Mid Sussex District Local Plan Main Modifications consultation response

I am writing in response to the consultation on the Main Modification to the Mid Sussex District Local Plan.  I wish to object to proposal DP9b: Strategic Allocation to the north of Clayton Mills, Hassocks, Modification Reference MM11, about which I have serious concerns.  

I do not believe that the arbitrary allocation of a strategic site of 500 houses in Hassocks is necessary given that Mid Sussex District Council can already demonstrate a 5-year housing land supply.  As the Council itself notes, this proposal would increase the land supply from 5.2 to 5.47 years (equivalent to a surplus of 506 dwellings).  This does not appear to me to be a sufficient or necessary gain to justify the impact on Hassocks and its neighbourhood plan.  I have written to the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government asking him to confirm that additional provision above the current 5.2 years is not a formal requirement to find the plan ‘sound’.  

An allocation of this size in the village would be unsustainable.  The Parish has 3,382 households, and taken together the proposed new strategic allocation, neighbourhood plan allocation and additional housing from windfall sites would amount to 1,200 dwellings, increasing the size of the village by a third over two decades.  Quite apart from the impact on the character of the village, the already insufficient local infrastructure will be completely inadequate to support development on this scale.  An increase in the size of the village on the proposed scale, by this means and outside its neighbourhood plan, is not the right way forward.    

I believe it is important to maintain the green space between settlements and to avoid the random creation of a suburban sprawl.  A development of 500 houses in this location would be a major step towards eroding the gap between Burgess Hill and Hassocks, which would reduce to just over half a mile.    

The draft Hassocks neighbourhood plan proposed 140 houses on this site, yet proposal DP9b is for a three and a half times this number.  The neighbourhood planning process allows for careful local consultation over a period of years about proposed sites for housing, culminating with a referendum to validate it.  By contrast, the current modification process runs roughshod over this process, requiring the village in a very short period of time to accept the housing as a ‘strategic allocation’ on a site opportunistically proposed a developer.  My concern is that through this proposed modification to the neighbourhood planning process is being seriously undermined.   Instead of plan-led housing, the Council’s proposed modification licenses random, developer-led housing which has not been properly considered. 

While there is an argument that issues such as infrastructure requirements (a new primary school, for example) could be better dealt with by such an allocation, my strong view is that this should not be at the expense of neighbourhood planning, which across the country has delivered more housing than expected through a consultative process.  It is regrettably true that Hassocks started its neighbourhood plan too late, leaving the village behind others such as Hurstpierpoint (which made its plan two and half years ago) and more vulnerable than it would otherwise be.  It has been suggested that if a planning application was made for the 500 houses, irrespective of the proposed strategic allocation by the Council, it might succeed.  However, this is a specious argument, since the proposed allocation would impose 500 houses on Hassocks anyway.  The village will have a chance to resist such a speculative planning application as being contrary to its draft neighbourhood plan.  It will have no chance if the development is imposed. 

I recognise the need to increase the supply of homes nationally, and that Mid Sussex must meet local housing need.  Clearly Hassocks will have to play its part in this regard, and I believe most local people understand that.  However, an increase in the size of the village on the proposed scale, by this means and outside its neighbourhood plan, is not the right way forward.  It is very strongly opposed in the village.  The strategic allocation should be rejected. 

Nick HerbertPlanning