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A Rural Revolution in Sussex

Thursday, 21 May 2015 08:31

The battle to protect our countryside has been taken to a new level by Twineham farmer, Robert Worsley who has become something of a national hero after turning down a fortune to thwart plans for a Sussex New Town.

Robert is one of a growing list of local land owners who have refused to do business with Mayfield Market Towns which wants to build a 10,000 home new town on open countryside just north of the South Downs. He was offered up to £ 275m for his 550 acre farm but turned it down saying; “We are seeing lovely rural Sussex being eroded away by ever increasing sizes of development.”

Robert is one of 200 land owners in the area who have said they will not deal with Mayfields. Together they amass 4,300 acres “Not for sale!”

Among them are Pauline and Paul McBride from Sussex Prairie Gardens which was a prize winner at the CPRE’s Countryside Awards last year. The gardens near Henfield were Highly Commended in the New Sussex Landscape category.

“I appreciate people need housing,” says Pauline, “but I can’t contemplate destroying something so utterly beautiful.”

Another land owner, Edward Bunn, who runs the All England Jumping Course at Hickstead owns 350 acres which Mayfields has tried to buy for access to the site. He says he turned the money down without hesitation:

“The area does need housing but to stick it in the middle of rural West Sussex, nowhere near a town or roads or railways, is just ridiculous,” he says.

Mayfield Market Towns proposals are opposed by both affected District Councils, nine Parish Councils, both local MPs, South Downs National Park, land owners and by local residents. It was also rejected by a Government Planning Inspector. However, the company has defended it continuing promotion of the scheme citing a shortage of homes in the county.

Mr Worsley says he has long bemoaned the gradual erosion of the Sussex countryside adding, “To contribute to that and receive a vast amount of money in exchange would make me the very worst kind of hypocrite.”

The Daily Telegraph is due to publish a feature on the land owners during the Bank Holiday weekend.

Jane Watson

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