Mid Sussex District Update September 2020

5th October 2020

Mid Sussex district update as at 30 September 2020. Busy, busy, busy!

Government planning reform proposals

In August the Government published a raft of proposals fundamentally to reform the planning system.  We have worked with colleagues across Sussex, and nationally, to understand and raise awareness of the local impacts of those proposals.  For Mid Sussex they could have devastating implications in terms of:

–              a required substantial further increase in the number of market houses that we would see built within the District, with the District’s housing target rising up from the current Plan target of 964 dwellings per annum to 1,305 dpa;

–              a no less significant drop in the number of Plan-led affordable homes – up to 91% of sites (based on 2019/20 data) would not be required to include affordable housing;

–              less control over the location of new housing with greenfield and protected areas under greater pressure;

–              reduced scrutiny of the environmental and other aspects of individual proposed development sites;

–              a rewriting of our District Plan;

–              less useful role for neighbourhood plans, which would all need revamping; and

–              communities’ and individuals’ ability to engage with planning decisions that affect them.

At a national level CPRE is responding forcefully to what the Government is aiming to do, and we are contributing ideas and impact examples to assist that process.  One of our CPRE Sussex trustees has participated in a zoom meeting with Robert Jenrick, the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, who is spearheading the Government’s proposals, alongside CPRE’s national CEO, Crispin Truman.

At a local level we are seeking to engage with our local MPs.  Andrew Griffith MP for Arundel and the South Downs (whose constituency covers the southern section of the Mid Sussex planning district) has led a parliamentary debate in which he was critical of the Government’s white paper – “well-meaning ministerial intent has been sabotaged by a ‘mutant algorithm’ cooked up in the wet market of Whitehall” he said.  Mims Davies and Jeremy Quinn, our other local MPs have yet to express their views publicly.  We encourage all our members who share our concerns as to the logic and impact to write to their own MP.  For help in how to do that, look at www.cpresussex.org.uk/news/reject-planning-reforms-which-are-a-major-threat-to-our-countryside-and-communities/ .

We know that Mid Sussex District Council has expressed serious concerns to Government as to the impact of these proposals.

Whether the Government is for turning in the face of such widespread and vehement opposition to its plans from friends as well as foes remains to be seen.

Mid Sussex Sites Allocation DPD consultation

We have submitted a response to the latest consultation document from MSDC in which it seeks to allocate development sites for the housing and business expansion that its current plan requires it to get built.  Whilst it is not CPRE Sussex’s role to second-guess the Council’s decisions as to which development sites are more suitable and sustainable than others, and the large number of houses etc that have to be found space for is fixed in the District Plan, we have opposed as unsustainable the allocation of a large greenfield site within the High Weald AONB at Ardingly for 70 houses.  We have also argued that a proposed new Air Quality policy needs to be beefed up to make it effective and challenged the Council over the continuing inexcusable absence of any Climate Change policy within their District Plan.  The draft Plan will receive its public examination from a Planning Inspector some time next year where there will be an opportunity further to air our points.  Our submission can be read at: www.cpresussex.org.uk/news/cpre-sussex-responds-to-the-mid-sussex-sites-allocation-dpd-consultation/

The whole process may, though, prove to be a grand waste of time and effort if the Government’s planning reforms come to fruition in their present form.

Balcombe oil Exploration

Whilst media tedium has taken over, the threat of shale oil drilling at Balcombe that hit the fracking headlines a few years ago, still rumbles on with a fresh application by Angus Energy to continue testing to see whether there are commercially exploitable reserves of oil there.  The lives of local residents continue to be blighted.  To us it would be madness to permit more fossil fuel drilling within an Area of Outstanding Beauty amidst a climate emergency at a time when the world is warming ever faster and the country is trying to reduce its carbon emissions.  We have submitted a strong letter of opposition to the latest planning application to West Sussex County Council and await their decision on this application.  You can read our letter here: www.cpresussex.org.uk/news/cpre-sussex-objects-to-oil-well-testing-at-balcombe/

Miscellaneous

We continue to engage with Homes England and Mid Sussex Council over the environmental impacts of the now-commenced Northern Arc development at Burgess Hill that they are masterminding.  At our request Homes England has set up an environmental contact group, of which we are a member, with the aim of ensuring that the huge, long-term Northern Arc scheme will make the most of the opportunities to deliver a development that does all it can to enhance the biodiversity of its surroundings and engage incoming residents in that aspiration.  They have a good track record of delivering environmental enhancement at other sites they manage.  We have discussed some of their specific plans and the methods by which Homes England will measure delivery of these improvements at the Northern Arc.  Their public aspiration is to secure over a 20% long term overall net gain in biodiversity using the metrics they have discussed with us which, if delivered, would be a considerable achievement.  We will maintain our contacts with them.  Members who have a particular interest in what is going on in Burgess Hill (a lot!) can keep up to date via https://www.burgesshill.net/  (an MSDC managed website).

We also continue to monitor and, where appropriate, comment on individual planning applications that may have a significant impact on our countryside or smaller communities.

Comments or queries on this update are welcome at info@cpresussex.org.uk.