Letter: Local democracy is at stake

Your letters
Your letters

Anyone interested in the new plans of Mid Sussex District Council for the District’s long term future, and in the neighbourhood planning process, should be deeply concerned at developments that could shortly cause all those plans to be scrapped.

The new MSDC District Plan was due to be examined by a Planning Inspector in November. That public examination has now been postponed indefinitely, whilst the Planning Inspector considers a point raised by Brighton and other coastal Councils, egged on by a raft of property developers including the promoters of the mad “Mayfield Market Town” scheme, who would like Mid Sussex to build houses here to absorb an alleged overspill of demand in between Brighton and Chichester. The Inspector has made it clear that he will require MSDC to withdraw its current plan if he finds against it on this point. If that happens all 18 neighbourhood plans being worked on and promoted across the District will be in disarray.One particularly disturbing aspect of this new development is the way in which property developers have wormed their way into the process. The duty of Councils to co-operate with each other over housing and other matters is a new statutory duty introduced via the Localism Act in 2011.

It only applies as between public authorities. Yet MSDC’s Planning Inspector will take evidence from no fewer than 12 property companies as to whether MSDC has complied with that duty.

Why should these property companies, who have a naked self-interest in getting MSDC’s development plan scrapped so that they can press for far more

houses to be built here, be given the opportunity to promote their cause on an issue of co-

operation that applies only as between neighbouring planning authorities?

All the more so when Brighton Council has already admitted in open hearings that, even if (as it claims) MSDC should have consulted it more, it would not have expected MSDC to have increased the prospective housing numbers in MSDC’s plan.

At stake here is local democracy, and the power of democratically elected District and parish

Councils to determine their District’s and neighbourhood’s needs. Unless the evidence of non-co-operation between MSDC and the coastal Councils, and its consequence, is compelling – and it is difficult to see how it can be given Brighton Council’s admission in earlier evidence – it would be shocking if the Planning Inspector were to compel MSDC to withdraw its plan and throw the neighbourhood planning process into possible chaos. Even more so if he were to do so based on the arguments of property companies aiming to concrete over our countryside with a 10,000 home new town.

MICHAEL BROWN,

Trustee, Campaign to Protect Rural England, Sussex Branch