I attended a Homes England Consultation/Presentation early last year and came away less than impressed at the vagueness of the answers given by the Homes England staff whom, it appeared to me, had no real knowledge of this project and how it would impact on our rural community. Following on from their ‘Webinars’ and Commonplace community presentation website I admit to being even less than impressed with their plans.
Since this project was first mooted, the economic situation in the United Kingdom, and Crawley in particular, has changed beyond all recognition as result of Covid 19. Crawley has one of the highest unemployed/furloughed workforces in the country and major airlines have left or are in the process of leaving Gatwick Airport. According to a recent report in ‘The Guardian’ newspaper it will take until at least 2025 before Crawley begins to recover economically. Homes England state that they are committed to finding one new job per home. Leaving aside the present crisis for one moment, I would submit that the vast number of present day home buyers need two incomes to meet the cost of mortgages, utilities and general living expenses. Where are all these jobs to come from?
Homes England claim to be helping to meet an acute need for new homes in the area. What criteria are being used to substantiate this need? Faced with this economic downturn there is simply not the demand now for such additional housing in this area. Not all the houses on the Bovis development on Rusper Road, Ifield, completed some time ago, have been sold. I understand that Crest Nicholson, the developer at Kilnwood Vale has not sought to continue with the next phase of the development. It is not unreasonable to make the assumption that this decision has been taken because they are having difficulty selling existing builds? Homes England are offering a figure of 35% affordable housing (reduced since their previous submission). Experience would confirm that this figure would, through future negotiation, be further reduced. Again, experience would suggest that a likely ultimate figure could be of the order of 21%! All that being said, have HDC in discussions with Homes England, established what is meant by affordable? Is it rental at a maximum of 30% of income for instance? Other developments would suggest that “Affordable” is mis-named!!
Home England have made no mention of GP surgeries, presumably because Homes England are well aware that existing practices are unable to obtain the services of doctors and surgery staff!!
I understand that the development at Forge Wood, in Crawley, was promised such facilities by that developer but these have had to be shelved because of the inability to recruit suitable staff.. The three existing medical practices in the Ifield area already at capacity with patient lists capped. I am not aware of any plans to increase/improve existing facilities at Crawley or East Surrey Hospitals both of which already operated at full capacity pre-Covid. It is said that the Maternity Unit at ESH has a maximum capacity for 5,000 births a year. Even the initial proposal of 3,000 houses will only exacerbate the problems and put a further strain on the resources.
Ifield station already operates at peak capacity in rush hour. Initially built as a ‘Halt’ it has a short platform capable of servicing only four coaches for passengers to board or alight. There are no plans to improve the facilities there to cope with the additional commuters this development would produce and who would have to travel out of the area to find gainful employment to purchase their houses. There is no parking at the station. Homes England are proposing a Fastway, or alternative bus service to run from the development along the east-west stretch of Rusper Road. Sadly, they do not seem to have visited the site because, if they had, they would have spotted that this road is only 4.9 metres wide, by no means sufficient for a bus route, or to accommodate commercial or construction traffic. Lorries or buses can not pass each other without (illegally) driving on the pavement!! In spite of their intention to limit the use of private vehicles I fear that this is misplaced. One has to look only at the Martin Grant and Bovis developments on Rusper Road to see that most households have two vehicles. Thus even the initial proposed development will mean some 4,000 extra vehicles to the already existing traffic congestion.
Local roads either through the residential areas of Ifield, Crawley or the lanes through Rusper and Faygate are not suitable for this size and volume of heavy traffic. The damage a development of this magnitude would cause cannot be overstated. Again the only access routes would be through the Rusper village end of Rusper Road or else though the residential area of Ifield, Crawley. At a Homes England consultation venue in 2020 it was said that there could be a move away from the traditional methods of building for these new homes and the normal building site process. Rather the houses could be manufactured remotely and the sections brought in for construction on site. This process would surely require even larger vehicles to deliver the necessary sections. It cannot be stressed often enough that our local roads/lanes are not suitable for this type of heavy traffic.
