Fears vital green space in New Monks Farm could become more housing

Campaigners have urged Adur District Council to protect a patch of land on the edge of New Monks Farm.

Wednesday, 7th April 2021, 12:25 pm

The five-acre plot in the north west corner of the IKEA development was listed as a brownfield site by the council in 2019, meaning it could be used for development.

But the 2017 Adur Local Plan states the area should be ‘retained and managed as part of an ecological network’ and ‘where possible, enhanced’.

Adur Residents Environmental Action (AREA) has written to the council calling for the patch, known as Horsey Field, to be protected when the new local plan is drafted this year.

Horsey Field SUS-210704-110155001

“It is blatantly wrong to proceed with even considering this five-acre site for development,” said the group’s chairman, Barb O’Kelly.

“Such a move would be a contradiction of the council’s declaration of a climate emergency. It also calls into question the value of a long discussed local plan.”

AREA said the site was left undeveloped to compensate for the loss of habitat from the 600-home New Monks Farm development.

It also provides vital nature pathways for animals to move around, drainage from a huge swathe of land prone to flooding and a number of cypress trees with preservation orders.

Horsey Field SUS-210704-105716001

The group pointed to the definition of a brownfield site – ‘land which is or was occupied by a permanent structure’ – and questioned how the empty green plot could fall under that bracket.

Adur District Council’s brownfield register had listed the land as being suitable for a 35-home development, but after being contacted by the Herald for comment the council said that was an error.

A spokesman said the land was in the 2017 local plan as part of the New Monks Farm development, but the developer chose not to proceed as it is privately owned.

“It is incorrect to claim that the status of the land has changed in the local plan,” said the spokesman. “We do acknowledge though that the land was incorrectly added to the brownfield register. This has now been corrected.

“We are not aware of any formal plans to develop this site. Any development of this site would have to address flooding and ecology issues which are clearly highlighted within the local plan, along with ensuring direct access to the A27.

“If a planning application is submitted for the land, it will ultimately be up to councillors to decide what development – if any – is suitable for this piece of land.”

AREA has argued reneging on the commitment to protect Horsey Field would also place doubts over the council’s dedication to preserving similar protected areas, such as the recently purchased New Salts Farm.

It is a view echoed by countryside charity CPRE Sussex, which said going back on the local plan would ‘totally undermine public faith’ in the council’s green pledges.

Ward councillor Lee Cowen agreed and said the rich, biodiverse land should be treated ‘with the utmost sensitivity’.

“It’s not clear how this plot of land ended up on the brownfield land register,” he said. “From what I understand if the buildings are for agricultural use then it’s greenfield and should be reclassified as such.

“When I went to inspect the site recently I saw buzzards flying amongst the protected cypress trees and a baby deer. This rich biodiverse land should be treated with the utmost sensitivity considering it compensates for the lost habitat from the New Monks Farm development.

“Since the allocation of this site Adur District Council has declared a climate emergency, so I’ll be asking how the development of this land adheres to that policy.”

Work on the New Monks Farm development started at the beginning of last year after a long planning process.

As well as 600 homes, the divisive project will include an IKEA superstore, major work on the A27, a new school and a country park.

A new pumping station is also being built to mitigate concerns over flooding on the plain.