Campaigners fighting against Henfield housing make their case at appeal

Planning appeal over 42 homes at Sandy Lane, Henfield held at Horsham District Council's offices last week
Planning appeal over 42 homes at Sandy Lane, Henfield held at Horsham District Council's offices last week

Campaigners fighting more new housing development in Henfield made their case at a public inquiry last week.

Horsham District Council refused planning permission for 42 new homes off Sandy Lane earlier this year.

But developer Fairfax Acquisitions lodged an appeal against the decision, which was heard by a planning inspector at HDC’s Parkside offices in Horsham last week.

A decision on the appeal is expected in mid October.

Residents have formed an action group Campaign to Protect Rural Henfield and members packed out the public gallery.

During the inquiry the QC representing Fairfax argued that not enough affordable housing is being built in the district and therefore HDC should allow the Sandy Lane development even though the site is outside the village’s built-up area boundary.

Residents have also raised objections on landscape and heritage grounds.

One of the central issues during the inquiry was the neighbourhood planning process. Henfield was one of the first communities to take up the challenge, completing its plan in 2016.

However it was challenged in the High Court by developers who were unhappy their Sandygate Nurseries site was not allocated for development. Although a planning application for the site was dismissed at appeal the neighbourhood plan was quashed by a judge, meaning the village had to start the process again.

Three years later Henfield finished consultation on a draft of its new neighbourhood plan in July.

Campaigners argue that the application by Fairfax pre-empted the community’s decision on where new housing should go.

In a statement South Downs MP Nick Herbert said: “The whole point of neighbourhood planning is to allow the community, rather than developers, to determine where development should take place.

“The village’s draft neighbourhood plan is at an advanced stage and should therefore be given proper weight in planning decisions. I believe it is wrong when developers game the system, attempting to secure permissions for sites that they know have been rejected for a neighbourhood plan.

“The overwhelming view of the community and its elected representatives as expressed to me is opposed to this development: indeed, I have not received a single indication of support for it from my constituents.

“I am concerned that, after so much voluntary effort has been put in, public faith in the village in neighbourhood planning will be further undermined if this unwanted and unnecessary development is permitted.”

Philip Johnson, CPRH chairman, said it was ‘exceptional for an MP to intervene in a local planning application in this way and reflects the scale of the repercussions this case could have if the appeal is granted’.

Malcolm Eastwood, chairman of Henfield Parish Council, spoke about the community’s commitment to delivering houses through the neighbourhood plan process and the social harm that would be done if this were to be pre-empted.

In a closing statement for CPRH, Steve Bailey said that dismissing the appeal would allow Henfield to complete its neighbourhood plan and deliver on its commitment to building the right houses in the right places.