else. The problem with this one is access.
“There’s one main road onto the A264. Five hundred homes means 1,000 cars.”
Another Copthorne resident said: “I went through all this 25 years ago and stopped it. It was turned down on vehicle access. That was for 250 houses. People in Copthorne have fought to preserve the gap on all sides of the village because we are a village.”
But not all residents were against the proposals.
David Lander from Crawley Down felt the community would benefit from the £8m which St Modwen would pay towards services.
He said: “You have to build in the village otherwise it will just stagnate. Building a few houses nearer to the motorway is better than our children and grandchildren having to move out. The village will need these services here even more.”
Once the exhibition responses are collated, St Modwen’s will give a community update in the autumn and submit an application by the end of the year.
If permitted, detailed plans would be submitted in 2015 and the development would be built over ten years.