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Letter to all CPRE members in Mid Sussex

Thursday, 23 February 2017 11:31

On behalf of CPRE may we thank all those of you who responded so generously to our plea last autumn for funds to support our ongoing countryside protection work across Sussex.

I wanted to take this opportunity to report to you on the progress of Mid Sussex’s proposed new District Plan for the period 2014 – 2031.  This Plan – so long in its gestation - has been undergoing its public examination in front of a Planning Inspector to test its soundness. This Plan will set a new housing delivery target for the District for the years ahead which, so long as it is met, will release the District Council from the bind of under-delivery that has bedevilled its ability to control its own planning destiny in recent years.

As we explain below, this benefit looks likely to come at too high a high price: the voice of the countryside has been drowned out by the siren calls for new housing at any cost in an undeliverable plan that looks doomed to fail.

CPRE has actively participated in all the hearing sessions to date (all on housing), and will also be doing so in relation to next week’s hearings on the Plan’s non-housing policies.

Download extracts from CPRE Sussex's submissions to the hearings below.

Our principal objective has been to remind the Inspector that the national planning policy framework places as much importance on positive environmental and countryside protection policies as it does on new housing as part of a long term sustainable plan and that this requires a balancing exercise. An influential group of developers formed a ‘Developers Forum’ present at all the hearings to make the case for more development in the District – at a level greatly exceeding the Council’s own assessment of what would be ‘sustainable.’

We have sought to make a positive case for Mid Sussex’s countryside in the context of the new Plan, and have argued as robustly as we could that the that the Council’s housing target has to be set at a level that reflects the significant degree of environmental constraint represented by our local environmental heritage.  After all, 55% of the Plan area falls within the High Weald AONB and much of the rest of the rural parts of our District carries some protective designation or another. 

Extracts from our submissions to the Planning Inspector in respect of his various hearings since last November into the Council’s housing policies are available on our website.  We hope that these extracts will give you a flavour of the arguments that we have made at the hearings.

We regret to say, though, that the Inspector has now published his interim recommendations to the District Council with respect to the housing policies in its draft Plan.  The Inspector considers that the annual housing target of 800 homes that the Council has proposed to set within the Plan – a target that CPRE argued was undeliverable – is too low and that it should be set at a figure of 1,026 dwellings a year over the life of the Plan.  This would include providing 150 homes each year towards the overspill needs of Crawley Borough Council.  All of the planning protections that support the environmental side of sustainable planning seem to have been whitewashed out of the Inspector's recommendations.

If the Inspector's recommendation that the District Council has to see over 1,000 homes built year on year is adopted by the Council, it will be a disaster for all those who love Mid Sussex for the wonderful place that it is.  Of course Mid Sussex, like everywhere else, needs more homes, especially for local people.  But that should not require trashing the countryside, which is what the Inspector's recommendation amounts to.

His recommendation would involve an instant doubling of the number of houses built within Mid Sussex as compared to the average number that the Council has achieved over the last 10 or 20 years.  

The only way that the Council can have any hope of achieving that target would be by sacrificing the countryside to even more extensive greenfield development and by abandoning the environmental and countryside protections that the planning system calls for.  Most local people will, we think, be absolutely horrified by the implications of that.    

We would be especially concerned if the Council saw fit to allow further major development within the High Weald AONB, despite the fact that it is supposed to enjoy the highest status of protection in terms of landscape and scenic beauty.  The Council recently allowed 600 new houses to be built within the AONB at Pease Pottage, creating a poor track record of countryside protection.

The large developers have no incentive to help the Council meet its housing target, and we are extremely concerned that a new plan with such a high housing target could in time well prove to be undeliverable.  That would result in the Council falling back into default on its housing delivery and hence into the housing free-for-all that the District has been suffering from over recent years.  

This is also a real slap in the face for local communities within the District who embraced the Government’s promise of localism, and have committed so much to developing their neighbourhood plans to shape the places where they live. Most, if not all, of these neighbourhood plans will have to be rewritten with further land allocated for development irrespective of the local communities’ assessment of their local housing needs.  It makes a mockery of our democratic processes.

There will be two further days of hearings imminently on other issues within MSDC’s draft Plan, and CPRE’s voice for the countryside will once again be heard in those sessions. An issue of particular concern to us is the Inspector’s questioning of the need for the Council’s proposed policy to prevent coalescence of individual communities; so we will be supporting the Council in its call for this policy to be retained.  Unfortunately though there is no more opportunity for us to press the Inspector to change his mind on the housing target.

To give you a sense of the scale of the challenge that CPRE Sussex is currently facing, at the same time as the Mid Sussex Plan examination has been going on, we are also involved in the examination of District Plans for Adur and Arun Districts, with Wealden’s new Plan due for final consultation shortly.  In each case the pressure for new houses is the paramount feature. 

If Mid Sussex District Council accepts the Inspector’s recommendation – and it runs the risk of its draft Plan being held to be unsound and going back to the drawing board if it does not do so – then CPRE’s role in holding the Council to account for its individual planning decisions is going to be more vital than ever, as we continue to impress on the Council the vital importance of giving proper weight to the environmental aspects of sustainable development.  There will be many more challenging battles to come.

It is your continued support as a member of CPRE, and the funds that you provide us with, that enables us to do our work.  In the coming years we will need all the financial and manpower support that our members and supporters are able to offer.  As a charity, donations by UK taxpayers attract gift aid, which increases the value of your donation by 25% at no extra cost to you.  Anyone who would like to get more actively involved in any of our activities would be very welcome. Please just contact me at the CPRE Sussex office at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or by phone at 01825 890 975.

We are sending this communication to all CPRE’s members in Mid Sussex, and are copying it to the leader of Mid Sussex DC (Mr Garry Wall) and to the three MPS whose constituencies include parts of Mid Sussex, namely Sir Nicholas Soames, Nick Herbert and Jeremy Quin.  You may wish to let your MP know your views.

Yours sincerely,


Michael Brown
CPRE Mid Sussex Lead

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