Millennium Dome architect speaks out

Henfield - Millennium Dome
Henfield - Millennium Dome

Campaigners protesting against proposals for a new town on hundreds of acres of countryside near Henfield have received a letter of support from the world famous urban architect, Lord Rogers of Riverside.

Mayfield Market Towns wants to build a 10,000 home town on 1200 acres of countryside around Wineham, stretching to within a mile of Henfield village.

The London based property company has been lobbying district councils throughout Sussex, claiming the new town would solve the county’s housing problems.

However, Lord Rogers, who designed the Millennium Dome, Lloyds of London and the Pompidou Centre in Paris, says there is enough space in London and other uk cities to meet most of Britain’s housing needs and that building a new town in the countryside would be “an environmental disaster.”

In a letter to the local protest group, LAMBS, Lord Rogers said: “I was Chair of the Government’s Urban Task Force and we produced a report in 1999, approved by Parliament, in which we established that the only sustainable form of development is to build on derelict land.

“There are thousands of acres of Brownfield land available in the South East of England. There is much discussion about creating a new town around Byfleet which has good transport but even that would slow down the development of East London, which is the single largest area of deprivation in London and in need of planning an urban densification

“Existing settlements already contain ‘live, work and leisure’; public transport, schools, hospitals, churches, meeting halls and existing social and physical infrastructure.

“Greenfield land has none of these facilities in place and therefore it will mean that more cars, roads, sewers, etc will be required which is why it is not environmentally sustainable.

“The USA Green Building Council and the Sierra Club established that even a really well-designed eco-house uses more energy than that a standard old house in a town and, of course, losing beautiful countryside is an environmental disaster.”

Lord Rogers also sent LAMBS a copy of a letter he had written to Lord Adonis in January, in which he said he was ‘nervous of any proposals to relax restrictions on green field development to create a new generation of new towns’.

“We must protect and make the best use of our existing urban communities and assets,” the letter states. “There is still sufficient space in London and our other cities to build many more homes: 62,000 hectares of derelict or vacant brownfield land would allow space for nearly 2.5 million homes at current average densities, meeting the majority of housing need this decade.

“The housing crisis is one of the biggest challenges facing London and the South East. Some of the solutions are complex, but I am sure that committed government action could make a difference.”

LAMBS’ Founder, Anthony Watts Williams, who lives at the centre of the proposed new town site, welcomed Lord Roger’s comments.

“It is a relief to hear someone talking so much common sense,” he said. “Lord Rogers is a world famous architect with a wealth of experience and expertise – if it doesn’t make sense to him, then you have to ask why Mayfields is still pursuing this crazy scheme? No one here can understand why anyone would want to target this area when there are so many negatives against building something of this scale here – it is totally unsustainable and undeliverable.”