More than 300 Lindfield residents packed out a public meeting to voice vehement opposition to housing plans that could ‘destroy’ the village.
Wates Development is looking to build 200 homes to the south of Scamps Hill off Scaynes Hill Road and has included a country park and half-form entry primary school in its planning application to Mid Sussex District Council (MSDC).
However angry residents bombarded representatives from the developer with questions and objections to the scheme at a public meeting organised by Lindfield Rural Parish Council (LRPC) held at King Edward Hall on Wednesday night (January 6).
Will Blunden, chairman of Lindfield Parish Council, asked: “Do we want to destroy our village by building on our green lungs?”
He added: “The question I have to ask is can we cope with any more houses and is our village infrastructure able to support these proposed houses.”
John Jesson, of the Lindfield Preservation Society, described the development as unnecessary, and said that they did not want the village frozen in time, but any development should be sympathetic.
John Dumbleton, chairman of LRPC, suggested many people might be feeling some deja vu as several applications had been approved in the vicinity, and urged residents to write to MSDC.
But Judith Ashton, of Judith Ashton Associates, which is working with Wates on the application, said: “I appreciate nobody likes development but at the end of the day there is a requirement within the district, this parish has a requirement itself, and there is a need for affordable homes in the district as a whole.”
She explained that Mid Sussex District Council’s last adopted plan dated back to 2004 and although it was working on a new plan, there was a five year housing land supply shortage across the district.
Because of this any development should be judged against the test set out in the National Planning Policy Framework, which suggests that if there is no plan in place, there is a presumption in favour of sustainable development.
One resident added: “This is not a problem with Wates, it’s a problem with the council not listening to the people. We should write to our MP, because it’s a Government-based problem as well.
“Wates are jumping in because there’s a gap and they will fill it to make profit.”
But Martin Leach, operations director for Wates, replied: “I can see why you think we are taking advantage of the planning situation, but there is a requirement for homes and I think this scheme is sustainable.”
He felt it would provide ‘fantastic community benefits’ and said they could have drawn up a higher-density scheme for closer to 500 units.
Wates reprsentatives attempted to address residents’ concerns over drainage, traffic and landscaping issues.
Alan Brackley, of John Newton and Associates, explained that since the soil was not conducive to soakage and building houses would increase the speed of surface water runoff they were drawing up measures to temporarily store the water and control the speed it was fed into Northlands Brook.
James Bevis, a transport consultant for Wates, said they had discussed plans with West Sussex County Council as the highways authority and its view was the extra traffic would not have a ‘severe impact’ on Lindfield.
One resident replied: “You are going to destroy this village and you will not stop there.”
Another questioned the effect of other developments on the other side of Haywards Heath on traffic through Walstead.
One of the other big questions was whether WSCC would want to take on a half-form entry primary school with 105 pupils, but Wates said it was a nationally acceptable size of school, and they could negotiate with the council to make it larger if needed.
But one resident, a headteacher herself, suggested such a small school would struggle to get approval from the Department for Education, while another said the nearest available primary school places currently were in Chailey.
On landscaping Ms Ashton said they were aware of the ecological sensitivity of the site and would look to retain as many of the existing trees and hedgerows as possible.
But Margaret Pilkington, an ecologist who has lived in the village for more than 30 years, said the area was something that villagers wanted to protect, and called some of the mitigation measures ‘laughable’, such as the suggestion that residents could keep their cats in at night or attach bells to their collars to protect dormice.
To jeers from the audience David Hill, the only resident to speak in support of plans, said: “We are desperately short of strategic sites. This is as good as we are going to get and it’s something we should look at in a fair and reasonable way.”
To view plans visit www.midsussex.gov.uk using code DM/15/4457.
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