Request for Hassocks housing development to be called-in by Government

Artist's impression of homes planned for Friars Oak Field north of Hassocks
Artist's impression of homes planned for Friars Oak Field north of Hassocks

A request for a Hassocks development to be called-in by the Government has been sent by MP Nick Herbert.

Last week Mid Sussex District Council’s district planning committee gave the go-ahead to 130 homes at Friars Oak Fields off London Road.

Artist's impression of homes planned for Friars Oak Field north of Hassocks

Artist's impression of homes planned for Friars Oak Field north of Hassocks

However a holding direction has already been issued by Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, meaning formal planning permission cannot yet be granted.

This gives Secretary of State Robert Jenrick time to consider whether the application should be called-in and referred to him for determination.

Such a move has been supported by Nick Herbert, Arundel and South Downs MP, in a letter to housing minister Esther McVey.

In it he expresses his ‘considerable concerns about how Mid Sussex District Council has been handling planning matters in Hassocks’ and that he ‘does not believe that the council should be permitted to give permission for this development in the circumstances’.

He also warned that the Government’s ‘important policy of neighbourhood planning is systematically being undermined in the village’.

A previous application for development on Friars Oak Fields was approved by the council, but then called-in by the Secretary of State and then refused by the Government in March 2018.

A second application, this time with a footbridge over the railway line, was then refused by the council as by then a local plan had been adopted.

This decision has been appealed by the developer and a inquiry is due to be held in September.

A third application, which includes plans for a tunnel under the railway line for pedestrians, was the one approved last week.

In his letter to the minister, Mr Herbert points out how the timing of the planning committee meeting was just one day after the deadline for public comments on the application and just weeks ahead of the appeal inquiry on the second application.

He described how Hassocks has already taken considerable housing development and how the neighbourhood plan, which allocates Friars Oak Fields as open green space, is now in its final stages.

Mr Herbert said he fully understood the council’s need to protect and strengthen its five-year land supply, but pointed out that this has already been found to be robust.

Before the committee meeting the Lib Dems had already asked for the application to be called-in by the Secretary of State.