CRUNCH TIME FOR HASSOCKS NEIGHBOURHOOD PLAN
Hassocks Parish Council has expressed anger at the decision of the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government to over-ride the wishes of local people and to grant permission for the development of 97 homes at Ham Fields, London Road, Hassocks.
Ham Fields form a vital part of the important countryside gap between Hassocks and Hurstpierpoint and the Parish Council and local residents have fought a three year battle, which included two Public Inquiries, to try to save it from development. The value of the site is also recognised in the Hassocks Neighbourhood Plan in which it is designated as Local Green Space and part of the countryside gap.
The Parish Council’s disappointment and frustration is increased by the fact that the Secretary of State has deliberately contradicted the Neighbourhood Plan which was formulated after huge public consultation, which showed that Ham Fields was the 14th least preferred site for development out of 15.
Chairman of Hassocks Parish Council Ian Weir said :-
“We feel very badly let down by this decision which makes a mockery of the efforts of our community to take charge of its own destiny. We have been exhorted by the Government and by Mid Sussex District Council to prepare a Plan which represents the wishes and needs of Hassocks and we have kept our side of the bargain. Neither the Government nor Mid Sussex have kept theirs. Although we received no support at all from Mid Sussex the Inspector at the first Public Inquiry supported us. We felt justice had been done. But the Developers, with huge resources at their disposal did not accept this and had a second go. This time they won.
We know we are not alone. On the one hand the Government is praising and promoting Neighbourhood Plans in its new Housing White Paper and on the other it is overturning them all over the place by allowing developments that are contrary to them.
There is one other issue which I feel I should mention and that is the local context here in Mid Sussex. The future of the Mid Sussex District Plan is now completely up in the air. Town and Parish Councils in Mid Sussex are almost certainly going to be told they must accept huge amounts of extra development whether they like it or not.
How is this going to be balanced against the much vaunted promise of the Government to let local people control their futures?
We now have to take a deep breath, take account of the issues to which I have referred and then decide whether or not we should continue with our Neighbourhood Plan “