At their recent presentation, Homes England were not able to confirm when the link road will be built but this development proposal seeks to suggest that it will be in place concurrently with the first houses. Has HBC required Homes England to confirm that this dual carriage way will be part of their phase 1? Whenever the 34.89 metres wide dual carriage way is to be built, it will sever the country lane of Rusper Road at the western end and discharge onto the residential street of Ifield Green at the north west end, totally changing the character of the areas and pouring a massively increased traffic flow onto the existing approach into Crawley along Ifield Avenue and onto the approach into Rusper village. Hopefully the Council can see that both proposals are poorly thought through and inappropriate. The proposed route will lead to the next phase of road development decimating the Bowls Club, the Rugby Club and, outrageously, Willoughby Fields Local Nature Reserve. – all in Crawley Borough Council’s back garden. I may have misunderstood but it appears that because of the siting and access to the development there will be restrictions on driving between Ifield and Rusper village, necessitating some sort of permit to allow residents to use this route. I am not aware of any other ‘B’ road in the United Kingdom having what is virtually a toll. Is this correct?
Homes England claim that there is a pre-existing local need for a secondary school. However, the West Sussex County Council “Planning School Places 2021” report seems to suggest the the need for places will fall away by 2024. Their two schools are proposed to be built on Ifield Golf Course which is a thriving golf and social facility, pre-dating commencement of work on Crawley New Town by some 20 years. Do they consider the public so naive as not to spot this ploy that if Homes England build the schools then they would seek to be allowed to build the houses to obtain pupils to fill them. Of all the places that you could possibly choose to build a secondary school, Ifield Golf Course is certainly not it!!!
Ifield Golf Club
This is a well used and popular facility which was created in 1927. There are many well established and long standing original oak trees many of which would have to be felled as part of the Homes England proposals. The Forestry Commission was responsible for planting some 8,000 trees on the golf course some years ago which are again now well established. Again many of these would have to be felled to meet the housing density. Where is the logic in that when the Government is campaigning – as has been massively covered in the media – for the planting of thousands of trees to combat climate change? In spite of the current COVID restrictions the golfing membership of Ifield Golf Club is constantly rising, in addition to which, there is a strong and active social membership, involving non-golfing members of the community .In addition the course is popular with visiting golf societies/ players and thus an economic asset to the area. Has HBC required Homes England to demonstrate that Ifield Golf Club is not a thriving sporting facility or that they will provide a replacement facility? Even a visit to the car park will demonstrate what a thriving asset this is. Even if Homes England are to provide a replacement facility, there should be no illusions of how long it would take to create a new golf course to match the criteria of this long established facility. As far as I am aware Homes England have failed to offer an equivalent provision to make up for the loss of this very popular facility as they are required to do under the Government’s National Planning Policy Framework.
Homes England have committed to net gains of 10% in biodiversity. It is hard to see how this can be a credible claim. Ifield Golf Course, Ifield Meadows and Ifield Brook are already homes to a wide variety of wildlife – deer, foxes, rabbits, small mammals, birds of prey, geese, owls, woodpeckers and kingfishers for example – and support a thriving variety of wild flowers. All of this would be lost and irreplaceable. The Bovis development on Rusper Road is small in comparison to these proposals but has already impacted on the local wildlife we used to see and enjoy.
There is no acknowledgement of the impact this will have on existing sewage treatment, water supply and rainwater run-off which would result from paving over nearly 50% of the hundreds of acres of green land. The sites of the proposed development have always been prone to flooding as we local residents witnessed all too well this winter. This can only be made worse by the large scale felling of established trees and substituting these with houses, hard standing, roads etc. Where is the water supposed to go?
It has been reported in the press there are fears parts of Southern England could run out of water. Large quantities of water will be required during the building process further depleting supplies. It was reported that the each person uses an average of 143 litres per day. How then will there be enough water to meet the the needs of 10,000 homes, which may well have between 2 and 5 occupants?
It is claimed by Homes England that it satisfies a need for Crawley Borough Council but CBC stress emphatically that they do not want this development, being well aware of the unwelcome impact it will have on the town and surrounding area. I understand HDC Council has a statutory “Duty to Cooperate” with it’s neighbouring local planning authorities and “to engage constructively, actively and on an ongoing basis”. As Crawley Borough Council are clearly opposed to the Homes England proposal, it is hard to comprehend that this duty has been satisfied. I understand that the HBC’s Local Plan will need to have been prepared by the local planning authority “in consultation with its community” The only consultations I am aware of are the Homes England presentations last year and their recent ‘Webinars’. It was apparent from both that there is considerable opposition in the community to this monstrous development. A visit to their ‘Commonplace’ website reinforces the view that this development is not wanted but one must ask if the views of the local community on this site will be made public and respected?
