MP asks Minister to intervene in Hassocks planning decision
Arundel & South Downs MP Nick Herbert has written to the Minister for Housing, Esther McVey MP, asking that a Hassocks planning application is ‘called-in’ for the Government’s own scrutiny.
Last Thursday, Mid Sussex District Council’s Planning Committee took the decision to permit a development for 130 houses on Friars Oak Fields. This was despite an Article 31 holding direction being issued by the Secretary of State the day before the decision, and a further request from the MP to the Council asking them to postpone the decision.
Mr Herbert has now written to the Minister to express his “considerable concerns about how Mid Sussex District Council has been handling planning matters in Hassocks” and that he “does not believe that the Council should be permitted to give permission for this development in the circumstances.”
In his letter, the MP warned that “the Government’s important policy of neighbourhood planning is systematically being undermined in the village.”
The first application for development on Friars Oak Fields was also called-in at the MP’s request and refused by the Government in March 2018.
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 which includes plans to build a foot tunnel under the open railway line. This was accepted by the Council even though no plans have been submitted for the tunnel design.
In his letter to the Minister, Mr Herbert points out that the Planning Committee meeting was specially timetabled just one day after the deadline for public comments on the application, and just weeks ahead of the Appeal inquiry on the second application.
The MP raised his concerns that Hassocks has already taken considerable housing, above that which meets local need. The village is expected to grow by more than 1,100 houses up to 2031.
Mr Herbert points out that the Hassocks Neighbourhood Plan is now in the final stages, and said that “policies within the Plan should carry greater weight.” He says “the Hassocks Neighbourhood Plan should now reach its local referendum stage as quickly as possible to allow the document and its policies to be of material consideration in planning matters.”
He adds that he “fully understands the Council’s need to protect and strengthen its 5-year land supply” but points out this has already been assessed to be robust.
Mr Herbert summarised his reasons for requesting the call-in “on the basis that the application was incomplete for residents to comment on, that it pre-determines the Local Plan Site Allocations DPD, that it gives no weight to the policies contained within the draft Hassocks Neighbourhood Plan, that it does not have the support of the local community who wish to protest the fields as local green space, and that it is housing which is not needed.”
Mr Herbert has asked the Minister to give the request her urgent attention on the basis that the Planning Committee has already decided to give the application permission, although this decision is stayed because of the holding direction issued.
1. To read Nick’s letter to the Minister in full see here.
2. To read Nick’s news ‘MP raises concerns with Mid Sussex District Council over Hassocks housing’ (July 24 2019) see https://www.nickherbert.com/news/2019/7/24/mp-raises-concerns-with-mid-sussex-district-council-over-hassocks-housing.
3. To read Nick’s news ‘MP welcomes decision to refuse speculative Hassocks development’ (December 2018) see https://www.nickherbert.com/news/2019/7/24/mp-raises-concerns-with-mid-sussex-district-council-over-hassocks-housing.