Henfield residents are celebrating the defeat at appeal of an unpopular housing development in the countryside.
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 a public inquiry in August.
However inspector David Cliff confirmed HDC’s decision in a notice issued in early October.
Residents gathered to celebrate the decision on Sunday (November 3) and were joined by the area’s MP Nick Herbert, who has since confirmed he is not standing at next month’s general election.
The community, led by the Campaign to Protect Rural Henfield (CPRH), rallied to oppose the plans and added their voices at the inquiry. They pointed out that the Henfield neighbourhood plan should be completed before any new sites can be determined.
Phil Johnson, chairman of CPRH, said: “We were waiting with bated breath for the decision, so much hangs on it. People were concerned that it would open the door to a flood of development in our countryside.
“We recognise that more houses are needed but we want them built in the right place. This wasn’t it.”
The decision was met with relief and joy. The Henfield neighbourhood plan, which has been in development for three years, can now proceed to a final consultation which is expected to start before Christmas.
Steve Bailey, a resident who lives adjacent to the threatened field, said: “It is so uplifting to look out at the South Downs and know that those amazing countryside views will still be there tomorrow.”
Jilly Wallis, who recently moved into one of the Grade II listed cottages adjacent to the field, had argued that the setting of the cottages would be damaged by the new development. She said: “I’m delighted that the heritage of the area will now be preserved so that it can be enjoyed by residents and visitors alike.”
Another campaigner, Julie Mitchell felt it is wrong that lay people should have to wrestle with all the complexities of the planning process. She said: “It has been a long fight. People shouldn’t have to go through this torture just to protect a beautiful part of our countryside.”
Mr Herbert submitted a strong statement to the inquiry pointing out that the ‘whole point of neighbourhood planning is to allow the community, rather than developers, to determine where development should take place’.
Mr Herbert said: “I was so pleased that local people won this and was delighted to support their campaign. Too often neighbourhood plans have been undermined by developers, not least in Henfield, so it was great that the community came together to fight their corner successfully in this case.”
Mr Johnson thanked the many people from all over Henfield and beyond who helped and funded the campaign. He said: “It was a true community effort and everyone can feel proud of what they achieved.”