The Chairman of Homes England has already made it clear that if any attempt is made to thwart this monstrous development he will use his powers to bulldoze this through, acting as Judge, Jury and Lord High Executioner. And I thought we lived in a democracy!!!
A recent article in ‘The Times’ newspaper reported on the actions of the Right Honorable Michael Gove MP who has spoken out in Parliament and attended a rally to support his constituents who are opposed to overdevelopment at Green Lane Meadow in his Bagshot constituency. What a difference to our local ‘representative’ in Parliament, Jeremy Quinn MP, who is not prepared to support his constituents in their resistance to this outrageous and inappropriate development, pillaging the countryside east of Rusper and West of Crawley, and turning this into urban sprawl.
G S Flett
PROPOSED PARLIAMENTARY QUESTION NEXT WEEK BY HENRY SMITH – MP FOR CRAWLEY [WEEK BEGINNING APRIL 11 2021]
Gatwick Airport Master Plan 2019
6.4 Air Noise
The role of the government.
The government sets overall policy relating to the treatment of noise .
The DfTs ‘Consultant Response on UK Airspace Policy states the aim ”to limit and, where possible, reduce the number of people in the UK significantly affected by aircraft noise, as part of a policy of sharing benefits of noise reduction with industry in support of SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT.
Main + standby runway by 2028:
Amount of people affected by 54db = 10,800
Amount of people affected by 57db = 3,900
Your development will double these numbers
Boris Johnson PM – BUILD IN THE RIGHT PLACE.
“Not sure if you are aware but Homes England completed the purchase of a large piece of land which spans both sides of Rusper Road belonging to Thrifty [Thrift Landscapes? – Ed] last week. I understand he has been given a 12 months lease to close his business down and vacate the land which part of, I think, is a nursery for young trees. It was confirmed that part of his land is to be designated as their vehicle compound for developers large equipment” – ‘R’ – 11/04/2021
“It seems that Homes England have bought the land on Rusper Road, belonging to Thrift Nursery. He has been given a 12 months lease to close his business down and vacate the land which is to be designated as their vehicle compound for developers large equipment. Homes England are proceeding with obviously some confidence that they will be able to get on with their development so I think it would be very important if our local or parliamentary representatives could advise on what powers HE may have to grant themselves planning consent in the face of overwhelming local opposition. If they have such powers, what avenues are open to us to counter what would be an extremely anti democratic move – ‘M’ – 11/04/2021
“Homes England are not a planning authority so cannot grant themselves permission, this will be for Horsham District Council to determine in law”
Henry Smith MP
House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA
Westminster: 020 7219 7043 | Crawley: 01293 934554
“Last year in a meeting I had with Peter Lamb of Crawley Council he mentioned that while it would be Homes England’s clear objective to obtain local authority approval for their scheme, they had the “nuclear” option of self approval enshrined within their remit from the government. I think he felt that this power came as an inheritance from their absorption of the New Towns Commission. It is encouraging you don’t believe this power to self approve is real” – ‘A’ – 11/04/2021
“I don’t believe Homes England do have the power Andrew, beyond the Secretary of State giving direction (subject to judicial review)”
Henry Smith MP – 11/04/2021
“MP for Crawley Henry Smith states: “Homes England are not a planning authority so cannot grant themselves permission, this will be for Horsham District Council to determine in law”. Is this strictly true in terms of ‘realpolitik’? Homes England have bought the Golf Club course, and most of the surrounding land within this ancient parish, as the “first phase” of building over 3000 houses – with the express intention of eventually building 10,000 houses to ‘bolt-on’ to Crawley in a £3bn deal. These government quango bullies appear out-of-control – empowered to by-pass the local democratic planning process in any way they please, it seems to me” – ‘R’ – 11/04/2021
I don’t believe Homes England do have the power…beyond the Secretary of State giving direction (subject to judicial review).
Henry Smith MP
House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA
Westminster: 020 7219 7043 | Crawley: 01293 934554
To be clear, Homes England are a planning authority. Even if we were to ignore the powers provided by earlier legislation, this is stated explicitly in the Housing and Regeneration Act 2008 which set up the Homes and Communities Agency, of which ‘Homes England’ are just a re-branded version.
The Secretary of State does have powers to intervene here. At the very least, they can refuse the designation order they would need to act as a planning authority for West of Ifield (again, it’s in the 2008 Act), they also has the power to ‘call-in’ any application to consider it themselves, which would prevent Homes England from going around the process under any earlier legislation: https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201213/cmhansrd/cm121026/wmstext/121026m0001.htm#12102628000003
This isn’t theoretical, Homes England’s last Chief Executive said to Crawley BC’s Chief Executive that they could award themselves planning permission if we didn’t co-operate. That is certainly something which as a local representative I take seriously.
