Crawley Borough Council has been accused of letting its planning standards slip in a ‘frenzy’ to build as many homes as possible.
Conservative members raised concerns about planning consent given for phase 2b of the town’s 14th neighbourhood, Forge Wood at a full council meeting on Wednesday (October 17).
Kim Jaggard (Con, Maidenbower) spoke out at a planning meeting in September where approval was given for 169 homes in the north east of the new neighbourhood – despite more than half of their gardens falling short of planning guidelines.
Repeating her concerns, Mrs Jaggard pointed out that the new homes would be ‘squeezed in’, with some of the properties standing closer together than was recommended in the guidelines.
Two would be so close that there would be only one metre between their first-floor bedroom windows.
With permission also given for a 350m long, 14-unit industrial building in the same phase, Mrs Jaggard also asked how residents would cope with HGVs constantly passing their homes.
She said guidelines, put in place to ensure a high standard of living environment, were ‘being ignored, especially where big developers are involved’.
She added: “I’m really concerned for the health and wellbeing of these residents in such a noisy and polluted environment.”
Her concerns were shared by Richard Burrett (Con, Pound Hill North), who said: “We all know that the developable area in Forge Wood has been reduced due to potential flooding, long before planning permission was given for the new neighbourhood.
“But we should not be cramming in as many dwellings as possible without suitable space standards being adhered to.
“We all know there’s an impetus to increase house building to deal with demand – we understand that.
“But it does seem as though on half of this council there is almost so much of a frenzy to get as many houses built as possible we’re actually letting standards slip and we’re agreeing almost anything in terms of planning just to get the numbers in.”
Peter Smith, cabinet member for planning and economic development, reminded members that the site had been ‘imposed’ on the council by Eric Pickles during his time as communities secretary, with Crawley required to build 1,900 homes.
Mr Smith said: “We are trying our best to fit in our allocation.
“However, planning is not a completely objective activity. You have to work in partnership with developer and applicant to try to juggle the available space and all of our different planning requirements.”
Pointing out that the council answered to rules imposed by central government, he told Mr Burrett: “While we all share your concerns and regret for these things happening, we have a duty to apply them properly – and that’s what this council does.”