MP raises concerns with Mid Sussex District Council over Hassocks housing

** Stop press ** Mid Sussex District Council Planning Committee approved the application DM/19/1897 on 25 July, voting 7 to 4 in favour of development. Nick Herbert will be writing to the Secretary of State to request that this decision is called-in.

Arundel & South Downs MP Nick Herbert has written to the leader of Mid Sussex District Council, Jonathan Ash-Edwards, raising concerns about an application for housing at Friars Oak Fields in Hassocks.

190724 Friars Oak Field.JPG

 

In his letter, sent on Tuesday (23 July), Mr Herbert questions the timing of the extra planning meeting.  It has been scheduled just one day after the deadline for public representations and prior to the appeal hearing on a previous application. 

Rydon Homes have applied to build 130 houses on land to the rear of Friars Oak on London Road.  The first application, submitted in 2016, was granted permission by the Council, but called-in at Mr Herbert’s request for the Secretary of State’s own determination.  The application was refused permission in March 2018.  Concerns over the safety of the open railway crossing was one of the reasons the application was rejected. 

A second application, submitted in June 2018, was refused permission by the Council’s planning committee.  The developer appealed this decision and the case is due to be heard at an inquiry in September. 

However, in May, the developer submitted yet another application to the planning department.  This latest application indicates plans to build a foot tunnel under the open railway line.

The Council have scheduled an extra planning committee meeting on Thursday (25 July) to consider the application.  Mr Herbert has asked Jonathan Ash-Edwards why the meeting has been scheduled in advance of the appeal hearing and before the Hassocks Neighbourhood Plan is adopted. 

In his letter to the leader of the Council, Mr Herbert says: “You will be aware of local suspicion that the meeting has been scheduled deliberately so as to pre-empt these decisions.  If so this would be quite wrong and will further undermine confidence in Hassocks that their village is being treated fairly and with proper respect.” 

The MP states his strong support to a letter from Hassocks Parish Council to members of the Planning Committee which points out that the village’s Neighbourhood Plan is about to acquire more weight.  He also points out that “the application pre-determines the District Council’s own Site Allocation process, and that Hassocks is already contributing significantly more new housing than any equivalent settlement in the District.” 

The Hassocks Neighbourhood Plan, which is in its final stages, has designated Friars Oak Fields as Local Green Space.  The village is already taking a strategic allocation of 500 houses within the Mid Sussex Local Plan, and further housing developments in the village are under construction. 

In his letter, Mr Herbert urges the Council “to respect the neighbourhood planning process and either to postpone this meeting or reject the application.” 

He warns that he will consider asking the Secretary of State to call-in the application for his determination if the planning committee should go ahead and approve the application.  

Mr Herbert said: “I feel so strongly that the village is once again being treated unfairly, and that its neighbourhood plan is being undermined”.  He hopes that the Council leadership and the Planning Committee will listen to the concerns raised and has requested a response before Thursday’s meeting.  

ENDS 

Notes  

1.    Nick’s letter to Cllr Jonathan Ash-Edwards reads;

Dear Jonathan 

I am extremely concerned that an unscheduled Planning Committee meeting is being held on Thursday (25 July) to consider the Friars Oak development in Hassocks. 

I would be grateful for an explanation as to why this is happening when the appeal over an almost-identical development application is due to be heard in September and the village’s neighbourhood pan is advancing towards a referendum.  You will be aware of local suspicion that the meeting has been scheduled deliberately so as to pre-empt these decisions.  If so this would be quite wrong and will further undermine confidence in Hassocks that their village is being treated fairly and with proper respect. 

I strongly support the letter from Hassocks Parish Council to members of the Planning Committee which points out that the village’s Neighbourhood Plan is about to acquire more weight, that the application pre-determines the District Council’s own Site Allocation process, and that Hassocks is already contributing significantly more new housing than any equivalent settlement in the District. 

This development has already been rejected twice, and the draft Hassocks Neighbourhood Plan designates the site as Local Green Space.  I urge the Council to respect the neighbourhood planning process and either to postpone this meeting or reject the application. 

I feel so strongly that the village is once again being treated unfairly, and that its neighbourhood plan is being undermined, that I am considering once again asking the Secretary of State to call it in for his determination.  I hope that the Council leadership and the Planning Committee will listen to the Parish Council’s and my concerns and that this will not be necessary. 

I would be grateful for a response before Thursday’s meeting, and for your assurance that my concerns will be passed on to members of the Planning Committee. 

2. To read Jonathan Ash-Edwards’ response to Nick’s letter, 24 July 2019, see here.

 

3.    To read Nick’s news ‘MP welcomes decision to refuse speculative Hassocks development’ (December 2018) see https://www.nickherbert.com/news/2018/12/4/mp-welcomes-decision-to-refuse-speculative-hassocks-development?rq=hassocks%20.