More ‘Crown jewels’ of Sussex countryside under threat – pressured not protected

21st April 2021

CPRE Sussex is calling on the government to halt reckless development in and adjacent to protected landscapes and prevent high levels of housing pressure in Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty in its upcoming Planning Bill.

This is in response to a CPRE report published today which found that:

– Pressure for housing development in Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty in Sussex is particularly high.

– Since 2012, the amount of greenfield land in England’s Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty that will be built on has more than doubled (129% increase).

– Such development is ‘land hungry’ and is not solving the affordable housing crisis.

– In the last four years alone, planning permissions to build over 900 homes in the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty have been granted.

– There is high housing pressure on land around AONBs, with the number of homes built in the setting (within 500 meters of the boundary) increasing by 135% since 2012.

England badly needs a better land use planning strategy that accounts for climate change, maximises the use of brownfield land, provides much needed affordable housing, ensures our food supply, and connects nature rather than fragmenting it.

Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs) are some of our most precious landscapes, which many people would expect to mean that they are safe from being built on.  But even though these areas have the strongest protections available in planning law, they are falling foul to an increasing amount of rapid and reckless housing development, according to new analysis from CPRE, the countryside charity.

Threats to England’s 34 AONBs from development is increasing at an alarming rate – Beauty still betrayed: The state of our AONBs 2021 report reveals a 129% increase in the amount of greenfield land planned to be built over. The research found high housing pressure on land around AONBs, with the number of homes built in the setting (within 500 meters of the boundary) increasing by 135% since 2012.

There is a different kind of north/south divide when it comes to threats to our AONBs, with particular pressure on AONB land in the south west and south east of England. Only four AONB areas – High Weald, Cotswolds, Dorset and Chilterns – have accounted for over half (52%) of all greenfield development in AONBs, with the High Weald AONB seeing the highest development pressure with 932 housing units on greenfield land approved since 2017.

It is clear this kind of sprawling development is bad for people, nature and the countryside. The research found that the developments on AONBs use up twice as much land compared to the national average for developments. Yet only 16% of the homes built in AONBs are considered affordable even by the government’s own definition. Clear evidence shows that the real affordability of housing in many rural areas is much worse than the government estimates. Tragically, the kind of housing currently being provided will do little to tackle the affordable housing crisis, while concreting over precious countryside and setting back action to tackle the climate and nature emergencies.

CPRE, the countryside charity, is calling on the government to use the upcoming Planning Bill to strengthen planning protections for precious green space and prevent high levels of development in AONBs and further still, only allow development if it meets the needs of local people, nature and the countryside.

Examples in Sussex:

High Weald AONB

A 600 dwelling allocation at Pease Pottage in the High Weald was approved by Mid-Sussex District Council, despite arguments that the development did not meet local need and would compromise the landscape

Land Off Crawley Road, Faygate (473 dwellings) is comprised of farmland within the AONB. The application, which was refused by Horsham District Council, is now subject to an Appeal. Local group KOGS’ (Keep Our Green Spaces) formed in February 2020 to fight for this green space, which is described as ‘loved and enjoyed by so many’ and ‘An Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty where we can walk to from our homes; an area which is good for the soul, families to play, animals to enjoy and memories to be made. These fields aren’t just something we glance at when driving our car. They are a hub for our community, from residents, dog walkers, horse riders, photographers, nature enthusiasts and ramblers.’

An application to build 119 Homes at Eridge road, Crowborough was approved in 2020 against the advice of the High Weald AONB Unit and despite previously being rejected by the planning committee on landscape grounds.

Chichester Harbour AONB

A raft of applications along the edge of the AONB have been submitted to Chichester District Council in recent months, including Land at Highgrove Farm, Bosham (301 dwellings).

Read:

Beauty still betrayed: The state of AONBs 2021

 

 

 

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The legacy of Ethel’s vision and determination lives on thanks to the continued efforts of the Friends of the Peak District, and she remains an inspiration to everyone within CPRE