West Sussex MPs restate their “profound objection” to Mayfield new town
Arundel & South Downs MP Nick Herbert and Mid-Sussex MP Sir Nicholas Soames both restated their “profound objection” to the proposed new town near Henfield when they spoke at a packed public meeting on Friday evening (14 June).
The MPs addressed more than 500 local residents in St Peters Church, Henfield, who had gathered to hear about Mayfield Market Town’s plans. The meeting was convened by the local campaign group LAMBS – Locals Against Mayfields Building Sprawl and attended by local parish, district and county councillors.
There was visible local concern about the plans, with many people having to stand outside the church and listen to the discussion via external speakers.
Geoff Zeidler, Chairman of the LAMBS group, opened the meeting and provided a brief history of the developer’s plans which were first proposed six years ago. He explained that although the initial proposal had already been rejected by the district councils, the developers are pursuing its idea in response to the government’s increase in housebuilding targets.
Mayfield Market Town Limited have entered into a Planning Performance Agreement with Horsham District Council, which means that they have paid the Council a service fee for a preliminary assessment of their 7,000 house plan, even though they do not own the land they seek to develop.
Malcolm Eastwood, Chairman of Henfield Parish Council, shocked the audience when he informed them that the Wheatsheaf Road is where the developers propose to locate a new high street. He challenged the developer’s claim to be able to provide 7,000 jobs within the new town, thereby negating the need for commuting and new roads. The Parish Council do not support the proposals.
The audience also heard from local resident Georgie Salvage who described her experience of being approached by Mayfield’s agents who tried to secure her agreement to sell her land by advising that the development was a ‘done deal’ which had local authority approval.
Nick Herbert expressed his strong objection to the proposal and the behaviour of the developers. He described Mayfield’s tactics as “shameful” and their plans as “unsustainable and cynical”.
The MP acknowledged there is a need for more housebuilding to address the growing numbers of young people who struggle to afford a home. Mr Herbert said this was “the single most pressing domestic policy issue that this country faces” in his opinion. But he said both Horsham and Mid-Sussex district councils were already hugely increasing their housing provision to meet need.
But Mr Herbert warned that “it won’t be enough to meet in the church again. It won’t be enough to go out with our placards. It won’t even be enough to threaten to lie down under the bulldozers. We have to make the case to put to the Council and if necessary the planning inspector.” He commended the LAMBS campaign as a “serious group which needs serious funding” to “play Mayfield at their own game.”
Mr Herbert warned that local people are paying the price for the developer’s cynicism through property blight, local public concern, and local plans being disrupted. He rallied public support for the campaign to challenge any plan which comes forward, saying “We won’t give up!”, and pledged that he and Sir Nicholas Soames would maintain the fight against the proposal for as long as they were MPs.
Sir Nicholas Soames, MP for Mid-Sussex, spoke of his strong opposition against the proposals and called for a well-funded campaign. He described the proposal as opportunistic and ill thought out.
Sir Nicholas highlighted the development of 4,000 homes in Burgess Hill which has local support through the Mid Sussex Local Plan. The Mid Sussex MP warned that the Mayfield proposal breaches all standards of sustainability which could leave nearby villages with long-term problems.
At the end of the meeting, Henfield Parish Council Chairman took a vote by a show of hands, revealing unanimous opposition to the proposals. It is expected that Mayfield Market Towns will lodge a planning application before the end of the year, after Horsham District Council has delivered its revised local plan to meet its increased housebuilding targets.
LAMBS estimate that it will cost £30,000 to fight the Mayfield Market Town proposal. They have pledged to give any surplus funds raised back to Parish Councils for the good of the community.
1. Photograph – Nick Herbert speaking at a public meeting about the proposals for a new market town next to Henfield.
2. To watch Nick’s speech see https://youtu.be/CjIDWDCwL8w.
3. For more information about LAMBS – Locals Against Mayfields Building Sprawl see www.lambs.org.uk.