HASSOCKS NEIGHBOURHOOD PLAN AFFECTED BY DELAY IN AGREEING DISTRICT HOUSING NUMBERS
Mid Sussex District Council (MSDC) have stopped work on Hassocks Parish Council’s Neighbourhood Plan whilst it waits for a decision on the number of homes required for the whole of Mid Sussex District.
There is absolutely nothing the Parish Council can do about this because the Neighbourhood Planning Regulations stipulate that once a Draft Plan has been submitted to, and accepted by, the Local Planning Authority – Mid Sussex – control of the Plan must pass to them.
The next step is for a Public Examination to be held, presided over by an Independent Government Inspector, who will be appointed by MDSC. But unexpectedly and most unfortunately they have delayed this Examination until agreement is reached on the housing requirement for the entire District of Mid Sussex for the Plan Period of 2014 – 2031.
The District Plan, which has now been ten years in preparation, was rejected by the Government Inspector earlier this year on the grounds that it made insufficient provision for new housing. MSDC had proposed 13,600 homes and the Inspector ruled that 17,442 homes was the minimum requirement. Part of this increase arose from a ruling by the Inspector that MSDC should provide an additional 150 homes each year to satisfy housing need which cannot be met within the limited confines of Crawley. Since then MSDC have been seeking the agreement of Crawley Borough Council to waive this requirement until 2022.
In the meantime MSDC have stated that they are unable to advise Hassocks Parish Council of the number of new homes they require the Neighbourhood Plan to provide. As a result, they are not prepared to let the Plan go forward to Examination.
Chairman of Hassocks Parish Council, Ian Weir, said:-
“Our Plan and those of all the other Town and Parish Councils in Mid Sussex are direct casualties of the battle between the development world and MSDC. We have once again been frustrated in our efforts to ensure our village gets the development it wants and needs. Our Plan, which has been prepared after a huge amount of consultation, offers a balanced and sustainable way forward. It has now been further delayed, leaving the village once again at the mercy of developers rather than allowing localism to have its fair chance.
We are determined to complete our Neighbourhood Plan; this offers the best chance of protecting our environment. Unfortunately, we have no idea when the District Council will tell us how many new homes they expect Hassocks to accommodate. Until we hear from them we cannot decide how, and when, we should progress our Plan”.
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 “
As residents will know, last October Mid Sussex District Council decided to grant planning permission for 130 new houses on the fields to the east of the Friars Oak Pub in spite of strong opposition from local residents and from the Parish Council. This land is not allocated for development in the Parish Councils’ Draft Neighbourhood Plan which was issued after a very intensive public consultation. Residents were asked to state their preferences on possible sites all round the village and over 1000 comments were received. The Friars Oak site ranked 13th out of 15 in the order of public preference.
The decision of Mid Sussex District Council to over-ride the Draft Neighbourhood Plan was so serious that the Parish Council asked the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government to over-rule the Mid Sussex Decision and to decide the application himself. The Council was given huge support by Nick Herbert our MP. The Secretary of State has now agreed to “call in” the application and will decide whether or not to grant planning permission after a Public Inquiry which will be held later this year.
In calling the Inquiry the Secretary of State has designated the Parish Council as a “Rule 6” Party, that is to say to play a major role in the proceedings. He also set an extremely demanding timetable for the submission of documents for the Inquiry. For this reason the Council held an Extra-ordinary Meeting on the 17th January when it was unanimously agreed to retain our consultants, Dowsett Mayhew to represent the Council.
Ian Weir, Chairman of the Parish Council, says “We are very pleased that the Secretary of State has been prepared to “call in” this application and to give the Parish Council a leading role at the Inquiry. We are determined to do our best to save our Neighbourhood Plan which balances the need for more housing and the protection of the amenities of our Village”
Hassocks Parish Council Statement Regarding Friars Oak Judicial Review
“The Parish Council has received a petition containing 664 signatures from concerned residents requesting it to initiate a Judicial Review into the decision made by Mid Sussex District Council to grant planning permission for the development of Friars Oak Fields. The Parish Council had previously joined in with a request by residents to have this decision called in by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government.
The Council’s Neighbourhood Plan Working Party considered this petition at its meeting on Thursday 24th November and agreed to recommend to Full Council on the 13th December that £5000 be allocated for the preparation of a brief for a barrister to test the likelihood of success of a Judicial Review of the District Council’s decision. The Working Party also recommended that work on this brief should commence as soon as possible rather than wait for the decision of the Secretary of State as to whether or not he will call in the application.”
Planning Approval – DM/15/0626
Land at Rear of Friars Oak, Hassocks
On Thursday 13 October 2016 – The District Planning Committee approved an outline Planning Application for 130 houses.
The Parish Council are seriously concerned that, after encouraging the Parish Council to produce a Neighbourhood Plan and that Plan now being in the hands of MSDC awaiting Examination, Officers and Councillors at MSDC have taken virtually no account the Plan. The Neighbourhood Plan provides an objectively assessed housing need which has been met in the Plan through sustainable development and does not allocate this site for development. Having allocated sufficient land to meet the assessed housing need The Plan further recognised the wishes of the Community and allocated this site as Local Green Space.
The Parish Council is seeking an urgent meeting with the Chief Executive of Mid Sussex District Council to review the effect this decision will have on the Neighbourhood Plan.
Further information will be available on our website in due course.
Hassocks Neighbourhood Plan
Regulation 16 Consultation
Mid Sussex District Council
Hassocks Neighbourhood Plan Consultation – Regulation 16 Publicity Period
Hassocks Parish Council has prepared a Neighbourhood Plan for the parish of Hassocks and submitted it to Mid Sussex District Council as the lead Local Planning Authority. The Plan seeks to retain the rural village character; it sets out the development principles and allocation of areas for future building and land use.
Mid Sussex District Council is publishing the submitted Hassocks Neighbourhood Plan. The publication will run for six weeks from 21st July 2016 until 8th September 2016.
The documents are available at www.midsussex.gov.uk/neighbourhoodplans . Paper copies are available to view at the Mid Sussex District Council offices (address below) and at the Parish Office, Hassocks Parish Council, Adastra Park, Keymer Road, Hassocks, BN6 8QH. Opening hours 10am – 2pm Monday to Thursdays, 10am -12 noon Fridays.
Formal comments can be submitted online at www.midsussex.gov.uk/neighbourhoodplans or by post to Planning Policy and Economic Development, Mid Sussex District Council, Oaklands Road, Haywards Heath, RH16 1SS.
All comments must be received by midnight on 8th September 2016. All comments received will be public information.
The District Council must appoint an appropriately qualified and independent Examiner and publicise the proposed Neighbourhood Plan and details of how to make representations. At the end of the publication period we will send all representations received at this stage to the examiner.
If you have any queries, please contact the Planning Policy and Economic Development Team on (01444 477391) or email firstname.lastname@example.org