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Mid Sussex District Update August 2023

17th August 2023

Report on CPRE Sussex activities in Mid Sussex January – June 2023.

Organisational:  The Branch has undergone some material changes in recent months. We have strengthened our trustee body via a number of new trustee recruits with a variety of backgrounds and expertise. It will be their job to keep us on the straight and narrow, and to support our efforts to increase our membership and thereby strengthen our finances.

We have also welcomed on board our new Director, Paul Steedman. Paul’s broad experience in environmental campaigning and organisational skills are already evident and paying dividends. We are also working on strengthening our planning review resource within Mid Sussex.

Mid Sussex District Plan Review:  At the end of last year CPRE Sussex made a detailed submission to Mid Sussex District Council about improvements we consider essential if the needed update to the District’s strategic plan is to deliver sustainable long-term improvements to our much-loved part of Sussex. The District Plan is by far the most important document governing the District’s future development over the next 15+ years. The current ongoing review of, and proposed update to, the District Plan provides a critical opportunity to shape our future here, and for us all to try and influence its outcome.

We have been especially concerned at the level of new building proposed – the revised draft plan calls for over 7,000 more dwellings than even the prior regime ruling the Council estimated to be needed – and at the proposed allocation of unsustainable rural sites for the bulk of the new housing. We have called for more of the new housing to be affordable homes, and to prioritise affordable housing in rural areas, especially within the High Weald, where the scale and extent of new housing has to be limited.

We also expressed considerable concern that the plan revisions will miss the opportunity to deliver measurable improvements in the control of greenhouse gas emissions, energy efficiency and biodiversity improvements.

Since the change of ruling regime within the District Council following the May elections, we have met with the new Council leadership to establish whether they intend to make any significant changes to the plan revisions proposed by their predecessors that would address our concerns.  Whilst we have to suspend judgement until the next (supposedly final) draft of the Plan Review is published for consultation, we did not come away from our meeting feeling confident that the new Council is likely to demonstrate the courage to change the previous draft plan revisions sufficiently to meet our main concerns.  Time will tell whether we are being too pessimistic!

Gatwick:  CPRE Sussex continues to work with CAGNE and other organisations opposed to the expansion of Gatwick Airport through the regular use of a second (Northern) runway, and to make our voice heard on that issue. We are very grateful to those of you who have made your own representations to the authorities and/or your local MP.

Water: Another Sussex-wide issue on which we have been vocal this year has been that of water security and water quality. Water supply sufficiency, and improving  the health of our rivers and coastline, are issues on which CPRE Sussex is campaigning actively; the case for more effective regulation  is irresistible. This has traction with our local MPs, some of whom met with the CEO of Southern Water and the Environment Agency to discuss infrastructure improvement and speeding up the control of sewage discharges. Please make your own views known to your MP!

Local planning applications/appeals:  At a more parochial level, during the first six months of the year we have made representations to Mid Sussex DC on two still outstanding individual planning applications.

Firstly a proposal by the Bluebell Railway to undertake works that will lead to the re-opening of a section between Horsted Keynes and Ardingly of the disused rail line that ends in Haywards Heath.  Whilst supportive of the proposal in principle, we are concerned that the works involved should be required to be carried out in a manner that minimises the loss of habitat and existing tree cover, and that conserves the character of the surrounding High Weald landscape that we and visitors using the railway have come to enjoy.

We have also made representations to the Council on a rather more contentious application to redevelop the redundant Sharpethorne brickworks for housing (108 homes). You would rightly expect CPRE Sussex to be supportive of the redevelopment of a brownfield site; and so we generally are.   But the fact that a site is a brownfield or redundant ex-employment site does not mean that any proposal that may come forward for its redevelopment will necessarily be sustainable or is appropriate and to be welcomed. Each application must be considered on its own merits in terms of its sustainability and consistency with applicable local plans and national planning policy, especially policy limiting the scale and extent of development within the High Weald AONB in order to conserve its natural beauty.

In our view this application involves considerable over-development in its local context, and is in patent conflict with that national and local planning policy.  We have urged Mid Sussex DC to work with West Hoathly Parish Council and others to bring forward an alternative way to bring back this brownfield site into use via a sustainable plan that respects the site’s sensitive location. That means that it should be of limited scale and extent, landscape-led, and reflect local needs by combining new facilities suitable for a variety of small-scale local business enterprises (providing on-site employment opportunities for local people) and rural exception site affordable housing. We will be monitoring how the Council deals with this application.

We are also monitoring various appeals against development applications on which we commented in the past and that were turned down by the Council, and enforcement notices issued by them.

Afterthoughts:  Planning always has been, and probably always will be a politicians’ playground, and they all love playing in the sandpit there. The castles they build almost always collapse back into sand (for which they blame the sand, not themselves). That is because their fine grandstanding proposals – there have been many of them in recent years – are rarely built on solid foundations of common sense, evidence and logic. Those who deal with planning issues at ground level work in a world of continuous flux and uncertainty. That is hopeless when we so desperately need an effective, sustainable, consistent and trusted system to deal with the challenges of providing people with affordable homes and environmental enhancement. For all the politicians’ tinkering, we lack a planning system that requires (enables?) local planning authorities to future-proof against the urgent problems of climate change and biodiversity degradation. That is a shocking situation.

Rest assured that CPRE Sussex will continue to represent you, our membership, in campaigning for our wonderful local countryside and our rural communities. Your support provides us with the lifeblood that enables us to stand up for a sustainable future here that we can be proud of and leave as a legacy to those who follow us.

Any of you who would be interested in getting involved in our work as a volunteer in any capacity should contact where you will be welcomed with open arms.


CPRE Sussex’s Mid Sussex volunteer team.