Rather than going around in circles and guessing or what may or may not happen, I think people have a right to clarity on what actions the Government will allow their agency to take West of Ifield. You have the power to submit written questions, all it would take would be a question to the Secretary of State seeking to answer whether or not he would permit Homes England to go around Horsham DC on this and what action he might take in the event that they sought to do so.
Cllr Peter Lamb
Leader, Crawley Borough Council
M: (+44)7729 167084
The comment made by the Homes England Chief Executive to Crawley Borough Council’s Chief Executive was clearly a threat and should be taken seriously. It reveals their true nature and destroys the veneer of reasonableness that they attempt to portray in their dealings with the public and their faux consultation process. I fully support your suggestion that Henry raises this issue, as it is important that we all know what the options are with regard to the progression of West of Ifield? – ‘A’ – 12/04/2021
CRAWLEY BOROUGH COUNCIL LEADER PETER LAMB CORRESPONDS WITH CRAWLEY MP HENRY SMITH – REGARDING HOMES ENGLAND’S MONSTROUS £3BN ‘WEST OF IFIELD’ MASTERPLAN OF 10,000 HOUSESWhat is the point of Homes England’s West of Ifield housing development ?Who is going to benefit from the housing development, apart from some very richproperty developers by making them even richer.The housing development will cause huge environmental damage and destroy the wildlife,ancient and bluebell woodlands of Ifield and Willoughby Fields Nature Reserve. While someof the development will be built on a flood plain, potentially causing flooding in the local area.Recent surveys show that Crawley people do not want the housing developmentbut are denied a say in whether it goes ahead or not. So much, for local democracy.And sadly, with many thousands losing their jobs from Gatwick and Crawley, who isgoing to be able to afford a house anyway (average 2 bedroom house in Crawley is £265,000).Can Crawley afford and provide the services and support needed for the influx of thousands ofnew people into the town?On the other hand, if it were to be built would the property developers provide substantialnumbers of social affordable housing (e.g. say 50% for less than £100,000 per property) –probably unlikely to happen.Or will they invest substantial sums £millions from their profits into the local communityand town, again probably very unlikely.So, what is the point of the West of Ifield housing development, especially when thosewho matter, the Crawley people, don’t want it anyway !?‘I’ – 12/04/2020
What is the point of the Homes England, West of Ifield, 10,000+ housing development ?
Crawley residents have not had any say about the housing development, which overlaps
into the Horsham District area, on whether it goes ahead or not.But recent surveys say that Crawley people are against the housing development going ahead.(It would be interesting to know, what Horsham people feel about the development).In Crawley and Gatwick thousands of people have either lost their jobs or awaiting to hearif they still have jobs.In the light of this, can the local services in Crawley support the influx of thousands of new people andwith no easily available jobs can people afford to buy a new house, now ?Will the developers give over a substantial percentage (e.g., 50%+) of houses built, as social and affordable housing (e.g. say for less than £100,000 per property) ? Probably not.As the developers are likely to make £millions from this development, will they put backsubstantial sums (e.g., 50% of net profits) into the local community and Crawley? Probably not.Will the houses be built to eco-friendly standards and use eco building materials andproperly insulated to cut carbon emissions (houses are one of the highest carbon emitters) ?The building of a Relief road for the housing development, and other infrastructureneeded, will worsen the air pollution in the local area and Crawley area, whilst destroyingthe wildlife, ancient woodlands of Ifield and Willoughby Fields Nature Reserve.They are also going to build on a flood plain, which could potentially flood the local area.Ifield is one of the oldest areas in Crawley and is mentioned in the Doomsday Book (1086).It has a church St Margaret’s possibly dating back to 10th or 11th Century, amongst otherold buildings of historic interest in Ifield Village – all threatened by the development.Any new housing developments should be built primarily on ‘brownfield’ sites and by renovatingexisting housing and buildings in the Crawley area which is a cheaper and more environmentallyfriendly than by resorting to new build.Over the last 30 years or so, Crawley has almost doubled in size, do we – the people of Crawley – really want the town to keep on increasing in size ?So, I ask again, do we really need this housing development ?
‘I’ – 12/04/2021